The Impact of Otis McDonald
We live in an odd age where celebrities aren’t really celebrities anymore. Niche interests, the power of technology, and passionate communities mean you can have a massive following and still go to the grocery store without signing headshots. But there is an even more peculiar kind of fame to be found in the 21st century. A kind of fame that eludes most insta models, most twitch streamers, and even most podcasters.
Such is the case of Otis McDonald.
Or should I use his real name Joe Bagale?
I think I will.
Joe’s music has been in over 3.5 million youtube videos which have been viewed over 7.6 billion times. To put that in perspective only 50 music channels (most of which are conglomerates of multiple artists) have over 7.9 billion views. Lady Gaga for example, a performer who literally rose up with the youtube generation, has 6.9 billion views on her official channel.
He has more views than Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Imagine Dragons, the guy who did Gangnam Style (Psy), and even Disney’s official channel, which has just about every single musical number they’ve ever produced.
How can this be?
Well my inquisitive reader, back in 2015 Joe created 30 songs for Youtube’s Audio Library. To this day, it is a woefully ill-equipped catalog of copyright free tracks that you can put behind a makeup tutorial and not get sued by the artist. Try using a sound bite of Britney Spears’ Toxic and your vid will be blasted off the site by Youtube’s algorithm in a matter of moments, but take something from the Audio Library, and you’re good. It was in this sea of mediocre guitar twangs that the work of Otis McDonald stood tall. His songs had funk you could groove to, a style that felt timely but nostalgic, and most importantly, it had a beat that could cut well.
It was a sound born of Joe’s experimentation and love for the classics. Combining the names of artists Shuggie Otis and Michael McDonald he began by “writing short snippets of music, playing all of the instruments, sampling those snippets, and playing more instruments” eventually creating entirely new songs. They varied heavily in tone, fast and glitchy, chill and soulful, low to high, short to long, there’s an Otis track for every occasion. It’s a body of work that’s not only fun to listen to but ready-made to be plugged in to all kinds of content.
The Youtubers who use Joe’s music give it that final remix; making his tracks integral to their brands in some cases. You hear it as a theme song, in fashion montages, as a simple transition, there are all kinds of uses for his stuff. By honoring his own process and allowing others to use his samples, Joe Bagale has become the most recognized/unrecognized music producer of the 21st century. He’s officially collaborated with more people than almost any artist in history…he just doesn’t know any of them…and they probably don’t know him.
But I think the weirdest (and also best) part of this phenomena is that Joe Bagale was never trying to become the most recognized/unrecognized music producer of the 21st century.
He’s a regular dude who loves music and wanted to share his talent with the world. There isn’t a big fat statement to the anonymity of his pen name unlike Daft Punk or the Gorillaz or Banksy. He’s simply using it as most people online do, as a fun gesture, a reference to artists he loves. If you check out his twitter (less than 2k followers btw so hop on that) Joe lets everyone know who he is right in the bio. It’s a career I think most people would envy where the art is truly celebrated over the artist. I haven’t really seen anything else like it and I am incredibly fascinated to see where the works of Otis McDonald take us in the years to come.
I highly suggest you head over to his YouTube channel, subscribe, and get to listening.