Blader Digest: Slayer, Banjos, and the Viral Side of Life

Rob Scallon inside his Chicago apartment with his trusty banjo and blades.

If rollerblading funded itself like many YouTube channels, Rob Scallon would fund every edit Broskow made in a heartbeat. And he thinks others should, too.

“I think Broskow should be on Patreon,” Scallon said. “I’d support the fuck out of him.”

Patreon is one of many new online crowdfunding sources which allows fans of specific creators to pay what they wish with each video. While Broskow and A.J. recently released at $4 edit to help raise money for the KCMO dynamic duo’s latest video—and people like Frankie Morales and crews like the guys from Sacramento are doing the online money game now—YouTube pros like Scallon use these kinds of funding sources to secure careers.

Scallon, a blader originating from the Greater Chicago area, went full-time YouTuber about a year ago and has since earned enough money to afford to live in Chicago’s Roscoe Village in a basement apartment with his girlfriend.

“A lot of people don’t realize you can get paid with YouTube. It’s a full-time job,” he said. “As a 23-year-old, I’m doing okay, but I’m not a millionaire.”

Metal on instruments that aren’t metal

Unlike Broskow, Scallon doesn’t make a living on his skates. He gets paid for making music, his most popular of which is the banjo cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” Since this writing, the video has 2.1 million views.

Yes, that video that was the top trending topic on Facebook one day came from a blader.

Prior to that—and hitting over 100,000 YouTube subscribers—Scallon covered Slayer’s “War Ensemble” on the ukulele and it too went viral.

Before ever picking up an instrument, the first of which were a drum set he received from his dad at age 10, Scallon laced up a pair of blades at the age of 7. As many get their start this way, Scallon got his when a friend, Kyle Berbecker, skated the local park. Years later, Scallon would work at the same park, the YMCA in his hometown of Arlington Heights (which is where he also met and idolized Blade or Die’s own Jose Fuentes).

Combining his YouTube talents and park skills, Scallon was most recently in WheezyWaiter’s video, “Bad Parkour.” (skating is around 1:35)

This summer, Scallon will be touring the U.S. playing many instruments and wearing many hats. His tour starts with a handful of solo shows before jumping into the full-blown YouTube nerdgasm world. He’ll be playing with fellow YouTubers in Driftless Pony Club and meeting with internet god Hank Green in Seattle to play with Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers, which is pretty much as nerd rock as it gets. At some shows, Scallon will be playing as many as six sets in one night.

That also includes playing at VidCon, an annual gathering of online video enthusiasts, June 25-28 in Anaheim, Calif. That, to a YouTube enthusiast, is a big deal.

A while back, Green reached out to Scallon when he was starting a band. He got the most out of Scallon because of his multi-instrumental skills. While they’ve already recorded one album in Missoula, Mt., Scallon hopes the next recording session will allow them to create videos—their specialty—including some new music.

Hank’s brother, John Green, is the author of the insanely popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars, which is now a movie your girlfriend wants you to see together. Together, the Green brothers are part of numerous video projects, including the educational series Crash Course, which, if you haven’t seen, is a good way to catch up on all the stuff you should have learned in high school if you weren’t so busy pouring through the latest issue of Daily Bread like I was.

The summer tour is yet another example of Scallon’s growing popularity on YouTube and in the online musical world. When not touring, he’s trying to post a new video every day.

“I’m pretty much working all the time,” he said.

‘Can you… for free?’

And with popularity comes criticism and requests.

Scallon gets solicitations from people regularly, like musicians who want custom tracks or music shops who want theme songs. He’s even been harassed by a comedy duo to post their videos on his channels. The problem is—and all creative people will experience this at one point or another—is that they all want it for free.

While Scallon makes his living from YouTube and supporters of his work, he’s never once paid for followers, which has become a lucrative business for many people. That, to him, doesn’t make any financial sense.

“Overall, in the long run, it’s better to have an engaged audience. It’s more important,” he said. “If they’re not going to be around in a month, what’s the point?”

And some people who choose not to follow Scallon have some interesting reasons. One person chose to unsubscribe from his YouTube channel because they claimed he cut his hair to look like Justin Bieber.

“The funny thing is that my hair was the same. I guess Bieber is the gold standard of music,” he said, laughing. “Oh well. If you get a big enough audience, you’re going to get harsh criticism.”

From all bladers everywhere, best of luck on tour, Rob.

Blade or Die,
— Brian Krans

P.S. — I’m also on tour this summer (which is why I was able to interview Rob before he went on tour) reading books, drinking beer, and doing some blading. If you want to see if I’m coming to your town, check out Had myself a good time in Chicago, but now it’s time to head off to Columbus, then Pittsburgh, New York City, Raleigh (at Oak City Skate Shop), and so on.

You can buy a copy of the book after a reading, or from fine skate shops everywhere… like THE PULL here in Chicago!

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