Watching the presentation for the 2012 Daytime Emmy Award’s “AOL Best Viral Video” category, a specific moment stands out among the broadcast. As each viral video is announced, the audience responds with sprinkled applause until, finally, the last nominee is revealed. When footage from the Fine Brother’s “Kids React To Nyan Cat” flashes on the screen, the audience’s applause goes from polite golf claps to the sound of genuine enthusiasm and ovation, with cheering and everything.
It comes as a surprise to no one then that the award for best viral video did, in fact, go to the Fine Brothers for their work on “Kids React.” For years now, brothers Rafi and Benny have been crafting some of the most compelling television-quality content for digital audiences online. To date, “Kids React” has been their most successful endeavor in digital video, being called “genius” by TV Guide. With the launch of their latest premium channel featuring the documentary style comedy show, “MyMusic,” the Fine Brothers have set the bar for what can be done when it comes to long-form content on YouTube.
Creating Television Quality Content For YouTube
MyMusic “was developed first as a television property,” Benny Fine told NMR in an interview. “We were trying to bring it to the various network to do more alternative comedy sitcoms. It didn’t get picked up, but we don’t ever throw any ideas away,” Fine added. The decision to keep ‘MyMusic’ in the back of their heads ended up paying off for the Fine Brothers, since YouTube invested in the brothers helping them create a premium channel. That premium channel would eventually become “MyMusic.” “Once this initiative from YouTube came through, we wanted to do a giant sitcom, and this was the project that stood out,” Fine said.
“MyMusic” is an eccentric look at the inner workings of an independent music site filmed in the style of shows like “The Office” and “Parks And Recreation.” The show features a cast of music writers and personalities all named and crafted after their respective musical genre. For example, the CEO of the MyMusic website “Indie” sports thick black-rimmed glasses and a pencil-thin mustache while deadpanning lines like “Does this scarf look okay with this mic?” The show’s leather jacket-clad character “Metal” comes from the brothers’ own personal experience: “The Metal character comes directly from us when we were teenagers. We were metal heads, full-on,” said Fine.
The Fine Brothers are known for their work both on and off camera, and they’ve starred in many of the skits they personally wrote and directed. “We were on-camera personalities by necessity–not by passion. It is something we enjoy, but it is not the main thing we want to do, which is to write and direct,” Fine explained. But regardless of what they truly want to do, the brothers have cultivated a huge following from that on-camera personality with millions of views in their collective YouTube careers.
Why And How YouTube Creators Must Evolve
For directors like the Fine Brothers, however, the evolving landscape for YouTube talent can be troublesome. As directors, the brothers must collaborate with viral stars, which Fine explains is no longer that easy. “Collaborations have been going on for so many years now. They aren’t as effective as they used to be because audiences are so used to seeing them,” Fine explained. “Combined with what the networks have done–which some purposely and some not–have created a divide in little ways that I think are cascading over everything, which is like, ‘Wait, you’re not in my network, how do I collaborate?’”
Hoping to stand out with television-quality content for YouTube, the Fine Brothers are working on crafting something beyond the traditional digital video. “We have directed and made things for Shane Dawson, ShayCarl and KassemG and for various people, and over time have wanted to take them to bigger places,” Fine said. The brothers believe that YouTube creators don’t need to sacrifice quality just because their work is being presented online. “I think it is a pivotal time for established YouTube successes to start making that type of television-quality long-form content,” Fine says, adding, “because Hollywood is all coming in, and there is that stigma that all of us are amateur, and most of us are not.”
This rally to create television-quality videos isn’t only to satisfy the brothers’ thirst for creativity; it’s also a matter of business. Fine explains the need for YouTubers to start looking less like hobbyists and more like professionals, saying, “If we don’t start making that content that rivals what they (television) are doing now, it could become too late, and advertisers will always think that about the content that YouTube stars are making. So, it’s time.”
There is doubt in the Fine Brothers’ minds that, in order to stay afloat amidst the rising popularity of YouTube, a creator must be willing to adapt their content for this changing market. Fine believes that a creator’s best chance at success is their ability to think beyond traditional methods, as he explains, “This idea of just being one thing is very old thinking; we should wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things. Do it yourself if you have to. “