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From ragtime to riches, the story of PostModern Jukebox

Brooke DiPalma
Associate Producer

Scott Bradlee has turned ragtime into riches, and it all started with a YouTube upload. The pianist and arranger is the creator of PostModern Jukebox, commonly known as PMJ, a music collective featuring a rotating cast of musicians who play modern pop songs in retro styles, including jazz, Motown, swing, ragtime, and other genres.

Bradlee, 37, moved from New Jersey to NYC in 2010 with a bare-bones plan to be a professional musician and no steady job. He got the idea for PMJ while jamming with friends in his small basement apartment in Queens. 

“I uploaded a video on YouTube of me doing this funny mashup thing I used to do as a kid of taking modern-day songs and playing them as a ragtime, and it went viral. I remember checking the next day and seeing this whole list of comments and wondering, ‘How did people find my video?’ And I found that Neil Gaiman, the writer, had tweeted it to all of his followers, and within a day, it had, you know, 10,000 views.” 

As of January 2019, the video has been watched more than 80,798 times, and Gaiman continues to be a supporter to this day, most recently tweeting about Bradlee’s own book, “Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession into My Dream Gig.” 

A career out of a passion

Upon going viral, Bradlee began to create more videos, inviting other friends and musicians to join in. Bradlee even took to KickStarter to help raise funds for one of his projects, “A Motown Tribute to Nickelback.” At first he paid his friends in falafel sandwiches — and without much pushback. 

(Photo: Screenshot/PostmodernJukebox)

PMJ’s success soon skyrocketed, especially thanks to its rendition of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” which now has over 15 million views. At that point, Bradlee realized he had to place trust into others to help manage the now-viral sensation and worldwide tours.  

“The more people that were involved in the project, the more kind of personalities to manage, the more difficult questions there were to be answered by the project,” Bradlee admitted. “That was a pretty stressful experience.”

Bradlee said he hopes to influence the next generation of YouTube talent.

“Remember the point of it … You’re not doing this to get famous, you’re not doing this to make it about yourself,” Bradlee said about hopeful YouTubers. “You’re doing this to build a community.”

Brooke is an associate producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @brookedipalma.

Correction: A previous version of this post listed Bradlee’s age as 38. He is 37. We regret the error.

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