How a sexagenarian YouTube rocker revived music appreciation
Unpacking Rick Beato's most popular video series
DECODE breaks down content formats and properties to their fundamentals, to give you a closer look at what makes them work — and what you can apply in your own content efforts.
YouTube video series
3.5 million subscribers on YouTube
Nearly 600 million views in total on YouTube
You need a content moat. Something that's hard to replicate in your niche and makes your content format stand out.
Beato has several:
His vast knowledge of music theory, composition, and production
Access to top-notch musicians and exclusive industry-insider content like recording stems from popular songs
Friendly, approachable, and enthusiastic presentation.
What's your moat?
Who is Rick Beato?
A lot of YouTube content creators have shiny Play buttons to commemorate subscriber count milestones — but only a handful have their very own signature guitar.
One among them is Rick Beato, a US-based music educator and critic who's pulled in more than 3.5 million subscribers, racked up nearly 600 million views on his library of content, and published over 1,100 videos since 2006.
Beato has made a name for himself churning out insightful clips on all things music, including ear training, music theory, mixing, production, composition and arrangement.
He is also a mastermind in content creation. He's experimented with several content formats over the years, including recorded and live streamed videos, books, courses, and social media posts. His approach is at once thoughtful and creative, and that's what has led to his massive success in a difficult niche today.
What's also helped tremendously is Beato's consistency and strong work ethic over the years. He's posted more than 1,000 videos in the last six years, and nearly as many pieces of valuable video content on Instagram and TikTok. On top of that, he's done several live streamed lessons featuring educational content, with Q&As involving his audience.
Referencing his recent milestone of 3.5 million YouTube subscribers over the last decade, Beato recently said in a live stream, "Historically, YouTube channels typically have a life of seven years. My channel is doing the best that it's ever done right now."
What's this video series about?
What Makes This Song Great? sees Beato dissect songs across genres and eras from a music producer's perspective. He started this series in 2018, with a secret weapon in his presentation: having been in the business for years, Beato manages to obtain the 'stems' or individual tracks in the recordings he features from labels, distributors, and artists — they're not available to the general public.
That allows him to play snippets from each instrument and vocal track separately, so it's easier for viewers to hear what he's excitedly describing.
Beato uses that, along with his masterful understanding of music theory, to walk you through these iconic songs like you've never heard them before.
The series covers music by the likes of Rush, Nirvana, Steely Dan, Tool, and more recent acts like Polyphia, Plini, Adele, and The Killers.
What makes this work?
For viewers, that results in a deeper understanding and appreciation of the song and the artist behind it, and a closer connection to music - whether it's their hobby, part of their educational curriculum, or their day job.
Each video brings insightful musical analysis, recording stems that you can't easily find elsewhere, Beato pointing out what to listen for in the lyrics, harmony and melody, to production elements like guitar tone, ghost notes in drumming, and electronic sounds.
It's worth noting that the videos are long (some run upwards of half an hour), and don't follow a rigid template for a script.
These videos are music appreciation, both as an art and a craft.
Beato's presentation, with his infectious enthusiasm and approachable manner, makes him appeal to a wide range of music fans across skill levels. The combination of Beato's resources, knowledge, and on-screen persona is extremely hard to compete with.
Beato's able to rack up millions of views on nerdy music theory breakdowns, with half-hour-long videos of a 60-year-old musician talking to the camera by himself. That's not easy — but he makes it work incredibly well.
Beyond that, Beato has managed to build a passionate fandom that truly values his content. Scroll through the comments sections on any of his videos and you'll find viewers tell him just how much they appreciate what he does.
While he doesn't explicitly talk about it, these innovative formats and the incredibly high bar for quality that Rick has set for his content allow him to stand head and shoulders above others in this niche like Adam Neely and Charles Cornell. Of course, it's not a competition — Beato collaborates with fellow creators, and this only works to further cement his place as an authority figure in music education.