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News Flash: The Ukulele World Isn’t “Happy” All The Time

One of the reasons the ukulele is such an appealing instrument is that people that play it seem to be happy all of the time. I generally find that to be true, but as in all walks of life, unhappy people find their way to ukulele, too. Of course, no one is going to be happy all the time.

What I wanted to write about is that there are a number of YouTube personalities who are building communities through the service–and ukulele companies are noticing them. I’ve been watching some of these channels “grow up” over the last couple of years.

And I see certain people in the ukulele world that are bothered by the success of these YouTube personalities. Some of it is concern that followers of these personalities may make informed decisions when it comes to buying a ukulele, some of it is frustration with the channel’s content and/or teaching style, and some of it, undoubtedly, is based on jealousy.

I am personally in the process of trying to create content so that I can generate some income off of my ukulele work. I’m frustrated that YouTube’s policies made it impossible for me to do so on my original channel–but I hold no ill will towards them or any channel that has successfully monetized their content, or those that work out brand deals with ukulele brands.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve watched these other channels grow–and certainly, when they started, they offered misinformation offered from time to time–but the YouTube personalities learned, grew, and kept building a real community.

One of the complaints I have seen lately is that these channels offer unboxing videos, and spend time reviewing things like the gig bags instead of reviewing the tone of an instrument. I have to admit that I kind of like watching unboxing videos, and that on the majority of ukuleles reviewed by these channels, the tone is generally a generic laminate tone. They review ukuleles in the $50 to $250 range, and you don’t often see a big shift in how ukuleles sound until you get much further up the price point. Are there exceptions? Sure. And for beginners, there is real concern about how well a gig bag will protect an instrument. So I have no issue talking about gig bags, either. I’d rather see a focus on set-up on everyone’s part–but some channels expect you to buy a ukulele from a ukulele-specific vendor (ideal, but not the reality for many players), and others don’t look at set-up at all.

On a personal note, I was able to buy ten ukuleles due to a teacher’s union grant (the ukuleles came with me as I left my school), and I chose Enya KUC-20 ukuleles. I had no qualms about what I chose, but I later saw a review for the Enya X1M, which is made of HPL (not just “regular” laminate) and was priced about the same. When I saw the gig bag that came with the X1M, I was relieved that we had bought the KUC-20 instead. The KUC-20’s gig bag is just a little more practical and traditional in build, with a loop for hanging on the back of the case.

All I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t make much sense to complain about others that are experiencing success on YouTube, and if you think there is misinformation occurring, it makes sense to try to educate that person. Ironically, one of the voices complaining about those YouTube personalities was a key player in the development of that YouTube personality–early on, they referred to their work all the time.

Some questions to ask yourself, if you find yourself in that unhappy place:

  • Why am I unhappy about this?
  • Is there any misinformation or harm being done?
  • If there is, how can I help that person to provide correct information or to stop the harm?
  • If I don’t like their content, such as unboxing videos, does my opinion really matter? Should I really say anything? Should I be trying to take the joy away from another person?
  • Is that person cultivating a community of people on YouTube?
  • How much of my dissatisfaction is due to my own jealousy?

As for me, I’ll keep following everyone that writes and makes videos about ukulele. I’ll keep leaving comments when I feel a comment needs to be made. And I’ll keep making my own content.

I do understand that I come at the ukulele with a different mindset than many people; When it comes to music, I’m not afraid to try and fail–and I’m not afraid to sing and play. I have a Ph.D. in Music, so while I am NOT the greatest player in the world, I’m not intimidated by the greatest player, either. I respect their work, and I can talk with anyone about their musical craft. But I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, I don’t need special treatment, and I’m going to try to treat each person as if they matter. And each of us matters–immensely.

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