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Paul Jennings: How I built PlayCajon

So I guess I have a lot to be thankful for. A wonderful wife who supports me every step of the way, an amazing family who also support me every step of the way, the cutest dog on the planet (Islay), good heath, and of course, one of the top ranking cajon resources on the internet. The question is though, how did it happen?

The story of PlayCajon and the rest of my online sites: buycajon.org, pauljenningsmusic.com, cajonblog.com, freecajonlessons.com, cajonpercussion.com, and a few others, began with one video. It was 2006 and I was living in Glasgow, Scotland at the time and sharing a flat with my musician friend Innes Watson. I used to wind him up about how much Scrubs he watched and he used to wind me up about my ongoing fascination with this new video sharing site called YouTube. It was a few weeks into my fascination that I decided to upload a video for myself.

I had recently bought my first cajon under the request of another friend of mine Ewan McPherson who had asked me to play percussion with his Nordic Fusion band Fribo. They really wanted the cajon sound and I said: “okay then”. I did not know much about the cajon in the first few weeks and when I recorded my first YouTube video I had little knowledge about correct technique, posture, Afro-Peruvian rhythms, types of cajon ect. So I set up my cheap 5 mega pixel camera, fixed my long blonde hair and recorded a completely improvised cajon solo video.

I then setup my new YouTube Channel and uploaded the new masterpiece. The video was not great quality but it was among one of the first cajon videos to be uploaded to YouTube and I think it was timed well with the growing global interest in the instrument.

Within weeks the video had gained 1000’s of views and within months tens of thousands. At first I was shocked when people began commenting and asking me questions about the cajon. It was at that point I figured that I better do some homework. So I spent the next few years studying and learning everything I could about the cajon. During that time I uploaded a few more lesson videos and one of those lessons: Cajon Lesson 1 – The Basics is the No. 1 video when you search for “cajon” on YouTube.

It wasn’t until early 2010 when I had married Natalie and was living in the U.S that things really started going. I was beginning my application for a Green Card and at that time unable to work in the U.S. We were sitting in a cafe on our computers one day and I happened to mention that one of my YouTube videos had just hit 250,000 views. Natalie then said: “Wow! you should figure out a way you can build on that”. That got the wheels turning and over the course of the next few months I built my first cajon website: www.cajonpercussion.com.

I learned a lot in those months. How to build a website, how to use Final Cut Pro. It was not a bad 1st website and was, at that time, the best online resource for cajon. For that very reason and also that there was really not that much out there in the way of cajon websites at the time, the site had an amazing search engine ranking pretty much right off the bat. The hits grew and I began receiving daily emails and comments with all kinds of questions related to the cajon but the thing that people really wanted was lessons.

In the fall of 2010 I began work on PlayCajon. Building the first version of the site still is, to this day, the most work I have ever put into anything, because I did it all myself. The first stage was content. I planed, shot and edited over 100 video lessons. I wanted the site to launch with a bang so a goal of 100 videos I thought was a good one. The next phase was building the site and building a member subscription site with member only areas and locked video content was quite a bit more involved than any of the sites I had built before that. I knew I could do it though so I set out on a journey to learn everything I needed to make it happen. The internet had everything I needed and YouTube was of course a fantastic place for lessons. If you want to learn anything, the chances are, someone has put a tutorial on YouTube. I basically put myself through a type of self-collage. I learned how to build a member site, how to host video content and restrict it to members (not an easy thing at that time), how to shoot and edit better videos, and the one thing that can make or brake an online business: SEO. Good SEO habits are a constantly evolving thing so one must try to stay on top of the latest Google rules or what the hell FaceBook is doing with its algorithms this week.

PlayCajon, I am proud to say, is now more popular than ever and our subscriber-ship is growing everyday. I love the new version. I think it looks slicker and the new content is totally pro but the biggest thing is that it is totally optimized for mobile which is a absolute 100% MUST these days.

I guess I have now build a business from scratch and the hope is that it continues to grow and get bigger. The work continues though and I am definitely more busier than ever but the opportunities that doing all this have given me far outweigh the work that I put into it.

 Just for a laugh, here is that first video 🙂

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