The Piano Guys

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The Piano Guys
Piano Guys 2014.jpg
(Left to right) Paul Anderson, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and Al van der Beek in 2014
Background information
OriginSt. George, Utah
GenresClassical crossover, orchestral pop, cello rock
Years active2010–present
LabelsSony Masterworks/TPG Records
Associated actsAlex Boyé, Cliff Richard, Peter Hollens,
Plácido Domingo, Shweta Subram,
Lindsey Stirling, Tyler Ward, Tiffany Alvord
Websitewww.thepianoguys.com
Members
Past membersTel Stewart
YouTube information
Also known asThe Piano Guys
Channel
Years active2008–present
GenreMusic
Subscribers6.66 million
Total views1.82 billion
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers 2011
YouTube Gold Play Button 2.svg 1,000,000 subscribers 2012
Updated December 1, 2019

The Piano Guys are an American musical group consisting of pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, videographer Paul Anderson, and music producer Al van der Beek. They gained popularity through YouTube, where in 2010 they began posting piano and cello compositions combining classical, contemporary, and rock and roll music, accompanied by professional-quality videos. As of August 2018 the group had surpassed 1.6 billion views on their YouTube channel and had 6.2 million subscribers.[1] To date, they have topped the Billboard Classical Albums chart six times and the New Age Albums chart eight times.[2][3]

History[edit]

The group originated as a social media strategy for Anderson's piano store, The Piano Guys, in St. George, Utah. Anderson was acquainted with Schmidt, a locally notable pianist who often came in to practice on the pianos when he was in town.[4][5] In 2009 Anderson saw a music video that Schmidt had uploaded to YouTube, "Love Story Meets Viva la Vida" – a mashup of the Taylor Swift country pop version and Coldplay's Baroque pop song "Viva la Vida", which Schmidt performed with Nelson on cello.[6] That video logged more than one million hits.[6] Anderson asked the musicians to do more videos that he would professionally film and upload to his store's Facebook and YouTube pages to promote his store.[4][7][8] Nelson brought his neighbor, van der Beek, a songwriter and music arranger, onto the team.[7] Tel Stewart initially assisted with video production.[8][9]

While the first few videos did not make much of an impact, "Michael Meets Mozart" (2011) gained a respectable showing after Schmidt invited the nearly 30,000 people on his fan mailing list "to watch it and share it".[7] In June 2011 the group won the "Most Up-and-Coming Channel" award in the YouTube "On the Rise" contest, which brought 25,000 new subscribers to their channel.[8] In 2011 and 2012 the group uploaded a new music video every week to two weeks, attracting thousands of new viewers each time.[8] Meanwhile, The Piano Guys store did not register any piano sales from two years of posting videos,[10] and closed in March 2012.[4]

By September 2012, The Piano Guys had uploaded more than 30 music videos which had garnered 134 million views, and had 757,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel.[9] That month, they signed with Sony Masterworks.[9] Rather than receive royalties on album sales, the group opted to split the profits with the label while financing their own music and marketing.[4] After signing with Sony, they released their first album, The Piano Guys, followed by The Piano Guys 2 and A Family Christmas in 2013 and Wonders in 2014. A fifth album, Uncharted, was released in 2016, followed by a second Christmas album, Christmas Together, the following year.[11] Their seventh major-label album, Limitless, was released in November 2018.[12]

Musical style[edit]

The Piano Guys' Schmidt (left) and Nelson (right) perform live in 2002

The Piano Guys draw on classical, contemporary, and rock and roll in their compositions for piano and cello.[13][14] Much of their popularity among younger fans is based on their mashups of classical and contemporary songs, such as blending Bach and Bruno Mars, "Beethoven's 5 Secrets" (Beethoven & One Republic), Vivaldi's "Winter" and Disney's "Let It Go".[4]

Nelson and van der Beek serve as songwriters for the group.[7] The Piano Guys have also covered classical, pop, and film songs.[7] These include: Pachelbel's Canon in D (as "Rockelbel's Canon"); One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Story of My Life"; "We Three Kings"; "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"; Taylor Swift's "Begin Again"; "Home" by Phillip Phillips; Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child"; "Theme from Jurassic Park"; and Coldplay's "A Sky Full of Stars" (as "When Stars and Salt Collide").

Videography[edit]

The group's YouTube videos show the musicians performing in a variety of open-air, natural, and exotic settings. These include locations in the Utah desert, at the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff, atop a speeding train, and at a beach,[4] among many others. Anderson's goal was "to put pianos in places where nobody would expect to see them", thereby generating marketing buzz for his store.[15] In the videos, Schmidt is seen playing a variety of Yamaha grand and baby grand pianos,[6] while Nelson plays acoustic and electric cello. Anderson plans to film Schmidt and Nelson performing at each of the New Seven Wonders of the World.[4] Videos at the Great Wall of China ("Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends"),[4][16] the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro ("How Great Thou Art"),[4][16] Chichen Itza ("The Jungle Book/Sarabande"),[17] and Petra ("Indiana Jones and the Arabian Nights")[18] have been completed.

Each video typically costs less than $5,000 to produce, as cameras, helicopters, and other production equipment are donated by friends and supporters.[4]

Most songs are composed of numerous audio tracks mixed together. Occasionally, previous audio tracks are superimposed to imitate many identical instrumentals played simultaneously. For "Michael Meets Mozart", Nelson prerecorded 100 cello tracks, including percussion effects he made by drumming on the cello itself.[5][19]

As of October 2017, The Piano Guys have uploaded 76 videos onto their channel.[20] Their cover of Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" is their most-watched video, having logged more than 138 million views as of September 2018.[21]

Live performances[edit]

The Piano Guys tour in the United States and abroad. They have appeared in sold-out concerts in England, Germany, Hungary, Japan, and Russia.[4] In 2015 they were on the road for three weeks at a time, but in 2016 decided to limit that to "10-day runs" to be more available to their families.[16] They have also played at major classical and pop venues, including Carnegie Hall,[4] Greek Theatre[7] and the Royal Albert Hall.[22]

Their decision to perform at the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017 elicited controversy. While other musical groups declined invitations to perform,[23] the group denied that their performance was "an endorsement or a political statement."[24] They explained on their blog: "We don't feel right limiting our positive message only to people that believe or act the same way we do."[25]

At the inauguration's Liberty Ball, The Piano Guys played a custom rendition of Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" without consent from its original artist.[26] This had been one of the songs used by Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign. The Piano Guys later released a statement noting that their unscheduled rendition of the song was not meant to be political.[27] On December 12, 2017, The Piano Guys hosted a live stream on their YouTube channel, called '#LightTheWorld Christmas Concert with The Piano Guys and Friends', accompanied by various singers including Peter Hollens and David Archuleta.[28]

Personal lives[edit]

Members of The Piano Guys are all middle-aged family men who had other careers before the group took off.[8] Schmidt had a solo musical career with eight albums and seven piano books to his credit.[8] Nelson owned a real estate agency,[29] Anderson owned a piano store, and van der Beek operated a recording studio in his home.[8] After signing with Sony in 2012, all four quit their jobs to pursue their joint musical career.[4]

All four are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each of them served full-time proselyting missions: Anderson in Washington state, Schmidt in Norway, with Nelson and van der Beek in separate missions in Korea. The group prays together before each recording session, video shoot, concert, and songwriting session.[30]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
US
[31]
US Class
[32]
US New Age
[33]
AUS
[34]
AUT
[35]
CAN
[36]
GER
[37]
SWI
[38]
UK
[39]
Hits Volume 1 7 1
The Piano Guys 44 1 1 65 51 51
The Piano Guys 2
  • Released: May 7, 2013
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
38 1 1 97
A Family Christmas
  • Released: October 22, 2013
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
20 1 1
Wonders
  • Released: October 7, 2014
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
12 1 1 88 86 46 99
Uncharted
  • Released: October 28, 2016
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
15 1 1 66
Christmas Together
  • Released: October 27, 2017
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
27 1 1
Limitless
  • Released: November 9, 2018
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD
58 2 1 [A]
"—" denotes an album that did not chart or was not released.

Notes

  1. ^ Limitless did not chart on the Australian ARIA Albums Chart, but peaked at number 34 on the ARIA Digital Albums Chart.[42]

Live albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
US
[31]
US Class
[43]
US New Age
[44]
Live!: Carnegie Hall Audio + Red Rocks Concert Video
  • Released: November 13, 2015
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD+DVD
111 3 2

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Details
So Far, So Good
  • Released: June 6, 2017
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD

Singles[edit]

  • 2016: "(It's Gonna Be) Okay"

Awards[edit]

YouTube Music Awards

Year Category Work Result
2013 Response of the Year "Titanium/Pavane" Nominated[45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hudy, Stan (August 8, 2018). "Review: A mesmerizing evening with The Piano Guys". The Record. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  2. ^ "Billboard New Age Albums Chart History: The Piano Guys". Billboard. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  3. ^ "Billboard Classical Albums Chart History: The Piano Guys". Billboard. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Weiss, Geoff (March 27, 2015). "How These Four Dads From Utah Quit Their Day Jobs to Make Millions on YouTube". Entrepreneur. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The Piano Guys : A Family Christmas". greatnortheast.com. May 4, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Jon Schmidt – The Piano Guys' Piano Guy". Yamaha Entertainment Group. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Bonfiglio, Jeremy D. (September 22, 2016). "The Piano Guys are doing better than 'Okay'". The Herald-Palladium. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Verdugo Morgan, Alexa (March 22, 2013). "The Piano Guys success spreads worldwide: Debut album, overseas appearances, US tour". St George News. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c della Cava, Marco R. (September 5, 2012). "Web hit Piano Guys sign with Sony". USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  10. ^ Wagner, Danielle B. (January 20, 2017). "Did You Know The Piano Guys' LDS Standards Are Protected by Their Sony Contract?". LDS Living. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  11. ^ "THE PIANO GUYS NEW HOLIDAY ALBUM 'CHRISTMAS TOGETHER' Out Now! On Tour Now - Sony Masterworks". Sony Masterworks. October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  12. ^ Masterworks, Portrait / Sony Music (October 27, 2018). "The Piano Guys Release New Album Limitless Available November 9". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "About Me". mormon.org. 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Band History". SoundClick. 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  15. ^ "Piano Guys bring pop-classical medleys to the Arsht Center". Miami Herald. January 30, 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Peterson, Lottie (December 25, 2015). "'Beyond our expectations': The Piano Guys' pianist Jon Schmidt reflects on the group's 2015 accomplishments". Deseret News. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Williams, Lindsey (May 4, 2016). "The Clean Cut: The Piano Guys take on 'The Jungle Book' at Chichén Itzá". Deseret News. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "Shot in Petra, The Piano Guys' sensational new music video is a World Wonder". Al Bawaba. November 3, 2016. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Baker, Celia R. (May 4, 2012). "The Piano Guys: Marketing their music to the online masses". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  20. ^ "ThePianoGuys YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics - Socialblade.com". socialblade.com. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  21. ^ ThePianoGuys (September 2018), Christina Perri - A Thousand Years (Piano/Cello Cover) - The Piano Guys, retrieved September 27, 2018
  22. ^ "The Piano Guys — Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  23. ^ Matt Wilstein (December 22, 2016). "Trump's Inauguration Nightmare: All the Musicians Who Have Turned Down Invites". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  24. ^ Chasmer, Jessica (January 17, 2017). "The Piano Guys defend inauguration gig: 'We're not performing for politics'". The Washington Times. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  25. ^ "The Piano Guys explain why they will perform at Trump inauguration". Deseret News. January 16, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  26. ^ "Rachel Platten Not Happy The Piano Guys Played 'Fight Song' at Trump's Inaugural Ball". Billboard. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  27. ^ "Statement Inauguration Performance". Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  28. ^ ThePianoGuys (December 12, 2017), #LightTheWorld Christmas Concert with The Piano Guys and Friends, retrieved November 7, 2018
  29. ^ "University of Utah Alumni Association awards $550,000 in scholarships and honors Piano Guys cellist and U professor (press release)". University of Utah. April 6, 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  30. ^ Bowler, Hillary (December 16, 2013). "The Piano Guys: 4 guys on a mission". Deseret News. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  31. ^ a b "The Piano Guys – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard.
  32. ^ "The Piano Guys – Chart History: Classical Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  33. ^ "The Piano Guys – Chart History: New Age Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  34. ^ Ryan, Gavin (October 18, 2014). "Triple J Has Australia's Number One Album". Noise11. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  35. ^ "Discographie The Piano Guys". Ö3 Austria Top 40 (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  36. ^ "The Piano Guys – Chart History: Canadian Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  37. ^ "Discographie The Piano Guys". GfK Entertainment (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  38. ^ "Discography The Piano Guys". Swiss Hitparade. Hung Medien. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  39. ^ "PIANO GUYS Albums". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  40. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  41. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  42. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Digital Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. November 19, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  43. ^ Peak Billboard Classical chart positions:
  44. ^ Peak Billboard Classical chart positions:
  45. ^ Lopez, Korina (November 4, 2013). "A mix of internet sensations and heavy hitters took home awards". USA Today.

External links[edit]