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So today, my friend’s brother, who I’ve never met, wrote me this email:

“Hey Brent! It’s [name redacted]‘s brother, Alex! She said maybe you might have some tips on getting video to go viral, or at least getting some exposure? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my channel, http://www.youtube.com/partyseason.

I’m super proud of the work but it doesn’t seem to get much traction out in the wild internet world.

Thanks!”

I’m not sure why, but once I started writing, I couldn’t stop till I’d written four pages of advice about his channel. Not one to waste good advice, I’m cutting and pasting it so maybe some of you aspiring internet video makers out there might learn something. Some of it may seem cynical, and that’s because it’s highly cynical.

NOTE: Keep in mind that I don’t think I’m God’s gift to the world, though sometimes my writing makes it sound that way.

So after watching his Youtube show, PartySeason, here’s an excerpt of what I wrote:

First off, the basics:

You say you want to go “viral.” I’m gonna tell you that you actually might NOT want to go legitimately “viral” and here’s why: About 90% of videos that go viral are a trap for their creators. Tay Zonday made Chocolate Rain, and regardless of the fact that he’s a talented singer and songwriter, he will forever be known as the Chocolate Rain guy. Chris Crocker isn’t known as a smart social commentator and sketch comedian, he’s known as “Leave Britney Alone.” The list goes on. The trap of going viral is that you will forever be compared to your original viral work, and viewers will be largely uninterested in anything else you have to offer. It’s like how Matthew Perry will play Chandler the rest of his life, you don’t necessarily want to blow up super-quickly… better to build an audience with a few really solid, moderately popular videos, and then continue releasing consistently good content within a specific concept or brand.

For my money, the goal is to become what I call a web-based local celebrity. I’ve got around 200k subscribers and something like 60M lifetime Youtube views. Instead of an enormous group of people who know about one single video, I have a core following of just a few thousand fans that really pay attention, and a big cloud of intermittent viewers or people who clicked “subscribe” once and only check the page once or twice a year. It’s that small core of really loyal viewers that actually make it a viable living for me, even though the casual viewers beef up the numbers. So I’m basically like a local band without the limitations of geography. A few years ago, a viewer wrote me a comment that I scribbled down and put on my wall: “Brent, you’re not a meme, you’re an artist.” While it’s a little pretentious for the “Nintendo meets Weird Al” guy to think of himself in those terms, it kind of centered my view of how to turn Youtube into a legit resume credit and a money-making platform (although in my case, “resume credit” is only applicable in a very narrow number of situations).

Alright, putting my soap box about that away.

Your videos have great production values. However, you’ve probably noticed that plenty of viral or super-popular Youtube videos do not have great production values. That’s because great production values can only enhance what’s already working, but they can’t save something that doesn’t have teeth. So if you ever have to make the choice between production values and quality of content, go with the latter. Keep it at least 720p with good audio if possible, I’m just saying don’t fool yourself into thinking that going the extra mile for film-quality visuals will win you extra viewers; at best it’ll just win your cinematographer a better cinematographer gig.

Internet video is a ridiculously saturated market, so you’ve got to stand out, which brings me to my next point: Uniqueness and specificity of brand. I tried about 10 concepts before ultimately having success with my Youtube series, and all of them were attempting to do something that was being done better or in a more specific way by someone else. Only when I did something *uniquely* me did I find a brand that people liked… I had comedy songwriting and an extensive knowledge of video games. Blamm-o. In my case, I rely on video game nostalgia, which brings me to my next point: Whether or not to be derivative. The vast majority of successful Youtube series find a way to do something fresh while exploiting the audience’s prior knowledge of a certain property. For me, it’s video games and their music, for Epic Rap Battles it’s historical figures, for Auto-tune the News, it’s news and pop culture. Most successful internet video brands exploit some preexisting content because 1) it’s more accessible when an audience is already in on the joke, and 2) it’s easier to continue cranking out consistent material if your concept is based on a large library of preexisting content (for instance, a commentary show about James Bond movies would only last as many episodes as the number of James Bond movies).

I’ve watched almost all the PartySeason videos and I’ve noticed you have a lot of good, solidly funny content. Unfortunately, you have no over-arching concept other than “funny short sketches with vague one-word names”. Unless you’re already famous or are taking the preexisting material shortcut I mentioned before, you’re basically playing the Youtube game on super-hard mode.

Your most-viewed videos are the Obama Anti-Christ video and the Legends of the Hidden Temple video. Because people know “Obama” and “Olmec.” They don’t know “Dinner” or “Phone.” People clicked those videos video hoping the content would fall into a certain number of outcomes. “Dinner” is too broad unless it’s JIMMY FALLON PRESENTS DINNER, etc…

Every form has rules, like “a commercial movie must be under 3 hours” or “most musicals need a love story” because depending on the form you’re working in, some things just work and others don’t. So you need to figure out how to take your talent and sense of humor and put it into a form that will get people to sit up and notice.

A couple things that might increase your numbers:

* Specifying your brand
For instance, you could target all your sketches toward a certain audience, make them all in a certain style, or about a certain narrow range of topics. If people like one video for a very specific reason, and it’s clear they’ll get more of the same from other videos of yours, they’ll pinball through your uploads and you’ll get multiple views per person, and they’ll subscribe because they know what to expect from you. Unfortunately, it’s extremely unlikely to be an internet video brand selling whatever it feels like (videos of mine that aren’t about video games account for about 15% of my overall views).

* Finding a way to be derivative
You’ve got some parodies of TV genres on your channel, like the Home Shopping video and the reality-show-style “Possessed” video. One way to move forward would be to hone in on that part of your channel and make it a brand. If not that, there are many topics and concepts that you could borrow from in order to use your audience’s prior knowledge to your advantage.

* Consider a channel or series name that explains what you do
Epic Rap Battles of History. Auto-tune the News. Epic Mealtime. The Angry Video Game Nerd. The Nostalgia Critic. They all sort of explain what they do in the title. PartySeason sounds like either a channel involving parties, or a random improv group. To be fair, “brentalfloss” doesn’t mean anything, but ” [Video Game Title] With Lyrics” does. That’s what I’m saying.

*Figuring out what you can do differently or better than anyone else
This one kinda speaks for itself. What unique combination of your resources creates something no one else is doing in quite the way you’re doing it?

* Getting someone with a bigger megaphone to promote you.
This is tricky, because it only works if someone is ridiculously huge, or if your work is in their demographic. And even then, a big spike in views for one day does not correlate to a significant increase in permanent subscribers (which is what you ultimately want). For instance, you’d think with my 30,000 Facebook likes I’d be able to get a friend of mine at least 1,000 views just by plugging their video. Nope. If I plug something outside the realm of video games/nerd culture/funny pictures of animals, it will often end up getting 3 likes and no comments. Out of 30,000 possible likes. In short, I don’t recommend using a lot of resources to try to get more exposure this way. We all need to get big breaks to succeed, but the best big breaks are when someone with a bigger platform organically likes and shares your work. The internet is a strange meritocracy: If people really like something, they’ll share it and more people will watch it, and the cycle will continue as long as you have content people want to watch. There are very, very few videos and channels that have a huge potential market and AREN’T being watched by many people, because social media and share buttons have made the internet an extremely efficient market for content. So I guess what I’m saying is don’t wait around for your current library of videos to be “discovered.” Change your tactics and let your current library be supplemental.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying your videos are poorly made or untalented, but they don’t stand out in a sea of unspecific internet channels and the market’s just too saturated to make that viable. It may be that you’re currently creating content that exists outside the bounds of “what works on the internet,” or maybe you’re just not taking advantage of a few shortcuts that almost all successful Youtubers have taken. Only a few sketch shows have had a serious internet impact, and they usually are shocking, vulgar, or consistently go after a certain demographic like “Frat Guys” or “Liberal Women,” or whatever. A lot of your sketches would work great in a live show setting, but the internet has way less patience than an audience who’s already sitting down. You’re constantly competing with a video of a kitten, a baby, or a video about something specific the viewer already likes. They’re always just one click away for your viewer, so you have to give them a flavor they can’t get anywhere else.

Also, whenever possible, get to the conflict or main idea of a video in the first 5-10 seconds. Remember, kittens.

To be clear, I’m not saying you have zero chance of success with PartySeason as it currently is, but wouldn’t you rather multiply your odds of success by 5, or 10, or a bajillion?

That being said, I absolutely encourage you to continue making videos. There’s real talent behind your current library, and you’ve got a solid team of people making it look and sound good, but no one’s watching it because it doesn’t stand out and it doesn’t take advantage of internet video shortcuts.

Best of luck to you, and I hope this didn’t put you off in any way.

-Bb

Anywho, this all might make more sense if you check out his channel: http://youtube.com/partyseason … it’ll also get him some clicks, which was his goal all along.

Kisses and kicks,

-Brent

When the two parties can’t even agree on what is and isn’t factual, I guess at some point you have to just metaphorically say “Obama’s campaign is piss.”

The most unnecessary screen in all of ATM-dom

Someone actually took the time to create and program this screen. Kind of makes me sad.

SERIOUSLY.

This is a meme photo, but it really does beg the question… if you really don’t want anyone to park in a certain spot, then why force them to stay there?

…it’s almost like you’re just trying to generate revenue through parking citations…

I liked this video so much, I decided to post it on my blog.

Someone asked me a big long political question on my Facebook page today and I gave him a big long political answer. If you’re into that stuff, read on:

ISAAC GILPIN
Hello mr. Brentalfloss, as an american citizen struggling with the hardships mentioned in topic that i am about to post on your wall, i would appreciate your attention for a second and hope you would stop and think about, and mabye even do a blog or possibly a video apon this touchy subject that involes the american people and how we are being robbed of our every day rights, along with being told what we are supposed to be focusing on, rather than the real problem at hand, meaning “our horrid economy and the twisted politics by jack booted thugs that created it” give focusing on them a try, and maybe you and the rest of our nation will see that ron paul is the only candidate who means something in this god-forsaken country, see what you can do with it. get our minds focused back on the important issues such as: “why our jobs are over seas” and “why is our economy in such a dramatic state” as well as “why is america subject to corporate control” my thanks for your possible cooperation and reply.

sincerly,
Isaac Gilpin

ME:
First, there are a few reasons “our jobs” are overseas, Isaac. Our young people are getting less disciplined in terms of education. As a nation, we don’t read, write or think critically as well as we used to. This lessens our ability to excel at service industry jobs (which are one of the biggest if not THE biggest part of our economy) and it also hurts our ability to export our culture, which is still our greatest resource.

Also, it’s not exactly a matter of other countries “taking our jobs,” as much as it is the fact that our nation’s workers are a bit spoiled when compared to other average salaries worldwide. The political right often praises a free market economy, but on a worldwide scale, free market principles dictate that when someone in India or China will manufacture a product for a lower wage, they will get the job over a comparatively expensive American worker. This is not to say that I am anti-union or that I think Americans should be paid lower wages. It’s just a problem inherent to the world right now. Again, one thing no one else can manufacture is American culture, but if we raise a generation of entitled, illiterate children, we can’t expect to have much of a culture to export to the rest of the world.

That said, Ron Paul is a lot of things, but he is not as perfect as his biggest fans think he is. He truly seems to believe what he says (which is a refreshing virtue in this world of bullshit focus group sound bite 24-hour news cycle politics) but many of the changes he would propose as president are impractical and would have major unintended side effects. Libertarianism is a cool idea, but it doesn’t work unless EVERYONE agrees that EVERYONE is free in pretty much EVERY way. You can’t claim to be for “small, unobtrusive government” and also want the law to get in between a woman and her doctor or in between a man and another man who love each other.

As for the state of our economy: The economy is never in such an “awful state” as it is when the party opposing the current administration is describing it during an election year :)

So here’s my opinion in a nutshell: A lot of people are quick to tout America as “The Greatest Country In The World.” But countries are made of people. If we want to be the greatest country in the world, we have to earn it by BEING the greatest country in the world.

The end.”

…thoughts?

Today, I got an email from a business student who wanted to ask me a few questions in an interview format. The second-to-last question made me think a lot, and I thought I’d share my answer with you, particularly my younger viewers.

Q: “What is your perspective on the keys to success?”

A: “For better or worse, success is always a cocktail of the following three ingredients:

1. TALENT

2. APTITUDE

3. LUCK

TALENT: Those innate gifts which one cannot buy, learn, or earn. Whether it be charisma, coordination, or the ability to write lyrics, these things can be honed, but they cannot be transferred from one person to another. To be successful, we must recognize our talents and sharpen them through discipline.

APTITUDE: The sum total of our skills and disciplines which can be learned. This is the measure of how well one has honed his or her talents.

LUCK: Being at the right place at the right time.  Every day, we spin a huge wheel like on The Price is Right. Once in a while, we land on a spot marked “opportunity.” This is LUCK in action. However, if we do not have the TALENT or the APTITUDE, then the opportunity is wasted and our good luck means nothing.”

-Brent

BRASH BRASS & SAX MASH

As the number of video game tribute bands increases, new and existing groups are challenged to distinguish themselves from others to avoid sounding generic. For instance, Bit Brigade accompanies live playthroughs of classic games, Select Start opts for a classical chamber ensemble, and even VGM staple The OneUps have recently started performing with a freestyling hip-hoparista named Lucio. The emergent Los Angeles-based band Tanuki Suit Riot, with their unique sound and wickedly clever mashups, have proven that they are able to distinguish themselves right off the bat in their ten-track debut album The Edo Sessions.

The album begins with a high-energy arrangement of the “Burning Building” theme from TMNT II: The Arcade Game for the NES. Right away, it establishes the potential of the group’s arrangement. Soaring above a solid rhythm section and spot-on keys is the main source of Tanuki Suit Riot’s aural flavor: a sexy tenor sax, and a trumpet reminiscent of the band Cake. This two-man horns section, provided by Matt Van Gelder and Kyle Polich, sets the band apart with a sound I’ve never heard before in the VGM scene.

But where TSR really sets themselves apart is in their mashups, such as “Megaman Cowboy Bebop,” which alternates between Mega Man 3’s “Snake Man” Theme and the iconic Cowboy Bebop title theme. Over the course of ten tracks, they seamlessly blend elements as disparate as Journey, Michael Jackson, and Mozart in between tasty marble cake swirls of classic game tunes. And on top of their ability to backflip from one tune into another, they also tackle a huge array of musical styles—a big jiggly swing tune, a tom-heavy jungle rock jam, and a Shaft-like 70’s groove are represented, among many others.

If there is one blemish on the face of this fun-fest, it is the occasional sloppiness of the very horns section that makes it so tangy. The trumpet and saxophone sometimes lack a sense of tempo and rhythmic simultaneity; in some cases, this gives their arrangement a fun, messy feel, but my inner music teacher wants it to be a little more together and a little more on-beat. In any case, it will probably only bother the more anal-retentive listener and may not even occur to the average retro game fan.

My favorite track is TSR’s interpretation of the overworld theme from Zelda II. Fun fact: Hearing their live version of this song over a Ustream feed last year led me to write “Zelda II With Lyrics.” It takes the song from a noble march to a lackadaisical, almost Caribbean feel. What was once a hero’s fanfare now sounds like it could blend into a Luau playlist quite nicely. And that is just one example of the reason I’m recommending this album to you: you’ve never heard video game tunes quite like this.

All in all, The Edo Sessions is a fun ride that shows Tanuki Suit Riot to be exactly what they are: A promising new band in the VGM scene that—while not always perfect in their mechanical delivery—provides a sound unique to the genre, bites off an ambitious amount of fun, and in the process gives the listener a lot to chew on.

PROS
Refreshing new arrangement. Great mix of classic and obscure tunes. Brilliant, ballsy mashups of different styles and genres.

CONS
Sloppy playing in parts. Only ten tracks.

BRENT’S FAVORITE TRACKS
Track #6: “Zelda II”
Track #4: “Moon Patrol”
Track #10: “Driver’s High/F-Zero”

OVERALL SCORE
B+

RECOMMENDED BUY?
Yes!

The Edo Sessions by Tanuki Suit Riot can be purchased on iTunes for $9.90 here.

The band may be contacted at info@tanukisuitriot.com or by tweeting to @tanukisuit.

…I have written a limerick for Congressman Anthony Weiner:

You announced that you won’t be a quitter,
and referred to a “tweet” as a “twitter.”
To court your next female,
why not just use email
to transmit a pic of your critter?

…you see, this is actually why you should be following ME on Twitter; because if I send you a picture of the hairy banjo tonight, I’ll never lie about it in the morning.

Love,

Brent

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This blog entry has to do with my participation on Empire Avenue. It’s kind of like a social networking stock market. So if you subscribe to this blog, sorry for the useless blog entry.

WAIT, ACTUALLY… since so few people actually follow this little outpost, I may as well tell you… the brentalfloss Karaoke tracks are now available on iTunes and Amazon Music… just search “What if This CD… DIDN’T Have Lyrics?”

…there. Now it’s not totally wasted.

-BF

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