Interview Sticks Magazine September 2019

English Translation of the article below
Successful on YouTube
STICKS, Issue 09-10/2019
Copyright: Musik Media Verlag, Köln (STICKS), Interview und Bilder: TomSchäfer, translation by Stephen D. Blum.

Anmerkung: Wir dürfen die englische Übersetzung des Artikels hier einstellen mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Musik Media Verlags. Ich bitte um Verständnis, dass wir hier aus Copyright Gründen nicht die deutsche Originalausgabe verbreiten dürfen. Diese ist unter folgendem Link verfügbar:

The term “YouTube drummer” is becoming more and more of a striking format. Behind this is a young style of playing that finds its creative expression in drum cover videos. To be found at premium popularity is the young drummer Sina Doering, who has acquired celebrity status as Germany’s most successful YouTube drummer with her skilled drum tracks and almost 700,000 subscribers.

Playing the drums is job and passion for Sina Doering (20). She also is the power centre in a 70s style Hard Rock band. But at the epicentre of her success are the YouTube drum cover videos, which are interestingly not trimmed for sensationalism, but follow the sensuality of time-tested rock classics.

Sina, at some point in your life you got really into drumming. Wheredoes your enthusiasm come from?
Playing the drums has always seemed natural to me. I discovered my talent for rhythm quite early. But I was never about playing mindlessly and making noise. I needed a concept and wanted to do something that ended up being music. That’s why I always liked to play whole songs. I grew up in a musical family. My father is a professional musician and at some point he built a studio in the basement. There was a drum kit. So I was lucky.
And how did the YouTube story come about? Also a stroke of luck?
At that time, I had taught myself the song “Metropolis Part 1” by Dream Theater. That was still during my time as a student at the Krefeld drumming school “Drummers Inspiration”. I found the song cool, and my dad suggested to upload the video with me playing on YouTube. It was an experiment at first. We did not have many viewers either. Then we realized that you get more attention by uploading videos more often. The YouTube algorithm likes that and numbers go up. So we started uploading more regularly. Meanwhile, we release a new video every Friday. This regularity and the binding goal of producing a video once a week was crucial for my progress. Basically, I’m lazy when it comes to practising, but now I was committed to the task. This of course helps a lot with self-motivation. The experience of studying at the “Drummer’s Institute” in Krefeld for a year also helped me in all aspects of my playing.
Would you say that your YouTube channel has become a real business?
All music productions of me and my dad are based around my YouTube channel. The drum covers generate attention, which helps us to market other productions as well. My dad helps me with the audio and video recordings. And he does all the editing. It would not be possible for me to run my channel without him.
Do you have to ask the copyright holders for clearance before uploading a drum cover?
No, that would be impossible. YouTube has developed a pretty reliable system. Anyone running their own channel has access to a media library through the YouTube Creator Studio. There you can see which songs are allowed to be covered. Consequently, some songs are not available.
Did you ever have problems with that?
At the beginning I was not so experienced with the whole legal situation and had uploaded “School” by Supertramp. The track was not only blocked, but also got a copyright strike. This works similar to the way account is kept of the penalty points for traffic violations in the Flensburg register. After three copyright strikes, even the entire channel is deleted. However, a Copyright Strike expires after half a year unless you get another one during that time.
By now you have a lot of experience how to handle YouTube. How to take economic benefits from it, too?
For songs in which I do not own the copyright myself, I get no money. All advertising money goes to the labels or Copyright holders. But I also upload my own songs, and then I get money according to the views. That’s not a lot – about a dollar or a little more per thousand views. But my own songs are not so well known, so they are less sought after and have fewer views. In order to monetise my work, I started a Patreon account. On Patreon anyone can sign up as a creator or as a supporter. As a creator, I publish a new drum video once a week and receive a fixed weekly or monthly amount from my supporters. Luckily I have quite a few supporters, so Patreon allows me to make a living playing music. In addition, anyone can sign up on YouTube as a ‘Channel member‘ in order to become part of my inner circle. YouTube channel members and my Patrons receive a preview every week, exclusive downloads, behind-the-scenes footage etc. I also get a lot of feedback and comments on Patreon. Since this is a small, closed group, I can personally participate in the communication within the group, answer questions and comment on feedback. Of course that takes a lot of time, but I think many of my supporters appreciate that.
How much time does it take to create a drum cover?
Rehearsing the drum part usually takes about two days, depending on the song. Btw, I do not mean whole days, but three to four hours daily. I cannot concentrate on a song for a longer time. Most of the practicing time is spent on memorizing the parts, not so much for technical aspects. And once I learned a song it’s in my short-term memory, hopefully until the video is shot. We basically do about three takes per song and choose the best moments during the editing process. It’s around ten hours per video that I need to work on a video. This includes some hours spent for publishing on social media channels. The audio and video editing is mostly done by my dad who spends about the same amount of time per video as I do.
By what criteria do you hit the song selection?
I usually go for popular songs because they get more clicks. Those do notnecessarily have to be technically difficult.
Which video was your most successful?
‘Sultan’s Of Swing’ by the Dire Straits has gathered over 20 million views. I never expected that. However, I did not cover the drum part used in the original studio version but I chose a live version to learn the drum part which I recorded on top of the studio version. I can add a little story: So … I grew up in a time when there were still CD players in the car. And my dad always had a collection of his favourite songs. Including that live version of “Sultans Of Swing”. I’ve heard it all the time and it was the only version of the song I ever knew. When I wanted to make a drum cover of the song, I tried to learn the studio version, but found that difficult because I was so familiar with the live version. So we found a drumless track of the studio version and I added the drums of the live version. The drums are much more energetic than in the regular studio version. I assume that’s why it has become popular on YouTube.
Do you basically try to cover the songs note by note, or do you make up your own parts?
If I find a drumless track – that is the song without drum track – I’m more free in the implementation. If there is no drumless track available, we use the original recording and try to remove most of the original-drums through filters. This is not 100% reliable, sometimes the original drums pop through. Therefore, I have to be really exact with my parts in order to cover all those random hits. Otherwise you would hear drums which I don’t play.
I find it remarkable that you have many older songs and rock classics in the repertoire. There are cover versions of Iron Butterfly with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, Golden Earring with “Radar Love”, The Who with “My Generation”, Genesis with “Firth Of Fifth”, Kiss, AC/DC , Foreigner, Led Zeppelin …
That’s the music I grew up with it. And it’s the music that I hear today. Current pop music is often based on programmed drums. And mainstream music played on the radio today does not get me at all.
What do you think of the young drummer generation? The scene continues to develop. Are you in touch with it?
Sure! I’m really impressed by people like Anika Nilles. Getting involved with her ideas will bring you forward, too. Her music, however, is quite complicated and therefore often difficult to understand. For someone who is still at the beginning of one’s development as a player, it is even harder to recognize the art in it. In general, however, I check out upcoming drummers and their ways of playing in order to try out new ideas and be up to date with new trends.
Would programmed drum tracks also be an option to transfer them to live drum versions?
I’m used to songs that are lively in tempo, and I like it when music does not obey the click. When I listen to songs, I think about how the drummer played them and how the song was recorded. This fascination gets lost with programmed drums. My home is the world of Classic Rock. That’s what I can do, that’s for me!
And is it your clear concept?
I want to play music that I enjoy myself. That might be complicated stuff, as long as I enjoy it. In general, I want my drum covers to be interesting for non-musicians too. And due to the fact that I’m under pressure to come up with a new release every week, I would not have the time to deal with a new challenging song every week. That’s why I focus on simpler songs. Interestingly enough, they usually do better than the complicated stuff. One of my most successful videos for instance is ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ by ‘Survivor’. I was surprised myself because there is not much in it drum-wise. Sometimes I wonder ‘how come people watch this cover?’
Did you find an answer?
I can only guess: Because it is a very well-known song that everybody loves. Many people want to know how the drums are played on ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Astonishingly, even people who do not play drums themselves, are interested in the drum part looking at a song from a different perspective.
Which was the most difficult drum cover for you?
From a technically point of view the track ‘Burn’ by Deep Purple. The song features two-bar sixteenth fills played very fast. For me, the challenge was to play single-strokes at this high speed. I practiced this for a long time every day, so that the muscles get used to the movement process. And difficult from a conceptual point of view was the song “Metropolis Part I” by Dream Theater. It took me half a year to learn the song. There were also complicated technical elements, so I had to get the technical challenges out of the way for the implementation. Meanwhile, I have a technical basis that I can rely on, so I do not have to practice that much anymore.
You have produced hundreds of drum covers and probably got to know some peculiarities of drummers in this way.
Who was inspired by whom, those are the subtleties that have struck me in the course of time. Sometimes there are surprising parallels. Maybe one of them ‘stole’ from the other – these are things that stand out when fills are very similar. I had also thought about starting my own video series, which deals with the characteristics of different drummers. So far, we’ve come up with a 15-minute video about Ringo Starr, with me demonstrating excerpts of various Beatles songs and explaining how Ringo approached those songs.
A gentleman of the early generation. Are you a Ringo fan?
Absolutely! He influenced me a lot. My dad used to play in a Beatles Tribute Band, and of course plenty of Beatles music played at our home. Ringo plays in a very musical way. He often plays weird things that are perfect in the context of a song. If you listen solely to Ringo’s drums, you often know exactly which song it is. In addition, he is left handed playing on a right-handed kit and therefore created figures that are not obvious. Many say that Ringo was not so good as a drummer. That may be true from a technical point of view but not for his musicality! Studying and covering Ringo has given me a great deal of musical understanding.
Which drummers inspired you as much?
Except for Ringo, Jeff Porcaro inspired me a lot. Toto has always been my favourite band. Later, Simon Phillips was the Toto drummer, and I would call him an influence, too. And of course musicians like John Bonham and all the drum heroes of Classic Rock.
What fascinates you so much about Jeff Porcaro?
His groove and the interaction with the band. Often it is hard to understand how he really did things. There is always something mysterious about everything. There is a video on YouTube where you can hear the isolated original drums from “Rosanna”. You can hear all the details. He does not play Ghost Notes all the way through, but only when they need to be there.
To rehearse drum covers and make videos is more of a lonely job in the studio. Wouldn’t you enjoy a real band for a change?
There is a Band! ‘The Gäs’ is a Hard Rock formation with their own songs, and we play three or four gigs a month on average. Saying that, ‘The Gäs’ is pretty much the opposite of my otherwise virtual world. Being on stage and having direct contact with the audience is a good feeling. But being a ‘girl on drums’, I often get special attention, sometimes I’m even considered the ‘star’ of the Band which is utter nonsense and it could not be more wrong. But of course I’m happy about positive reactions regardless.
Then there is your project Chi Might and Chi Might 2. What is behind it?
I always wanted to do music projects with different people. But for logistical and geographical reasons that was hardly possible. So we had the idea to put together a virtual band and record a CD with 15 songs and 15 different featured musicians. We invited artists who were active on You-Tube. This is how the first contacts came about. Others contacted us directly after the word started to spread. Due to the diversity of musicians, the two albums of Chi Might feature different styles and genres.
Is being a YouTube drummer musically fulfilling and a solid perspective for the future?
I became known for my videos and achieved a lot. It’s impossible to predict for how long I will be able to continue, also considering the new Copyright laws that recently passed the European Parliament. Neither do I know whether I will still be up for producing drum covers in five years’ time. But at the moment I feel that my work is completely fulfilling. I have a super cool job!