Walt Ribeiro creates music-education videos in his home studio.
Imagine if they’d had the Internet available at the same time that the masters of classical were in full swing — how would a good Website have helped out Herr Mozart when he launched Don Giovanni?
It’s too bad that Vienna’s bad boy of opera didn’t have access to Walt Ribeiro (www.waltribeiro.net) back in the day. A prolific composer who finds his own muse in the expansiveness of classical music, Ribeiro’s career path represents an ideal synthesis of production, educational ability, marketing savvy and online instincts essential for artist/producers in the 21st-century.
Ribeiro’s love for classical arranging began when he was studying music at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “I like options,” he says. “It’s one thing writing for a four-piece band, but writing for a bassoon, flute, cellos, violins and percussion is so much more adventurous. It makes you excel as a composer.”
Shortly after graduating from college in 2006, Ribeiro came out with his first album of original music, 1.1, an exquisitely arranged and performed all-MIDI affair recorded in his west New Jersey home studio. “I started trying to market 1.1, and I was not doing it successfully,” he recalls. “Marketing it through TV or magazines was too big a jump for me, so that’s when I started looking into online marketing.”
Ribeiro began to scour the Web, and before long he’d picked up on an angle that he thought might get him noticed: video music lessons. “I looked online and what was there was buried or else simply didn’t exist,” says Ribeiro, who is now New York City-based. “I’ve always been really good at music lessons because people can relate to me, so I became interested in giving my knowledge to other people.
“My first video was called How to Read Music. I uploaded it to YouTube in 2007; let it sit, sit, sit; and it got a lot of views over time — now it has over 230,000 views. That’s when the light bulb came on over my head, and I said, ‘People enjoy my teaching! Maybe I can do this full time.’”
From there, it was full speed ahead, as Ribeiro discovered that he had razor-sharp instincts for bending the Web to his will — at the same time, the human factor was always forefront in his mind. “As I continued this course, I acquired thousands of followers and friends,” says Ribeiro, who frequently sported a Mohawk in his videos as he pontificated on pizzicatos. “When you’re building a community/fan base, you’re also building a ‘friend base.’ Now I’ve got thousands of friends I’ve helped along the way, and they’ve helped me. So while I was gaining an understanding of how the Internet worked, I gained a musical community also.”
Ribeiro’s Internet traffic has steadily grown, opening the door to significantly monetizing his site via such avenues as sponsors, affiliate marketing relationships, digital downloads, merchandising and more. Along the way, Ribeiro has made a number of observations on what actually constitutes online success.
“People always go for high numbers, saying things like, ‘I need 50,000 e-mail subscribers tomorrow,’” he explains. “There are three things wrong with that. First, with that mindset you’re looking at the numbers rather than the connection — you’re better off with 500 tight subscribers than 50,000 who aren’t engaged. The next thing is that after you get connected, you have to stay connected so you develop strong relationships. The third thing that’s wrong is that they want it all to happen overnight. A real community takes a long time to build, but it also takes a long time to break.”
Ribeiro was fortunate to have found a window of opportunity with his music lessons, but he also believes that every producer, engineer and artist has his or her own unique angle that they can work on the Web. “Everyone is using the Internet for everything because of how convenient it is,” Ribeiro points out. “If you have a trade, it makes sense to go online and do an audio or video podcast. Even as you’re sleeping, people can find out about your service, which can translate into business.
“If you’re passionate about something, then there are millions of other people who are just as passionate about it and want to know about it. So you should pay it forward, and give your knowledge to people who want to learn as much about it as you did. If you have skill or knowledge, you can turn that into a podcast or some other interesting market online presence that will help you to connect with people and stay connected. And it’s free: The Internet costs nothing, yet you have all of this real estate that you can conquer and then monetize via sponsors, Google Adsense, affiliate deals and subscriptions, plus direct sales of content.”
As a man who likes options, Ribeiro has a new world he’s conquering with his latest offering, fororchestra.com. Stocked with his fresh orchestral arrangements of “guilty pleasures” by the likes of Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Madonna and more, the site satisfies his classical cravings while allowing him to take his social-networking skills to original places — online and offline.
“I always enjoy new takes on things, and so much has happened to me because of my podcasts,” Ribeiro says. “I’m always learning new things and making new friends. When you’re locked away in your studio writing music, you can forget there are such things as hiking, or Pittsburgh or a buffet-eating contest in Mississippi that one of your students told you about. There was just so much more about life that I’ve learned from connecting with people.”