BoBeats on his favourite videos, DAWless jams and the life of a synthfluencer

(Image credit: BoBeats)

Synthfluencers is a new interview series where we go behind the camera to meet some of the biggest YouTubers and content creators from the online music tech community. 

If you're a synthesizer fan, player, or hobbyist, you've undoubtedly spent some time wandering the halls of YouTube, looking for a piece of gear to inspire, influence, or simply spark joy. And there's a good chance that in those travels, you've come across a soft-spoken Swede with wispy hair and a genuine attraction to all things gear. That man is BoBeats, and yes, that's Beats, with an 's'. 

While Beats isn't his real last name, it very well could be given his long standing fascination with drum machines, synths, and grooveboxes. That obsession started with a Yamaha RM1X groovebox in the late 90's that was gifted to Bo by his parents, and that single piece of gear set him on the path he's on today. For Bo Beats, it's never been about the destination; the journey and how to get there has always been of much more importance. 

Perusing the many, many videos on his Youtube page shows not just a dedicated, compassionate musician, but also one that has always been focused on exploration, personal connection, and education. The depth and breadth of his videos is as impressive as the sheer numbers he has managed to build up to—his channel now boasts 18 million views and counting. 

Bo's annual Best Gear videos feature a plethora of other YouTubers, all weighing in on the gear that moved them that year, but more importantly, they show that Bo best operates when he's surrounded by the synth community he has helped build. 

We sat down to chat with Bo about what he's got in store for his channel, his own influences, and much more. 

What initially got you interested in being a Youtuber?

“In my teens and early 20s I thought I wanted to become a professional music producer. I did mixing and mastering, and I produced tracks for other artists. I also released stuff myself and had a small hit one year that went viral before viral was even a thing. But I quickly realized this world was not for me. I felt awkward in music circles. I didn’t quite fit in. 

“So I dedicated myself to my studies in psychology and educational science instead. Fast forward a few years and I had a career as a psychotherapist and university professor. I was 24 when I got hired at my local University right after finishing my education. 

“But after a few years I felt something was missing. I needed a creative outlet. I was still making music as a hobby but the life of an artist didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to connect with people. Something where my passion for music technology, music production and community could come together. A friend suggested Youtube. 

I felt awkward in music circles. I didn't quite fit in

“I started uploading random music production related videos in 2015 but it didn’t start taking off until 2017, and frankly I don’t think I made anything good until 2019. So it was a bit of a random start, something that just happened and wasn’t planned at all. In 2017, I started working part time as a synth YouTuber and in 2020 during the pandemic, I quit my job and went full time. Will I continue down this path forever? Unlikely. But for now it is fulfilling and as long as it feels that way I will continue.”

What other Youtubers do you personally follow? How much time a week do you spend watching over videos? 

“I don’t watch a lot of music production and synth related content. I get enough of that spending my days with music tech. But I do watch a lot of YouTube. James Hoffman is a coffee YouTuber I really enjoy and I love long format video game critiques. And my guilty pleasure is watching BeardMeatsFood; he takes on absurd food challenges.”

How much time a week do you spend making music vs working on videos?

“It is very one sided. The video work is probably 90% and dedicated time for making my own music 10%. This is because video work simply takes a lot of time. There is researching what gear to test, getting a hold of a unit and handling the logistics around that. Then there's testing, making music with it and figuring it out. Then you script the vid and set everything up for the actual video shoot. 

"Lights, cameras and so on, but also making sure the synth isn’t too dusty and that I am presentable. After the video is shot you have to edit it, which is a whole other thing. And then you have to upload it, make a captivating thumbnail, make sure the description is correct. It is just A LOT of work. 

How did you learn video editing / video recording? Any recommendations? Any gear that has been indispensable? 

“I wish I could tell you, but I don’t really know how to shoot or edit videos. It's been a ton of trial and error and if anything I would suggest taking a course and try finding someone to teach you. I can’t explain how my videos end up looking decent. It is a surprise to me every time. In terms of gear I would say: Invest in decent lights with large softboxes. Godox if you are on a budget and Amaran if you can spend a little bit more. 

The most important thing of all is having something of importance to convey to your audience

“For cameras I hate to say it as a Canon shooter but Sony is probably the way to go. But the new Canon EOS R7 is a great YouTube camera. It doesn’t have a record limit so you can record over 30 minutes which is quite important for synth videos which tend to be long. But remember: Lighting is far more important than the camera you use. And most important of all is: Having something of importance to convey to your audience.” 

Do you see the Bo Beats channel expanding in any way in the future?

“Not really. I am happy doing what I do and I am mainly focused on making even better synth videos. Something I absolutely want to do more of is collaborating with other creators and also hire more help for the channel. Currently I have the help of my wife, an assistant (or paid intern) who helps me a few days now and then and a few video editors I work with sporadically. I want to expand that as it's very difficult managing a growing channel and business on your own.”

Do you ever record a video and decide not to post it? What is most conflicting for you regarding the Bo Beats project?

“There are videos I decide not to make, but in general I post the things I’ve started working on. I’ve gotten better and better at deciding what videos I should focus on and which ideas are bad.

“The most conflict comes from whether or not to talk about a hot topic. I feel very strongly about adding to the already toxic climate online so I am very careful how I engage with controversial topics. Not because I am afraid to speak my mind, but rather because there is a clear tendency online to exaggerate and blow things out of proportion. 

I’ve seen more than one YouTube channel realize that there's money to be had in manufactured controversy. I don’t want to add to that

“So when I talk about something serious I want to make sure I really have something of importance to say, and not just adding fuel to a meaningless fire. Negativity sells and I’ve seen more than one YouTube channel realize that there's money to be had in manufactured controversy. I don’t want to add to that. This is not why I do Bobeats. I want to serve my community.”

What is your favorite video (or two) on the Bo Beats channel? Why? Were any videos particularly hard to record? 

“A recent favorite is the video about how I make money as a synth YouTuber. Not many YouTubers dare to talk about how they make money. But I really want to be as transparent as possible. And there are also a lot of myths around it. In reality making money in music is very difficult regardless of what you do. 

“Another favorite is my Sonicware Liven Lofi 12 video. It was just a surprising piece of gear. I didn’t enjoy their Liven Bass & Beats and it's always fun when you are caught off guard by how fun something is. The video was also a breeze to record. 

“Lastly, a recent video which took a lot of work was the Sonicware SmplTrek review. The SmplTrek firmware was not done in time for my testing and filled with bugs. It wasn’t an enjoyable process. And while I think the SmplTrek is actually good, it was important for me to get across in that video that the firmware was half-baked and Sonicware needed to really dedicate themselves to update it. Which they have since promised to do. I think there’s already been one or two new firmware releases since my video.”

What do you think about the concept of a "synthfluencer" in general?

“Since I was among the first to use that term I think of it fondly. Since we were starting to get labeled as influencers I thought ”why not just own it?” So I call myself a synthfluencer since it has a nice ring to it. The important thing to keep in mind is that these labels are very broad. While there are similarities between different YouTubers there are also things that set us apart. 

“We have to remember that synth YouTubers or synthfluencers are characterized by long form and in-depth educational content. So make no mistake, regardless of labels, it is good stuff made by people who are very dedicated, often without making any real money from it.”

Lastly, what do you make of the DAWless music scene that has risen?

“I believe the current wave of DAWless music making is a response to the computer focused era of the 2000-2010 when music production became very popular. Most who make DAWless music work in front of computers all day. Screens dominate their life, and DAWless electronic music is akin to picking up a guitar and jamming after a long day of work. It's a release. It's not about the stress of finishing music or becoming a successful artist. It's the joy of sound and music.”

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