How We Grew Our Business With YouTube


In just three years, Carter Vintage Guitars has grown into a $6 million indie retail powerhouse. At 2016 Summer NAMM, owners Christie and Walter Carter, along with Zach Broyles, website manager, shared their company’s unique story—and how video marketing played a role in it.

Here are their best practices. (Watch the video for the full session.)

Introducing Videos
The Carters’ early attempts at video were done with no budget. (“When we first started, we were poster children for low-tech videos,” Walter said.) Their initial plan:

• Use the same camera used for instrument photos.

• Get help from friends. The Carters had someone shoot videos in exchange for education about vintage guitars and hang time in the store.

• Keep it organic. “Do what feels right,” Walter said, adding that organic went hand in hand with not having any money at the time.

Carter YouTube Video Examples
• First Carter Vintage Guitars video. Using the microphone in the camera and a monopod, the Carters had their friend WT Davidson filmed playing guitar in-store. The video was quick and simple.

• Help with banjo sales. The Carters called banjo player Charlie Cushman (8,000 views) and asked if he was willing to come in and play. They didn’t plan on the signature yellow bench in the middle of their store becoming an iconic spot where well-known visiting musicians would sit down and play, but customers now recognize it from Carter YouTube videos.

• Lesson prodigy. Eleven-year-old Anna Claire Stockhoff (6,500 views) came in one day and started tearing it up, so the Carters pulled out the camera. If you have a lesson program, you probably have some hot-shot students in your store. Film them playing.

• Instruments “off the wall.” Chris Scruggs Band played instruments the band members pulled off the wall. These videos were shot with one camera, no mics, no lights and no video production.

• Musicians making the sales pitch. Heavy metal guitarist Brent Hinds of Mastodon came in, and they filmed him playing and talking about his instrument preferences. The video has received 40,000 views.

• Up-and-coming musicians. Nashville artist and guitarist J. D. Simo (50,000 views) came in the store early on, and they threw an instrument in his hands. Walter shared that they often ask musicians to play whatever they want for fun. It comes through in the videos.

• A word from the makers. The Carters let artists use video to talk about instruments they create. When bluegrass musician Paul Duff visited from Australia, they filmed him talking about building mandolins and playing one.

• Roll with it. Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile (45,000 views) called the store on Easter, not realizing it was a holiday. The Carters opened the store for him and asked him to play several instruments. It wasn’t planned, and Thile played mandolins for about two hours.

• Just having fun at Carter Vintage. Mandolin legend David Grisman and his wife, Tracy, (9,500 views) visited the store. The Carters asked if they could film the couple playing. “I thought you’d never ask,” Grisman said. The Carters captured the moment.

After two years in business, the Carters hired Broyles and paid professionals, including a videographer and photographer. They added a Shure mic that goes into the smartphone, plus two cameras.

“We moved out of the organic stage and into a more professional type of video,” said Walter of this development.

What to Film
Taking into account that everyone’s business is different, Walter offered the following advice about video marketing:

• Film what excites you about your business.

• Don’t worry about selling products.

• Don’t worry about being high-tech.

• Sell the experience.

“Whatever the cool or interesting experience is about your store is what you should video,” he said.

Additional Advice
Christie commented that they have the YouTube icon on their website home page, so visitors can easily find to the Carter Vintage YouTube channel. Broyles shared that they’ve received 1.7 million total views for their YouTube channel. It’s taken off, in part, because they’ve written descriptions and tagged everything to ensure views. He suggested using hashtags, so your videos show up in related searches, such as manufacturers’ YouTube videos, feeds and channels. In the past three years, Carter Vintage Guitars has posted more than 400 total videos.