The concept of the “gatekeepers” is as old as the idea of celebrity itself – the people that you have to impress, schmooze, network with, wine and/or dine in order to enter the land of fame and fortune. They were the elites you had to present yourself to and convince you were a worthwhile investment. They were the producers, network executives, CEOs and millionaire investors who met in secret to decide on who or what becomes popular and what fades into obscurity. They held all the power.
But things are changing.
Since the advent of YouTube (and the internet in general) people’s interests are much less focused. For the first time since the dawn of recorded entertainment, the “mainstream” heavily moderated media is becoming dwarfed by niche interests and markets. Performers of all kinds can now directly reach their audiences with no need for a middle-man. Who or what becomes popular is decided by natural selection rather than just selection.
YouTubers haven’t taken over the world (yet) but we’ve seen quite a few starting to expand their influence into the “real world” . Here’s a few examples.
1. Bethany Mota
On September 4th 2014 YouTuber juggernaut Bethany Mota (A.K.A. MacBarbie07) announced on her Twitter that she would be on Dancing with the Stars. It is said that her fan’s collective squeal could deafen anyone within a 2 mile radius- and that’s a reasonable reaction. Bethany Mota on Dancing with the Stars is kind of a big deal. Now entering it’s 19th season, Dancing with the Stars has been as MONSTER hit for ABC with last week’s (September 22nd) episode reaching approximately 12.76 million televisions nation-wide (Source: Nielsen.) This is the first time we’ve seen a major YouTuber bleeding into “major real world media” so to speak. This puts Mota is a very unique situation – she’s the most high-profile star on the show currently and she’s never appeared in a single movie, TV show or commercial. Think about the implications of that; an entirely self-made celebrity (at 18 years old no less) is now on TV thanks only to her own efforts and rabid fan-following.
If that’s not killing the gatekeepers, I don’t know what is.
2. Shane Dawson
Shane Dawson made a movie. It’s called “Not Cool” and it debuted #5 on the iTunes Movies “Top Sellers” list for the week of September 22nd competing with the likes of Captain America: The Winter Solider, Godzilla and The Fault in Our Stars. I’ll repeat that; This movie some guy on YouTube made is competing with Captain America. That’s insane.
It’s not getting the… warmest reception (Currently holds a 1 on Metacritic) and the odds of it’s continued momentum are low, but the facts are these:
1. Dawson almost assuredly made his money back.
2. This is a HUGE moment for YouTubers and really shows the growing impact they have on mainstream culture.
3. Dawson’s fan-base is fiercely loyal. If he asks them to do something, they’ll do it. This is part of the reason why advocate marketing works so well – supporting a YouTuber feels like supporting a friend
It’s lamentable that the movie wasn’t received better, but the cultural impact is still there and shows producers that these YouTubers can and WILL bring in an audience… and make serious bank.
Trailer below is NSFW.
Smosh has been around since the dawn of YouTube and now they’re getting their own movie.
Distributed by Lionsgate.
Oh. This is kind of a big deal isn’t it?
Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox boast nearly 20 million subscribers to their main channel and have frequently been at the top of YouTube’s coveted “Most Subscribed” list. They’re already HUGE in their space (and were in fact voted the most popular celebrities amongst teens in a recent article by Variety) and with the release of “The SMOSH Movie” they’re taking their monster channel into the “real world”. The movie will be written by Eric Falconer (of How I Met Your Mother fame) and directed by Alex Winter (Bill from the Bill & Ted movies) and will feature appearances by other YouTuber superstars such as JennaMarbles and Shane Dawson. Making a movie based on YouTubers is one thing, but to have to distributed by major company like Lionsgate? That is an enormous achievement. Due to the HUGE built-in fanbase, I’m sure this movie will make it’s money back and then some.
YouTuber’s have been building their virtual empires for almost a decade now and the “real world” is finally taking notice. We can probably attribute this success to support from their audience, who began watching these videos in their young teens and are now growing into the ever coveted 18-24 demographic – all the while still devoted to their YouTube friends. YouTube’s influence has never been stronger and things are only looking up from here. If you’re sick of YouTuber’s now, I’d suggest hibernating for a few years. They’re not going anywhere.