If you’re a fan of the Warped Tour world and have been anywhere near YouTube over the past year or so, there’s a very good chance you’ve watched a video from The Punk Rock MBA founder Finn McKenty.
Grabbing viewers’ attention with his patented eye-catching thumbnails and retaining those onlookers thanks to his highly informative and opinionated videos, McKenty has built himself quite the fanbase racking up over 280k YouTube subscribers between his two accounts.
Like the the Gary Vee of the scene world, McKenty is known for giving his two cents on why certain bands have made it big or why some musical genres have died off while also providing valuable insight into the world of marketing and business.
Catching up with McKenty, The Noise was able to get a feel for how the multi-media megamind has been able to grow his brand so effectively over the last couple years as well as the overall inspiration behind it.
To see what the influential hardcore kid at heart had to say, be sure to look below. Afterward, if you’re somehow still not following McKenty, be sure to do so here.
What was the initial inspiration behind starting The Punk Rock MBA?
FINN MCKENTY: The inspiration for starting the channel came from a conversation I had a long time ago with a friend of mine named Mike Mowery. He, at the time, was the owner of Outerloop Management that managed Periphery, We Came As Romans, Ice Nine Kills and a bunch of other bands. And, [with us] kind of both coming from like the 90s hardcore scene, he has this saying, “behind every good operation, there’s a hardcore kid” kind of reflecting on how we’ve noticed that over the years, as we kind of make our way through the “real world” and meet people at big companies doing cool stuff, it’s like, “Oh it turns out that’s so-and-so from this or that band” or “I remember that kid from shows back in the day.”
So originally, the intent was to kind of talk about business from the point of view of somebody who grew up in the hardcore scene but it never got any traction. Nobody cared. So I switched to talking about music and that’s what made it take off.
“Taking off” might be an understatement as you’re doing extremely well with over 250k subscribers on YouTube. What made you want to be so forthcoming with all your industry knowledge, something some people in your position could have easily charged for?
Uh well, if you’re talking about like musical knowledge, I mean that’s not precious to me. I’m happy to share that. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t.
Right, but your videos always have some sort of knowledge and experience like, “if you’re starting a band, you might want to think about doing this” or “this band took this approach and that was really successful for them” etc.
I don’t really have any interest in working with bands in any way so I’m happy to give, you know, just my opinion for what it’s worth or not worth. But I think, usually, you have more success at the end of the day by giving away information rather than trying to hoard it.
Looking at your channel, you cover a wide range of topics sort of leaning in the Warped Tour scene. Are you surprised looking at your most popular videos that “What Killed Nu-Metal” is number one?
I didn’t expect it to at the time, but it makes sense to me now. I mean, generally speaking, the kind of – I don’t want to use the word “lowest common denominator” content – but the most “accessible” content is going to do the best and for most people that are into guitar music these days, nu-metal was their gateway into it. So in hindsight, that makes sense. My nu-metal and active rock videos tend to do better than anything else.
Discussing an on-going theme in your videos: When you explore the new era of music, you tend to point out how current metalcore and pop-punk bands are all pretty similar and somewhat stagnant creatively. In your opinion, do you feel like most bands are okay being so alike or do you think there’s a lot of pressure from listeners to stick to what their fanbase already likes?
I think the bands are not very talented and don’t have the vision to do something different, nor the ability to pull it off even if they do. I think the talent pool in rock is shallow. It’s like the difference between, in America, rugby and football. You know, if you’re a good athlete, if you’re truly an elite athlete, you’re not gonna play rugby. You’re gonna play football ‘cause the rewards are greater. So you know, if you’re a charismatic, talented musician doing rock in 2020, it just really doesn’t make economic sense for the most part. So you know, the best people and the talent pool in hip-hop is just deeper.
So, in your opinion, you would say the top tier artists are in hip-hop and pop?
Yeah, absolutely and country.
Interesting. You don’t really hear a ton of mention of county music these days.
Oh yeah, people in Nashville eviscerate anybody in rock in terms of just like their craft. They’re far better than anybody in rock.
And do you think that’s what stands in the way of rock breaking out the way those artists have as far as mainstream success?
Among other things, yeah. I mean, there’s lots of different factors [and] music is one of them [and] the personalities are another. And I mean, it’s all kind of a flywheel effect of like, as the rewards dwindle, the people who are the most charismatic and talented look elsewhere which means the rewards dwindle more and so it becomes a cycle.
In the past, you’ve commented how certain fanbases can be a lot to handle. Like Dance Gavin Dance fans, for example. When making new videos, do you have that in the back of your mind? Like, “Oh, I know people are going to get upset about this?” or do you just block that out and do what you want to do and worry about possible viewer “backlash” afterward?
I do what the audience wants me to do. If they want me to make videos about Limp Bizkit, then I’ll make videos about Limp Bizkit. That’s really the only factor to me or the main factor I should say. You know, there are certain bands that I don’t really want to talk about because I find their fans to be exhausting [but] the shit-talking doesn’t bother me. People can call me names all they want. The fans that I try to avoid, or the ones that I call “punishers” that just kind of won’t drop it, those are the ones I try to avoid.
Of all your videos, which one seems to have been the most controversial stirring the pot in the community?
Well, I don’t deliberately stir the pot.
Right, of course.
I would say the black metal one. You know the black metal one and then my feelings about racism in metal are the two that by far have the most dislikes. I think both of those have like 30% dislikes or something versus my channel average of like 4% or something.
So for other content creators who are struggling to make content as successful as yours, what tips would you give for them as far as just focusing on their craft, building their community and trying not to worry about public perception?
Oh I think the only thing you should worry about is public perception. It doesn’t matter what you like or don’t like. It doesn’t matter what you think is good, it only matters what the audience thinks. So you gotta put them first and yourself second. What you think is not important. I think that’s the first big switch to flip, like you gotta give people what they want. This is business, not art. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about something. If you can’t find a way to make that appealing to other people, then it’s game over. You have to put the the audience ahead of yourself. That said, I do think there’s a way to get an audience for anything. I think a lot of that relies on your ability to be an entertainer and how much natural charisma you have. For example, do you know the car YouTuber Doug DeMuro?
Not familiar, no.
He does these like one-take, 20-minute videos where he talks about some particular car like a 1992 BMW 530I or something like that and it’s like, I don’t really care that much about cars but I’ll watch his videos all day long. He’s just a really good presenter. Gary Vaynerchuk is the same way. Those guys could read from the phone book and it would be entertaining. You know, Jenna Marbles is really good too. So I think some topics are inherently more appealing than others or have sort of an easier pathway to popularity than others, for example, Pokémon or something like that. There is a way to make anything palatable with the right delivery.
So do you find that challenging for you to put that time and effort into making a video the fans want to see but you aren’t as enthusiastic about?
Yeah, I mean, that’s the game.
So wrapping up, you started your new podcast this year. What else do you have in store for the rest of the 2020 moving into 2021?
That’s it. I’m trying to do less, not more. I’m at maximum capacity. I definitely can’t take anything else on so I think this year is saying no to more things so that I can focus a bit more and be less stressed out and scattered. Which is a good problem to have, so the future of this year is less.
That’s a pretty good life lesson for people who are going to be reading this. It’s not always about more.
I completely agree.