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
Origin St. George, Utah
Genres Classical crossover, orchestral pop, cello rock
Years active 2010–present
Labels Sony Masterworks/TPG Records
Associated acts Alex Boyé, Cliff Richard, Peter Hollens, Plácido Domingo
Shweta Subram, Lindsey Stirling, Tyler Ward, Tiffany Alvord,
Website www.thepianoguys.com
Members
Past members Tel Stewart
YouTube information
Also known as The Piano Guys
Channel
Years active 2008–present
Genre Music
Subscribers 6.0+ million
(March 2018)
Total views 1.4+ billion
(March 2018)
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers 2011
YouTube Gold Play Button 2.svg 1,000,000 subscribers 2012
Subscriber and view counts updated as of March 25, 2018.

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. In August 2016 the group surpassed one billion views on their YouTube channel, which at that time had nearly 5 million subscribers.[1] Their first six major-label albums, The Piano Guys, The Piano Guys 2, A Family Christmas, Wonders, Uncharted, and Christmas Together each reached number one on the Billboard Classical Albums and New Age Albums charts.[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 musical blend 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" (2010) 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 in 2013 and Wonders in 2014.

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.[11][12] Much of their popularity among younger fans is based on their "mashups" of classical and contemporary songs, such as blending Bach and Bruno Mars, or 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.[13] 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][14] the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro ("How Great Thou Art"),[4][14] Chichen Itza ("The Jungle Book/Sarabande"),[15] and Petra ("Indiana Jones and the Arabian Nights")[16] 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][17]

As of October 2017, The Piano Guys have uploaded 76 videos onto their channel.[18] Their cover of Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" is their most-watched video, having logged 120 million views as of March 2017.[19]

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.[14] They have also played at major classical and pop venues, including Carnegie Hall,[4] Greek Theatre[7] and the Royal Albert Hall.[20]

Their decision to perform at the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017 elicited controversy. While other musical groups declined invitations to perform,[21] the group denied that their performance was "an endorsement or a political statement".[22] 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".[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] On the 12 December 2017 did a live stream on their YouTube channel, called 'Light The World Christmas Concert with The Piano Guys and Friends'.

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,[26] 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 Mormon 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.[27]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
US
[28]
US Class
[29]
US New Age
[30]
AUS
[31]
AUT
[32]
CAN
[33]
GER
[34]
SWI
[35]
UK
[36]
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
"—" denotes an album that did not chart or was not released.

Live albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
US
[28]
US Top Albums
US Class
[29]
US New Age
[30]
Live!: Carnegie Hall Audio + Red Rocks Concert Video
  • Released: November 13, 2015
  • Label: Portrait
  • Format: Digital download, CD+DVD
111 73 3 2

Compilation albums[edit]

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

Awards[edit]

YouTube Music Awards

Year Category Work Result
2013 Response of the Year "Titanium/Pavane" Nominated[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Craddock, Lauren (9 August 2016). "The Piano Guys Top 1 Billion YouTube Views: Watch Their 5 Most Popular Videos". Billboard. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  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 (27 March 2015). "How These Four Dads From Utah Quit Their Day Jobs to Make Millions on YouTube". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  5. ^ a b "The Piano Guys : A Family Christmas". greatnortheast.com. 4 May 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c "Jon Schmidt – The Piano Guys' Piano Guy". Yamaha Entertainment Group. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Bonfiglio, Jeremy D. (22 September 2016). "The Piano Guys are doing better than 'Okay'". The Herald-Palladium. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Verdugo Morgan, Alexa (22 March 2013). "The Piano Guys success spreads worldwide: Debut album, overseas appearances, US tour". St George News. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c della Cava, Marco R. (5 September 2012). "Web hit Piano Guys sign with Sony". USA Today. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  10. ^ Wagner, Danielle B. (20 January 2017). "Did You Know The Piano Guys' LDS Standards Are Protected by Their Sony Contract?". LDS Living. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  11. ^ "About Me". mormon.org. 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  12. ^ "Band History". SoundClick. 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  13. ^ "Piano Guys bring pop-classical medleys to the Arsht Center". Miami Herald. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c Peterson, Lottie (25 December 2015). "'Beyond our expectations': The Piano Guys' pianist Jon Schmidt reflects on the group's 2015 accomplishments". Deseret News. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Williams, Lindsey (4 May 2016). "The Clean Cut: The Piano Guys take on 'The Jungle Book' at Chichén Itzá". Deseret News. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  16. ^ "Shot in Petra, The Piano Guys' sensational new music video is a World Wonder". Al Bawaba. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  17. ^ Baker, Celia R. (4 May 2012). "The Piano Guys: Marketing their music to the online masses". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  18. ^ "ThePianoGuys YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics - Socialblade.com". socialblade.com. Retrieved 2017-10-26. 
  19. ^ ThePianoGuys (2012-05-09), Christina Perri - A Thousand Years (Piano/Cello Cover) - The Piano Guys, retrieved 2017-10-26 
  20. ^ "The Piano Guys — Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  21. ^ Matt Wilstein (22 December 2016). "Trump's Inauguration Nightmare: All the Musicians Who Have Turned Down Invites". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 
  22. ^ Chasmer, Jessica (17 January 2017). "The Piano Guys defend inauguration gig: 'We're not performing for politics'". The Washington Times. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  23. ^ "The Piano Guys explain why they will perform at Trump inauguration". Deseret News. 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2017-05-01. 
  24. ^ "Rachel Platten Not Happy The Piano Guys Played 'Fight Song' at Trump's Inaugural Ball". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  25. ^ "Statement Inauguration Performance". Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  26. ^ "University of Utah Alumni Association awards $550,000 in scholarships and honors Piano Guys cellist and U professor (press release)". University of Utah. 6 April 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  27. ^ Bowler, Hillary (16 December 2013). "The Piano Guys: 4 guys on a mission". Deseret News. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  28. ^ a b "The Piano Guys – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. 
  29. ^ a b Peak Billboard Classical chart positions:
  30. ^ a b Peak Billboard Classical chart positions:
  31. ^ Ryan, Gavin (October 18, 2014). "Triple J Has Australia's Number One Album". Noise11. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Discographie The Piano Guys". Ö3 Austria Top 40 (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 17, 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Piano Guys – Chart History: Canadian Albums". Billboard. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  34. ^ "Discographie The Piano Guys". GfK Entertainment (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 17, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Discography The Piano Guys". Swiss Hitparade. Hung Medien. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  36. ^ "PIANO GUYS Albums". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  38. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  39. ^ Lopez, Korina (November 4, 2013). "A mix of internet sensations and heavy hitters took home awards". USA Today. 

External links[edit]