On September 27 2009, two brothers inadvertently invented a whole new genre of music that would take the world by storm.
Michael and Evan Gregory released the first episode of Auto Tune The News. Reality pop was born.
One year and 47 videos later, the Gregory Brothers have had over 100 million views on YouTube and have sold over 100,000 copies of The Bed Intruder Song, their biggest hit, on iTunes.
To put this into perspective, The Gregory Brothers have had more YouTube views in their first year than The Lonely Island had in their first 3.
Barry spoke to Michael and Evan about their success, how they make their videos and how they can turn this into their full time job.
The Secret To Their Success
So what is it about the Bed Intruder Song that made it more successful than any of the other videos that were uploaded in July?
Michael thinks “It’s impossible to pretend that we have some sort of magical formula. We just did what we thought was fun”.
“Part of it is the luck of the draw, part of it is doing something new, part of it… is getting a melody stuck in someone’s head gives it that much better a chance that they will pass it on.”
Don’t be fooled by their modesty. These boys are smarter than your average YouTube phenomenon. Unlike most viral stars, they aren’t bothered by people reposting and remixing their videos.
“Our fans and our audience connect personally to the song and want to do their own version. Rather than get in a huff about it, we encourage it because it’s awesome.”
28 million views of The Bed Intruder Song later, it’s safe to say this policy works!
Listen to the boys reveal the secret to their success.
Putting together an episode of Auto Tune The News is not as easy as it looks.
Michael reveals “Once we pick some clips, we set them to music and begin creating magical melodies with the help of our unintentional singers.”
“We act like an A&R Executive from a record label spotting who is the greatest unsigned talent out there.”
What makes a good unintentional singer? Even explains “There are a number of things… they speak very expressively, just like a great pop singer. You could compare Jo Biden to Beyonce.”
Michael believes “Antoine Dodson is our greatest find… he mixes infectious melody with wit and energy.”
That wit and energy has made The Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson around $50,000 each through iTunes sales. Nice.
Some people have criticised the brothers for making fun of Antoine and the serious crime against his sister. What does Antoine think of the video?
Michael answers “At first I think he was wary of the song but after watching it a couple of times, he got the true sense that we were celebrating his interview rather than trying to make fun of him.”
If Antoine didn’t get 50% of all iTunes sales it may have been different.
Listen to the boys talk through the process of making their videos.
Show Me The Money
You only have to look at the Numa Numa guy to see that it’s very easy to go from Internet darling to Internet douche. The backlash against Gary Brolsma’s attempt to make money from his YouTube hit was harsh.
Is it possible to keep your fans and sponsors happy? Evan thinks “it really depends on the video. If half of your videos are heavily sponsored there can be more of a backlash but if one out of twenty is then they’re really happy for you”
Michael adds “if we can do a sponsorship on our own terms, and do it in our own language, then we won’t necessarily say no out of hand.”
The way the boys promoted T-Pain’s iPhone app, I Am T-Pain, is a great example of this.
“The audience gets it. It used to be where any type of sponsorship you might have fans say ‘they sold out’ but nowadays if you can do it on your own terms, your fans are rooting for you.”
“ If they see us do something that doesn’t compromise the quality of what we do then the message is instead ‘man, they guys are getting paid’.
Listen to the boys talk about integrating clients into their product.
It seems most YouTube stars are accidental – luck has far more to do with it than talent.
The Gregory Brothers are an exception to the rule. They are smart, they are talented and they are destined for big things.