One of the big promises of the future of video and television is social interactivity. While most traditional and digital studios are still trying to makes sense of it all, veteran YouTube creators, The Fine Bros., have pioneered the "transmedia experience". When they're not producing the blockbuster React series, the duo are running the YouTube funded premium channel MyMusic, a mockumentary experience about a music company running a YouTube channel. MyMusic's fictional employees have real social media accounts, blog posts and produce real videos. These characters exist outside the web series and the complete story is told via this "transmedia experience."
So did it work? The channel has garnered more than 300K subscribers, 23M views and produced hours of premium content with unfathomable fan engagement everywhere on the internet. Yes, it worked.
We recently stole a few minutes from The Fine Bros. productive schedules to discuss MyMusic and their upcoming slate of content.
ReelSEO Interview with The Fine Bros.
ReelSEO: Did MyMusic start as a simple web series idea or was it originally conceived as "the experience" we see today? Was pitching this transmedia experience a challenge, or did YouTube "get it" right away?
The Fine Bros: MyMusic was a concept we developed to pitch to television, but always had a major transmedia side to it that we knew TV would have a hard time understanding and believing in. Once we were going to pitch it to YouTube we adapted the concept to work specifically for the YouTube environment. The concept was not a challenge for YouTube to understand, but I don't think they fully wrapped their heads around how deep it goes, something I think even now people don't fully realize how groundbreaking that side of the series has been. In our opinion no show stands up next to what MyMusic has done in proving a transmedia model.
The first episode of MyMusic's web series.
RSEO: How do you keep track of the entire transmedia experience and continuity? Are there any tools or software you employ?
TFB: During the series run we had "Universe Meetings" once a week to keep track of where we were in the narrative, what elements from the main show had pieces in transmedia that we had to time out in real time and how to enhance the storytelling outside of that, and come up with what every single character is up to in their real life in regards to what is happening in the main sitcom as well as outside of that in their personal lives. We utilize Google docs in terms of milestone moments, and Hootsuite was a huge tool to ensure things were timed right, but someone from the team was there daily in real time interacting with fans.
RSEO: Do you ever need an Inception "kick" when you've gone too deep into the MyMusic universe?
As for going too deep, absolutely! An example is the twitter account CrewMyMusic - MyMusic is supposed to be a real documentary of this music company, so we made an account for the crew members filming the documentary to vent about things they're dealing with when it comes to filming/editing/uploading the shows. Fun, way too deep stuff.
RSEO: What television show would you like to give the transmedia "experience" to and why?
TFB: This is a fun question. We'd like to dive into "Doctor Who" due to the endless fun that can happen with the time travel element, and create immersive ARGs and social media accounts all about Doctor sightings and fun ways to enhance the narrative through those tools. And though "Degrassi" has done landmark things in ancillary content online they never get enough credit for, we'd love to join in on that - great area is a high school show due to how social media is such a big factor for that age group. Would be very smart for a TV network or production company to bring us on to bring these amazing but very difficult experiences to life for their properties.
A Behind-The-Scenes look at "the experience".
RSEO: In regards to social media and audience development, have you found any interesting data or surprises from MyMusic's broad social media effort? Has there ever been a diminishing return with the social media effort?
TFB: The surprise is just how large it got. We knew it would work as we have been dabbling with this type of transmedia in small ways for years, but seeing it basically on steroids with MyMusic we did not expect to have well over 200,000 followers of the fictional accounts between all the social media profiles of the characters and the company. We don't really consider it necessarily an audience development tool, we see [social media] as an audience passion tool, which in turn creates superfans who become your marketers in many ways in supporting the show, and getting others to view it.
Even a single person engaging or finding an Easter egg is a win for us, so we don't view anything as a diminishing return, though we can say that our fans didn't seem to get into Pinterest too much.
RSEO: Can you give us any clues where next season is headed? Any special guests coming by the MyMusic offices?
TFB: The next season which hopefully will happen sees the company having to go back to their early roots since they almost went out of business and the office burned down at the end of Season 1. You can expect new innovative uses of the transmedia experience woven into the narrative, more scenes outside the office environment, lots of new "randoms" as we like to call them, and special guests through out.
RSEO: During MyMusic's first season you also managed to continue your own channels and even expand the popular React series. What has been the secret to managing this increased output? Do you two split duties or have you adopted new employees (or do you have more "brothers")?
TFB: Workaholism? Seriously though, we're in an exciting time right now in the business of online video and doing everything we can to keep growing out our production company, and if that means putting in 18 hours a day 7 days a week, then so be it to get us to that next level. Even before we had employees it was just the 2 of us splitting duties that had to get done, and during MyMusic we had an amazing staff of 10 helping making it happen. Now in the hiatus we're more lean with only 4 employees since we don't have as many weekly shows needing to be shot and released for MyMusic, but we still are fully involved in everything being created. This year we plan to expand even more, creating more shows than ever before - somehow we'll find a way to make it happen.
RSEO: Related question - How many hours do you sleep per night, on average?
TFB: About 5 hours.
RSEO: For anyone looking to produce their own web sitcom, what is your biggest piece of advice?
TFB: If you do not already have an established audience, your show will almost certainly not have large substantial viewership. We have been working for years to create multiple series and videos to build an audience who will then want to support our bigger ideas. Know that ahead of time and be smart about what content you create around it. We also recommend not making a channel that is only for your show, as even if you get lucky and the show is a success, when it ends, that channel and its fans are not as likely to watch other content vs it being a channel that is your overall company's brand, where they can expect other content as well.
RSEO: What's next on the Fine Bros. slate?
TFB: Online, we're launching our first narrative animated web series in early March, bringing back more scripted content back to TheFineBros channel alongside the hopeful production and release on MyMusic Season 2. This year we hope will also be the year we finally get a show on TV.
Our thanks go out to Ben and Rafi Fine for the wonderful interview, and Jocelyn Johnson from jjdigital for making this happen. Tune in next week for another guest interview at Web Series School.