Back in April 2005, a revolutionary video-sharing platform launched from California – and a new breed of musician was born overnight. Welcome to YouTube, playground to a million bedsit-dwelling, webcam-mugging sort-of celebrities whose daily posts are the word of God to the population of a small country. Here’s your spotter’s guide to some of its guitar-playing fraternity.
1. The matey retailer
Hey, Derek isn’t some shameless corporate huckster, employed by a cynical multi-national MI distributor to harvest your disposable income. He’s just a fellow guitar nerd, man. Who happens to have a T-shirt branded with his firm’s logo, and an infuriating verbal tic of saying “0% interest-free credit” every few seconds.
Hang on a minute: now he’s gear-whispered you into visiting the company’s website, punching in your long card number and buying a doubleneck SG you’ll patently never use. Do not be fooled by his jocular ‘bants’. This man is dangerous, like a retail-industry Derren Brown.
How to spot them: Their strangely hypnotic delivery, filling your frontal cortex with subliminal commands. Must. Buy. Flange. Pedal.
2. The Shredder
The official line is that they’re here to “walk you through” the latest gear. But such is the Shredder’s rampant technique and runaway ego that they cannot possibly demean themself to simply strumming a few clean open chords and giving their viewers a handy taste of, y’know, what the guitar actually sounds like.
In three whole years, all you will ever learn from their channel is how a warp-speed Lydian scale sounds on a shuttle-run of lurid superstrats – and what their sex face looks like.
How to spot them: They’re the one clamping on an AxeCam at the 14th fret, so you can see a forensic close-up of every last pinch harmonic.
3. The comedian
You know this guy. In his mind, he’s Bill Bailey onstage at the Hammersmith Apollo, effortlessly splicing music and comedy. In reality, most of his videos are feeble skits that wouldn’t raise a smirk at a primary school assembly.
As his subscriber numbers tumble, the Comedian will grow desperate, bouncing on a trampette and playing a shred cover of Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk, while the cameraman pelts him with water balloons full of Angel Delight.
Five years from now, you will spot him alone on a street corner, forlornly filming himself on an obsolete iPhone as he strums Wonderwall with his genitals.
How to spot them: The ghostly toll of a Wild West church bell as they deliver the ‘punchline’.
4. The child prodigy
Aw, bless. She’s just an innocuous-looking five-year-old from Indonesia with a Hello Kitty acoustic. But suddenly she’s flaying Van Halen’s Spanish Fly, wisps of smoke rising from the fretboard, her hand a merciless claw, her face an emotionless mask, her fame-hungry parents just out of shot, ready to swat her knuckles with a spirit-level if she misses a sixteenth note.
Returning to your own rig to fumble a Nirvana riff, you will feel old, ham-fisted and strangely bleak.
How to spot them: Hair in bunches, apple cheeks and a facial expression that suggests they’d rather be outside playing football.
5. Mr Likes-The-Sound-Of-His-Own-Voice
Even the intros to their vlogs are roughly the duration of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. You’ve already been watching forty-seven minutes and they’re still putting Guild Guitars into historical context.
At some point, far into an unknowable future, they might actually unbox the new Westerly Collection acoustic and play a few chords. But by then, you and everyone you know will have died of natural causes, and had your bones picked clean by carrion crows.
How to spot them: Listen out for the unmistakable self-important drone, like your school physics teacher on valium.
6. The Titillator
To be fair, the Titillator is a decent player. But then, so are a lot of people. In their hunt for a USP, the Titillator has spotted that their views go up with every extra inch of cleavage, and they will pursue this to its logical conclusion, ultimately performing AC/DC’s Back In Black entirely nude for an audience of billions.
Off the back of these numbers, the Titillator will then release an actual debut album that sells precisely zero copies, because their subscribers are all arthritic old perverts who don’t understand how to download music – and watch all the videos on mute, anyway
7. The Clueless Teacher
Well-intentioned, baby-faced and yet to pop their gig cherry, the Clueless Teacher is desperate to impart the knowledge they don’t yet possess. Regular as clockwork, they will post breezy ‘learn to play’ video lessons that have all the accuracy of a black-market calculator, whether they’re telling you the wrong tunings for the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash, or suggesting you stick a capo at the eighth fret for Slipknot’s Duality.
With their subscribers nudging six million, the Clueless Teacher is responsible for sending a generation of covers bands out into the world to perform a teeth-on-edge version of Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, where there’s definitely something iffy about the outro.
How to spot them: Smooth, hairless, keen as mustard and as unblemished as their box-fresh Squier Strat.
8. The Egoist Interviewer
Thanks to their rocketing subscriber numbers, the Egotist Interviewer has started to score exclusives with the big guns. But as a sucker for their own hype, even when they have Slash on the sofa, they still manage to spin the conversation round to their own slender achievements.
“Can I just jump in there? Because you talking about how you wrote the Welcome To The Jungle riff reminds me of this great story about my old college band…”
How to spot them: You can’t miss the fatuous grin that seems to say: “You and me, Mr Morello, we’re the same…”
9. The Pathologist
Don’t insult the Pathologist by calling them a “gear reviewer”. A simple A/B tone test is not enough for this tech-tinkerer. Before you can say ‘trim pot’, they’ve unscrewed the wah chassis, are delving around in the circuitboard like a bomb disposal technician, and have dissected the fasel inductor with the po-faced self-importance of a surgeon removing a kidney stone from the Duke Of Edinburgh.
To the Pathologist, the actual tone is less important than the material used for the wire insulation jacket – and anyone who thinks otherwise is a lightweight.
How to spot them: By the screwdriver set that’s always jangling merrily on their belt-loop.
10. Mr Desperate-For-Likes
Bitterly resentful that Jiffpom gets more hits, everything about Mr Desperate-For-Likes reeks of a naked bid to boost his subscriber count to the tipping-point where he can earn enough from advertising to move out of his mum’s basement.
With his plaintive, puppy-dog eyes, he is the needy lover with erectile dysfunction; the online equivalent of the vote-begging X-Factor chump who turns his hand into a pretend phone and waggles it at the audience as he leaves the stage. For Mr Desperate-For-Likes, every subscriber is a hug he never had as a child.
How to spot them: Their hand does less playing than pointing towards the ‘subscribe’ button.