Jam Track Central Talks Future of Online Lessons and Breaking Its Artists

If practising guitar is akin to hitting the gym, then Jam Track Central would be CrossFit. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it’s not the best place for beginners to start. But if you want to improve your chops quickly, then Jam Track Central will push you hard.

Jonny Carpenter

And just as you’d trust a ripped personal trainer with your fitness goals, you’ll know you’re in the right hands when the likes of Mateus Asato, Guthrie Govan, and Alex Hutchings are helping you to whip your guitar playing into shape.

We caught up with Jam Track Central’s Jonny Carpenter talk about how the phoenix of digital video tutorials rose from the ashes of print mag transcriptions, giving a platform to some of the world’s biggest players, and why having Guthrie on the roster upped everyone else’s game.

How did Jam Track Central get started?

We originally started as bluesjamtracks.com back in 2007. Our co–founders Jan Cyrka and Adrian Clark had been writing blues–based backing tracks with example solos and transcriptions for the cover CDs of some of the UK–based magazines for many years, but had retained the rights to them.

After a certain period of time had passed, they were able to essentially do what they wanted with them. They decided to set up a site so that people could purchase and download them.

At the same time, Jan was mixing Guthrie Govan’s Erotic Cakes CD. They had worked together over many years, and Jan asked Guthrie if he would be up for improvising a load of solos over some of the tracks and then make them available through the site with transcriptions of his solos, to which Guthrie agreed.

Those videos have now had millions of views, and the Artist Packages at the site were then born.

Guthrie Govan - Larry Carlton Style Track at Jamtrackcentral.com

From there, artists such as Alex Hutchings, Daniele Gottardo, and Jack Thammarat started releasing content, and we changed the name to jamtrackcentral.com.

Essentially, all of the content was heavily focused around learning the artist solo and, as part of the learning experience, getting the video, backing and jam tracks, and transcriptions.

As time has passed, we now have 70 artists from all over the world and many different products types, genres, styles, and difficulties covered.

A few years back, we also added a subscription model to the site. Customers can choose between “pay as you go” and purchasing and downloading individual products, or becoming a premium member. That gives you unlimited streaming access to the entire site’s content, which also utilises Soundslice for the streaming TABs and notation, which, in our opinion, nothing else matches!

It's been a wonderful journey and we still see ourselves as a very young company with a lot more to offer moving forward.

A selection of artists on the Jam Track Central roster

With the rise of free user–generated content on YouTube, it seems it should be harder for a paid platform like Jam Track Central to flourish. What’s contributed to that success?

JTC artists are very much the best of the best, be it household names or up and coming stars, and we are very lucky to have them as part of the JTC family.

We are extremely picky about who becomes a JTC artist, and we only release content that is truly inspirational. Essentially, if you watch something that is really very good, then you are likely to want to learn it, so that is what we always strive for with our guys.

The bulk of JTC content is for the relatively advanced lead player. Is it a key part of your vision at JTC to differentiate yourself from competition aimed at players just starting out?

The original couple years of JTC content was very much for the advanced and established player. However, as the years have passed and we have increased our artist roster, we have started to increase products that are aimed at all levels of players — except for players that are picking up a guitar for the very first time.

I think in the early days, there was almost an unwritten feeling by new JTC artists that to sit alongside the likes of Guthrie Govan and Alex Hutchings on the JTC artist roster. You almost needed to prove your worth as a JTC artist. We also encourage JTC Artists to create content that truly represents themselves as an artist. As a result, JTC artists were naturally gonna play advanced stuff, as they are incredibly talented and established players.

What we have found — and what JTC artists have learned as we have grown over the years — is that simply being selected on the JTC artist roster is already the approval. Therefore, creating products that are just aimed at advanced players isn’t all that is required [of artists].

New and existing fans that aren’t at that level of playing also want to be able to play like their guitar heroes, so creating content that will help them get to that level is just as important. As long as the content is still inspirational, then people want to learn it.

New and existing fans that aren’t at that level of playing also want to be able to play like their guitar heroes... As long as the content is still inspirational, then people want to learn it."

What we also discovered through some customer surveys is that JTC customers wanted us to start getting deeper into the theory behind the playing, rather than just learning licks and solos.

So last year, we launched our first artist Masterclass–style product. Those take a topic and show you how the artist studies it themselves, taking it from theory and exercises to licks and a solo.

These product types are aimed at beginners, intermediate players, and advanced, so we are covering all bases. We have also seen massive growth since implementing these product types, and it's clear that this direction is very much what the JTC customer base want more of.

We will very much feed our core customer base of intermediate and advanced players. However, we will continue to offer a wider range of products that suit all levels of players. It's just been a very gradual process.

JTC has given artists like Guthrie Govan and Mateus Asato a platform to gain notoriety amongst guitarists, where perhaps their music is most appreciated. Was this always a plan for JTC or just a happy accident?

I guess a bit of both. Ten years ago, when we did the Guthrie solos as we discussed earlier, I don’t think we had any idea we would be where we are today.

However, after a few artists joined the roster, we could sense we had something special. From there on, it has always been a case of giving these exceptionally talented guitar players from around the world another platform to help them with their careers, earning them money in the process.

There is nothing better than finding a raw talent who has minimal exposure and then releasing them as a JTC artist and seeing the global praise they get and sales of their products. All JTC artists earn 50% royalties on sales of their products, so it can be a great additional revenue stream for them for years and years to come.

If you could get any artist in the world onto your roster who would it be?

Yikes, it's pretty hard to pinpoint down to one as there are many! I guess naturally some of the greats like Vai and Satriani, as well as the new modern day players like Misha Mansoor and Tosin Abasi. But I’m personally a big fan of Paul Gilbert, and I think he has so much to offer that you can learn from. So if I had to say one player, then it would be him.

Despite being based in the UK, your roster features artists from all over the world. How important has the internet been, not just in terms of distributing your content, but also in building a large community around JTC?

Oh, huge. Our YouTube channel is a major factor in our promotions. We are now zooming in on 71 million views and they help to drive traffic to the site and make people aware of who we are and what we do.

However, our biggest form of promotion is absolutely word of mouth. We have never paid for advertising in 10 years, as we find that our customers promote for us. It's a great feeling, as it means we have a really great community that love what we do and love helping support the JTC artists in the meantime.

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What’s on the horizon for you?

We have a list so long we would be here all week explaining it all!

However, in the very near future we will be launching the brand new version of the site, which has been nearly two years in development. It really takes the customer experience to a whole new level, with a much better filtering system so that customers can find the products that suit what they are looking for much better.

Also, there is a new Discover area of the site where customers can set preferences based on their favourite JTC artist, style, etc. and have products shown to them specifically suited to where their interests lie. Visually, it's a much better experience and there are tons of other cool new features, too.

From there, we are working on JTC Bootcamp, which will launch January 2018. These are 12–week, JTC–artist written courses with weekly assignments and interaction with the JTC artists who write them. This is something that our recent survey got a whole load of positive feedback on. We are really excited about this new addition to what we offer.

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