Interview with Musician Ronald Jenkees: How YouTube helped to carve out a career


Video Above: Musician Ronald Jenkees messin with an e-piano sound. (If you’re using a feedreader or email access this post to see videos) Update: he’s now added this song as a higher quality MP3, available on his blog.

I’m taking a break from my normal corporate web strategy posts for today, instead want to introduce you to Ronald, who despite his mild mannered appearance really uses his passion and socila media tools to share it with the world. Frankly, I was inspired, and even more so that he responded to my email –and let me do an interview with him.

Ronald Jenkees (his blog) (see his YouTube Channel), who I found on my ‘recommended’ list on YouTube on an iPod Touch woke me up. He combined hip hop, jazz keyboard jams, synth and beats and a lot of heart into his music –a lot of it available to peruse on YouTube. I’m a former musician (played since 4) and am always inspired to see people follow their passions. Now with platforms like YouTube, the middleperson has been removed from discovering talent –the masses can self sort it out. He shares behind the scenes videos of the work in progress (this one splicing to genres), or this Guitar Riff with (2MM views).

I contacted Ronald, (who mentioned several times in his videos that he reads all comments) and knew I could get a few questions answered from him.


(start interview)

Jeremiah: Why music? What got you into it, why are you passionate about it?

Ronald: First of all, thanks a ton for the interview and good questions.

I got a toy keyboard for Christmas one year and actually played the heck out of it. Simple stuff, but I had fun writing little melodies. Later, in the 6th or 7th grade, I was given a Yamaha keyboard for Christmas (PSR-500). I bought it because it had lots of cool-looking buttons, but I discovered I could sequence beats and layer stuff with it. That same $500 keyboard lasted me until I was out of college when I could afford my Triton Le. My passion comes from the fun moments in music – when it feels right to hit certain notes.. When it’s groovin. That’s the stuff I like to share on YouTube.

Jeremiah: You combine your personal thoughts, as well as greet the YouTube audience, and give them encouragement and tips, many musicians just go ‘right to the jams’ why the extra personal sharing?

Ronald: It’s fun to connect with people rather than to just jam out. Plus, I’m very thankful for those that watch my videos, comment, email, and etc., so anything I can do to inspire people to have their own some simple fun with music, I’m all for it. It doesn’t take very many notes or technical skill to create something moving. Of course, practice and becoming a better musician in general helps to get those ideas out in the air, but all of that starts with very simple fun that anyone can take part in. I also think it’s really good for the brain and your mood.

Jeremiah: Did you have a music career before YouTube? Why did you post videos there? What has it done for you, did it spur on your first and second album?

Ronald: I used to make beats and silly raps and share them with friends on my website, but that was the extent of my music career. I actually studied tech in college and always did music for the fun of it (still do!). I started posting videos on YouTube just to entertain people – mainly my old college friends. Eventually I started posting vids of myself playing music. I guess it mixed well with my goofiness on camera, but mainly that combination of being entertaining and letting loose helped me to not feel like such a show-off. The YouTube audience is the only reason I came out with a whole album and am now working on a second.

Jeremiah: What has YouTube provided you that a record company, distributor, and marketers can’t? What advantages and disadvantages has this brought?

Ronald: YouTube is awesome for marketing. Whenever I upload a new video, 40,000 subscribers get an email notification. So that acts as my mailing list whenever I’m ready to share a new jam or some news.

As far as distribution goes, I use a company called CD Baby to get my stuff on iTunes and other digital marketplaces. I also use a store built by my friend and musician Brad (of BradSucks.net) to sell downloads and CD’s directly on my website (www.ronaldjenkees.com) using PayPal. It takes a lot of work doing shipping and customer service, but it’s AWESOME to be able take good care of your own fans and eliminate The Man in the process. The whole process of creation and delivery is very rewarding.

Jeremiah: What’s the next steps for you? Is this a full time job now? When are you going to tour? I’ll sign up for your San Francisco show!

Ronald: My main goal right now is to just continue writing new music and get done with a second album. I’d love to eventually do some music for some established artists (independently), and possibly do some soundtrack-type work. I don’t have a huge desire to hit the road doing shows at the moment. I feel like my time is best spent writing new music rather than traveling and performing, but that could change. I’m certainly not ruling anything out.

Jeremiah’s Bonus Question (added a few hours later, via email) I just had one followu p question. Is this your day job? Have you made a full paying career out of being a musician (and primarily using YouTube for Marketing?

Ronald: Awesome!! Yes, this has turned into my day job in the last year. Doing everything independently keeps you busy. Writing new music, working on old music, helping people get your music, signing and packaging CD’s, shipping, replying to emails/comments and etc.. I can easily work 16 hour days if I’m not careful, because it’s mostly fun stuff. I’m sure you can relate since you have a cool thing going right now.

(end interview)


Thanks Ronald, I just bought your first album on iTunes, enjoyed it while going on my walk, great energy, spurred on new ideas. I’m a fan, thanks for staying so open, transparent, and following your passion. I’m sure you’ll get a gig with established artists, your raw talent will take you far. It’s fantastic to see someone do what they love, and make it a paying gig.

Here’s an outro piece, an take on a distorted guitar, with improve


  • http://consumer2business.com Greg Bond

    This guy is amazing. Just got the CD. Amazing musician and marketer. Hot find.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Ronald sure does, he’s got raw talent.

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  • http://www.annhandley.com/2008/05/30/off-color-commentary/ Ann Handley

    Awesome to see musicians, writers, and other artists using social media tools well. Nice find, JKO!

  • http://www.innogage.com Tom Williams

    I was trained on piano at Oberlin College conversavtory by a PhD in piano pedagogy from age 6 to 14…and I can’t play at all. Ron, who appears to have no formal training at all, ROCKS OUT! Keep it up, Ron!! You’ve got a great sound! I’m sending your video to a buddy of mine in Nashville. He’s with InPop records.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bradwrage Brad Wrage

    I ran across Ronald’s youtube videos a while ago and was amazed when i first saw him and I’m still amazed today. His honesty and humble nature is definitely what attracts me most to his personality and music.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Hey All

    Ronald is sending me a CD, since I’ve already purchased it on iTunes, if you’re in the bay area, I’ll give it to you next time I see you.

  • Daniel

    I love Ronald’s music and I’m glad he works for himself and not THE MAN!

  • Tom Cummings

    Great interview! Ronald Jenkees is awesome! Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy on ESPN, started hyping him about a year and a half ago in his blog(http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/blog/index?name=simmons&entryDate=20070322), and Ronald eventually wrote the theme music to his podcast, The BS Report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvCaK1_CRCo

    Ronald says in that youtube clip that his hits increased by the tens of thousands when he started getting his vids linked by Simmons.

  • http://www.emersondirect.wordpress.com Marc Meyer

    Jeremiah, I did a post on notable people in the industry, where I took their content and dumped it into Wordle. It then spits out a word cloud of all of the content, in the form of a word cloud.

    One of the prominent words for your cloud was Ronald. At that time, I was wondering how that came to be. My question has now been answered thank you very much!

    The clouds were all very revealing by the way. Similar, yet different.

    Marc

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    What’s the URL to the tag cloud? Or do you have a screenshot? intersting

  • http://www.emersondirect.wordpress.com Marc
  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Marc

    Thanks for this, now you know why your tag cloud was off. Mystery solved!

  • Brian G

    I discovered/stumbled upon Ronald Jenkees on youtube before Christmas 07 first video I saw was Canon in d, then Rocky and TFBFOuterSpace. Since then his subscribers went from 14,000 – 40,000. It just blows my ears every time he posts a new video. The best thing you can do for RJ is get your friends hooked on his music too. Its fun watching his career build momentum. One word to describe it,

    Inspiring!

  • http://obsidianlake.wordpress.com/ Thorns

    The biggest genius since Einstein!

  • anon

    this guy is a BLESSED musical genius! I never seen hands move perfectly up and down a scale that fast, without mistakes!!!

  • Tom

    There is one thing I noticed about Ron when I watch his videos… you can “see” the music he is playing. He has such awesome energy when he plays that he brings the music to life. I can just imagine all of the notes flying around in his head, waiting anxiously for his hands to touch the keyboard so they can be set free. This is an amazing gift, thank you for sharing it with the world Ron!

  • http://www.excruciatinginertia.blogspot.com David G

    All hail the Great One, the King, Master of all he surveys. Yes, hail the Greatest Thing That Ever Lived, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, Jamming Jenkees rules the Pentatonic Scale. Not only that, but he’s got major influence over the Melodic Minor and last month single handedly developed the theory of polymodal chromaticism. He continues to be the lone drivig force in music today. Find a place on his shirttail, because RJ the Magnificent has his ticket to ride, and he’s going nowhere but up!

  • http://Goodcyrbrations.com Linda

    WOW

  • http://www.youtube.com/iluvronaldjenkees jenkeesisfake

    Finally a youtube video that shows how Jenkees is a fake.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlXJsd9BT20

    Spread this vid.

  • KnowTalent

    Hey “jenkeesisfake”… who cares? You jealous? He is good man, and worth the $10 for the CD.

    Go sit on it and rotate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Harrison/100000454667711 Rob Harrison

    AND YOUR SISTER IS A COCKEYED DROOLER WHO RIDES THE SHORTBUS TO SCHOOL WITH U YA HELMET WEARING WINDOW LICKER,,,

  • Almgakr44

    jenkeesisfake ╭∩╮⎝⏠⏝⏠⎠╭∩╮

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