I attended my first VidCon last week and it was a real eye-opener. If you don't know what it is you'd better learn because this year's biggest YouTube-centric festival attracted 11,000 rabid screaming teenagers to the Anaheim Convention Center to worship their favorite online stars and it was a ZOO. The fourth and by far most successful iteration of this event founded by John and Hank Green featured three days of panels, booths, music, videos, and around-the-block lines of teens and tweens standing in line to get a signature from the new generation of star; the YouTuber. This year was a big step for VidCon as online video has truly gone mainstream as the worlds of film, television, and online continue their inexorable confluence.
One of the highlights of the event was the keynote presentation by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis who spoke about the need for a new deal between YouTube and content creators. Jason made some fascinating and thoughtful points that definitely created a buzz. Jason has become somewhat of a populist rabble rouser with his calls for more equitable ad revenue splits and more control by creators over how they interact with their fans. See my previous post here. I've posted his entire keynote below; if you're looking to get a lay of the YouTube landscape this is a must watch.
I wanted to get an inside perspective from one of the many content creators roaming the halls and happened to bump into one of the bona-fide stars of YouTube, Kandee Johnson. Her YouTube channel has over 1.5 million subscribers who are alerted every time she posts a new video. We chatted about her thoughts on the insanity and excitement of the new frontier.
Zack Coffman: Kandee, tell me a bit about what you do.
Kandee Johnson: I'm kinda like those old time one-man band guys, you know cymbals on their knees, accordion in their hands, horn and drums all going at once! But instead of crazy instruments, I'm editing, filming, writing blogs, creating projects, attempting to reply to all my thousands of emails, all while trying to reply to comments, and hoping my videos are pretty fun to watch on YouTube!
Before I donned my one-man band costume I was a make-up artist for TV, film and commercials and I thought it would be great to teach everyone at home some cool make-up tips and tricks. I started doing costume transformations, how to look like Edward Scissorhands, the Queen of Hearts, or all kinds of Disney characters. Then everyone started asking all kinds of questions like, "How do you cut your hair?", "How did you make your necklace?", "Can you show us your cupcake recipe?" and so many others.
So I write two blogs, my http://www.kandeej.com blog, which is my beauty, style, fashion, and inspiration blog - and http://www.kandeeland.com, a peek into my daily life blog. I've got my two YouTube channels, KandeeJohnson is my big channel, which I am still humbly amazed, has over 1.5 million subscribers, and my little vlog channel Kandeeland, that is almost like a secret! ha ha ha
ZC: What do you make of the mainstream attention being garnered these days?
KJ: I think it's crazy! Crazy awesome! It's amazing to me that someone online can create something in their homes without being "professional filmmakers", and people love it!
I love that I wasn't the most popular girl in high school, and I know how awful the "popularity game" can be. So to see that I didn't need that, and could still go on, to have people like me and the stuff I was creating from my little house, is so stinkin' cool to me!
And as far as mainstream love, I loved that I was in my hotel room the other night, and I saw Harley Morenstein of EpicMealTime in a Carl's Jr. commercial! To see the power of people, not production companies. Harley has lots of followers on Youtube, and to see him in a commercial, because of the power of "his people" (AKA, subscribers, but I don't just like calling them subscribers, they are my virtual posse of friends) and what's he's creating on YouTube, now he's in a national commercial. That is incredibly cool to me.
ZC: How has it affected you and your career?
KJ: Well before, when I was just "Kandee, the make-up artist" no one was asking me to go to fancy events, I was just one of the crew on set. Now, to be invited to big events or to be on a TV show, it's just amazing to me! To see that the mainstream world, has finally realized that "YouTube peeps", have something to offer, something that's been created from scratch, with a lot of hard work and learning as you go, is pretty great to me.
ZC: Tell me about what you've got in the hopper, particularly as it relates to online/traditional convergence.
KJ: Well, I can't tell you all my secrets (insert me tapping my fingertips together)...just kidding. I have had some really fun opportunities to work on TV shows as a guest host or judge, which I loved. And I've had books I've wanted to write for years now. Plus, I love getting out of my little office/work space/studio and getting to meet the awesome people who watch my videos and read my blogs.
I have some ideas for fun TV shows that I'd love to see become real shows and bring something really cool back TV. I feel like networks just jump on one idea then they all do the same kind of show. I think people are tired of seeing reality shows based on people acting horribly, that's why people love Duck Dynasty! You fall in love with all the characters, they are funny and you feel better after watching it, not angry like others shows make you feel.
I'd like to add happiness to the world and I want to make people feel better after they see anything that I've done, and after all the stories I get from people being inspired to keep going, or that something I said prevented them from killing themselves... of course I'd like to reach more people and inspire and encourage them to go after their dreams... that you can keep going through the hard times, that's what makes us great. That beauty is more about the heart and touching people's lives than being "perfect looking" and having lots of material possessions.
I'd love to establish a stronger presence off of the ol' Tube. I love Youtube, but I also love other forms of media. I've been creating movies and TV shows in my head since I was a kid. As soon as I can carve out a few extra minutes a day I want to work on my books. I would love to one day make some amazing films, have a really cool show that will lift people's spirits. Hey, me and my one band might go on a world tour! I did sing and dance in musical theater when I was younger! ha ha ha ha
I've got a lot of love, awesomeness, and inspiration to share with the world, and I think the more ways there are to do it...the better!
Wake up folks, if you aren't actively developing properties that swim equally well in online and traditional waters you're about to get left in the dust.
Written by Zack Coffman, Head of Content, Distribution, & Strategy at One World Studios Ltd. Zack is an award-winning film producer specializing in online strategy and monetization, live streaming, and YouTube channel development. Connect with Zack on LinkedIn, Google+, and @choppertown.