Swedish guitarist and producer Ola Englund is famous as a member of the bands The Haunted and Feared, as well as a gear guru with his YouTube channel, which already reached the impressive number of more than sixty thousand followers and 18 million views.
We asked Ola to share his story as well as tips for other musicians who are interested in building their music channel. Gear lovers will also find interesting insights about his collaboration with manufacturers like Washburn and Randall.
To us, you seem like a prime example of a musician who understands how to use the internet to build a loyal fan base. How did you reach that point, what’s your philosophy?
That was just something I discovered when I was hanging at forums etc. This was before Facebook and basically the social media was forums and Myspace really. I never did anything major with myspace cause the format was so outdated. I got a lot more exchange by hanging on forums, harvesting knowledge as well as trying my best go give back. By helping others you naturally get respect and with respect comes the listener. Today the music scene is so saturated with great bands and the listeners attention span is short, just getting people to hear your music is a challenge.
By constantly putting out material/videos/tutorials I've been able to maintain a steady growth in followers. It's not that hard actually, just work your ass off and don't be an asshole and you'll be fine.
Let’s take a closer look at the different fields. Your YouTube channel now has over 63,000 subscribers! Your „gear tests“ have become almost legendary, and are extremely popular. Can you tell us anything about how you started out with these ideas, and what you had to consider at the time?
At the time when you searched for a piece of gear on Youtube all you would get was shitty quality videos with shitty sound. I thought that what if I tried and incorporate my knowledge in production and just start doing videos. Me and my wife had just bought a HD-cam to ourselves as a wedding gift (this was when HD-cameras where really expensive) so I figured I'd start to record my own amps at home. At the same time I'd test the piece of gear over one of my own original songs backingtrack. People would hear the particular piece of gear in a metal context. The tutorial aspect of my videos just came naturally as people started to ask for production tips etc.
In your tests you cover a broad range of equipment: Amps, Amp simulations for iPads, Preamps, PlugIns, Instruments, etc. You usually perform the test with one of your own songs. How do you chose your test objects?
In the beginning, when I had recorded my own amps people at a Swedish forums wanted me to record their amps and it became a thing at that particular forum. There are a lot of amps in Stockholm so I drove around all over the place to pick up and drop off peoples amps. Today I would never do that again, but at the time I was having so much fun doing it.Then whenever there is a new interesting product I'd make sure I got one to demo. Also after that brands have started to contact me to do demos. It's a lot easier to have gear sent to you rather than driving for hours to pick up an amp. :)
Has the money from YouTube already become a considerable part of your income?
I wouldn't say it's a considerable part but my videos have been a big part of bringing me to the point where I am today where I can make money out of other things.
Looking at studio technology over the last 10-15 years, what do you consider to be the greatest achievements, and what do you think was a complete waste of time?
I would say in a song writer / home recorder perspective that Toontrack is on the forefront with new inspiring products. They're targeting guitarists like me that can't afford recording real drums with products like EZ drummer, Superior etc. They're constantly pushing the song writing aspect rather than just releasing another sample library.
On the guitar side the Line6 Pod was the first real revolution for home recording back when the first one was released. I remember getting the Pod bean and was just blown away at how good it sounded connected to my stereo. Today we have a lot of awesome products for home recording guitarists like Axe Fx and Kemper.
I don't think I know anything that was a waste of time, the products that suck usually gets buried by all the great products. People are picky these days so naturally the bad products will be phased out pretty quick.
Above all you’re a gifted guitarist, as part of the US band „Six Feet Under“ as well as your own bands „Feared“ and „The Haunted“. How important are live performances to you?
Live performances are the peaks of being a musician. There is no better feeling seeing a guy in the audience totally digging the music or to meet people afterwards. Being a bedroom guitar-player I really enjoy getting out to meet ”real” people. And it's incredibly inspiring to go out on tour with Six Feet Under playing a remote location and you see one guy in the audience with a Feared t-shirt. Makes you extremely proud.
The US instrument manufacturer Washburn are bringing out your signature models soon, called the „Solar“ series. How did this collaboration come about, and what’s the latest progress?
I've actually talked a bit with them in the past when I had another endorsement and when that one expired I ended up with Washburn. This year(2014) we're releasing a couple of different Solar models for every wallet. I'm stoked!
How important is it for you to be able to sell music?
Selling music is not as important as being available in as many formats as possible. Different countries and markets have different ways of aquiring music. Spotify in Sweden, iTunes in USA, Amazon in Germany etc. I can't control that. In the end I just hope that enough people want to support you by buying music.
You are also available for hire as a teacher and a sound programmer. How did this come about?
I was but with my current schedule I don't do much of that anymore. I just get a lot of questions about production all the time so I rather just have a sit down in person. It's a lot easier to show a technique that way.
It looks to us as though you’ve found your niche, and you can always get something positive from each of your activities. How accurate is this impression?
You just have to play the cards that have been dealt to you. I'm extremely grateful for what I've achieved and it's important to remember that. I have all my followers to thank for that. They constantly bring me down from whatever ego-trip I'm having.
What would you like to do to make money in a perfect world?
If I could make money playing video games hahaha. But yeah If I could make a living out of just playing live and go out and meet people that would be awesome. But the business is what it is today so you have to have a couple of income streams.
What can we expect from you next, what’s in the pipeline?
The new The Haunted album out later this year as well as a couple of tours/festivals. I'm also working on my own instrumental Solar album. It's completely different from my metal bands, more mellow/ambient. And as it looks now I'm going around the world to do clinics for Washburn and Randall. So I might see you out there soon!
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