By Paul Hogendoorn
I stumbled across a young YouTube drummer that covers all the true ‘classics’ about 6 months ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. (Word of caution here: if you appreciate the great musical compositions of Pink Floyd, Cream, The Who, Led Zepplin, The Beatles etc., and believe that the drumming in that period is one of the things that make the music so great, even viewing one video can result in two or three hours – or more – time lost on an insatiable musical journey).
There are now a lot of different YouTube channels and drummers to choose from, but there’s one that stands out above the rest.
I’m not sure where my reflective musical journey began that night, six months ago, but at some point, YouTube recommended “Radar Love” as the next video I should watch. The song is associated with a good period in my youth, and I really liked the song, so I clicked on it – only, it turned out to be a drum cover by a young German named Sina. Her performance of the song stunned me. I recognized the “groove” right away, but what I didn’t realize was the complexity of the drumming, and how much better and more impactful it was with a more drum-promoted mix. I was agog and quickly clicked on the next suggested video, (“Won’t Get Fooled Again”), then the next, (“Blinded by the Light”), and the next (“Bat Out of Hell”) until I realized that the house was quiet, and it was well past midnight. The next evening, it was more of the same.
There were many questions in my mind. How does a young person get this good? Why does she focus on Classic Rock and the great drummers of that period? How did she get so many subscribers? (About 1.5M at last count). How did she get so many YouTube views? (Now over half a billion!) How does she commercialize this endeavor? How does she stay current, fresh, and relevant to her audience, given that it is so easy to copy what she does? And, given her success which is certain to attract detractors, how does she handle her critics, naysayers, and ‘competitors’? And it’s really in these answers that I find her to be more than an amazing musician worthy of listening to, but also an amazing entrepreneur and leader we can learn a lot from.
She started when she was 14, with a passion for drums and music (thanks to her parents), a keen nerd interest and curiosity, and an idea and a very encouraging and supportive father. She launched “Sina-drums” on YouTube and then simply followed her inner compass, covering rock songs with great drum lines. Her drumming got better and better and so did the production of the videos (much credit to her father), and her audience grew. This didn’t translate to revenue to her however as that all went to the original artists and copyright owners, so she invited people who enjoyed her covers to support her journey on a platform called Patreon, which many did. She created a path for other young musical artists to follow, and many did, but she did more than that; she did videos explaining how they could do it and invited others to collaborate with her, and often the resultant videos would be posted on the collaborating artist’s channel before being posted on hers. She recorded three albums of original material created mostly by her young collaborators. Her vision and mission was (and is) bigger than just what she could do for herself.
An entrepreneur, in my mind, is someone that starts an enterprise from nothing for the economic benefit of many. She’s done that. Like an artist, an entrepreneur starts with nothing more than an idea, coupled with passion, and followed by dedicated and determined execution. To be successful over a longer period, the artist and entrepreneur both have to continually refine their ‘product’ or art to be meaningful, relevant, and of interest and value to their customers or audience. As other YouTube artists follow her path, she takes on new challenges, breaks new ground and continues to stay ahead of the curve, not only holding the interest of her audience and supporters, but growing it.
A leader, in my mind, is someone that blazes a new trail that others then follow. She’s certainly done that. There are now dozens of channels following the original template, but she’s not worried about staying ahead of competitors on that path because she’s blazing new trails, which others are certain to follow too. That’s what leaders do – they are out in front, being first, leading, and not aiming to be the biggest or the best just by following and executing better.
Another indication of being a leader is that it always comes with more than its fair share of detractors. Most of the comments posted by viewers reveal how important and impactful the original music and her cover performances are, but there are some that look to find fault and criticize for whatever reason. From time to time, the original drummer (from Dire Straits, or REO Speedwagon, or Chicago, or Deep Purple for instance) happens upon her cover of one of their songs and jumps into the comment fray, quickly silencing all the armchair quarterbacks. Its nice to see when that happens – it’s a pure case of talent recognizing talent and a seasoned leader recognizing the critic filled world of an emerging leader.
So, what lessons can we learn from Sina?
1) Follow YOUR inner compass. You can’t be in the lead if you are following somebody else.
2) If you are following your inner compass, you are not competing with anyone, and other peoples’ success doesn’t take away from yours.
3) To stay relevant in the long term, you have to grow and innovate, and keep challenging yourself.
4) Hold on to your values. You can change your strategies and even your goals, but don’t let those things change you.
5) Pay attention to the people that matter and don’t pay attention to the people that don’t.
If you’ve read this to this point, here’s your homework assignment: watch and listen to either Radar Love or Won’t get Fooled Again on Sina-drums. For an extra credit, listen to either Polk Salad Annie (by Elvis) or July Morning (by Uriah Heep). And here’s your challenge: try to get this homework assignment done in less than an hour!