Do It Yourself

What it takes to build a YouTube empire

Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla have mastered the artwork of YouTube .

Image: defy media

Long before teens were lip syncing songs on musical.ly and celebs were duelling it out on Lip Sync Battle , Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla were recording their own musical showdowns from their high school bedrooms.

Their first YouTube video a Power Rangers theme song recording started viral 10 years ago, launching the opening up of their digital entertainment vocations as the slapstick duo SMOSH.

Now, SMOSH has seven YouTube canals, a combined 40 million customers, 39 million social media adherents and 118 billion YouTube views. And they aren’t quit anytime soon.

SMOSHs second channels is officially rebranding into “SMOSH Pit” this summer, and will launch new slapstick appearances, Mashable has exclusively learned. Also part of the expansion: SMOSH Game is adding one new cast member and SMOSH is launching Summer Game an event that pits two SMOSH canals against each other later this year.

“Things are so different now we’re a full-blown company, this is our job, ” Padilla said in an interview while on decide hitting one of SMOSH’s most recent videos.

“It’s weird because it’s become simultaneously less study and more work at the same time, ” Hecox added.

But what’s most interesting about SMOSH is that unlike countless other YouTube developers many who experience merely brief internet notoriety Hecox and Padilla still haven’t fallen out of the internet’s favor. Ten years in and that’s saying anything: viral superstars don’t often subsist their fan’s short attention spans.

Most say there is no real formula to making it large-hearted on YouTube, but it seems the two have figured something out.

Building a brand

Image: defy media

Hecox and Padilla, Sacramento natives, didn’t know making videos could result in a vocation. Back then, Hecox was making money by working at Chuck E. Cheese’s part time( his experience there later inspired one of SMOSH’s appearances) and uploading videos with Padilla on the side.

“I’d wake up at 11 to Ian calling me every day and he’d reply ‘hey want to get lunch? ‘ we’d go to a fast food place, spitball thoughts, joke around … and then write something up, ” Padilla mentioned of their early days.

They averaged about one video per month, which Hecox mentioned would be “YouTube suicide” today.

Still, the extra hustle paid for by. Then-Disney executive Barry Blumberg, who oversaw franchises including Kim Possible, was interested in construct future digital superstars. He was a fan of SMOSH videos and reached out to Hecox and Padilla to meet. He persuaded them that being a YouTuber could indeed be a career.

Blumberg wasn’t wrong. As SMOSH became more of a digital force-out, it caught “members attention” of even more people in Hollywood.

Defy Media( formerly Alloy Digital ), a Los Angeles creator of digital content geared towards millennials, eventually acquired the label for an undisclosed sum in 2011. The company, which has investors such as Viacom and Lionsgate, makes, shares and promotes content. It raised $70 million in September, as it looks to continue expansion of product and creating content that reaches well beyond YouTube.

Blumberg served as Defy’s manager content officer until March, when he announced his exit.

SMOSH remains Defy’s biggest label, and the one it is expected to flaunt at its New Fronts presentation in May.

And with Defy’s investment, Hecox and Padilla added cast member states and built their own team of collaborators. The two started from doing it all to managing a team of people who used to help do it all.

“If you want to create something bigger than merely two dudes with a camera, the only way to do that is to grow the team, grow the product and in turn grow the business that they are consistent with that product, ” Hecox added. “It’s all part of the goal of being able to create good stuff.”

Shayne Topp is a member of the on-camera cast tapped by Hecox and Padilla.

The actor, who started out doing linear TV appearances and movies, joined the SMOSH family two years ago after his friend Noah Grossman also in the SMOSH cast recommended him.

“Ive been an actor for a long time, and Ive get to do a lot of cool things, and when I firstly joined Smosh I was candidly a little skeptical, ” Topp mentioned. “[ I fretted] that it wouldnt be the right move, but its shown itself to be the best move Ive ever built in my whole life. I adoration being a part of this.”

In January, Topp was among the cast members on decide filming a sketch for SMOSH’s main channel called “Am I A Bad Boyfriend? “

The sketch middles around a guy( Padilla) fulfilling his girlfriend’s pals for the first time. He is surprised to find everyone’s significant other is an electronic device, but Padilla’s character is no other one who thinks it’s weird.

Topp, Hecox and Padilla could scarcely hold back their laughter in between takes.

All grown up

Much has changed since Padilla and Hecox’s firstly video.

For starters, the two are both now 29, and far more experienced with writing, editing, hitting, growing, acting, and now leading.

They are also now famous enough that they were the first digital influencers to get their own Madame Tussaud’s wax figures. Forbes approximatedthe duo built$ 7 million in 2016.

The two describe SMOSH’s brand as a mixture of MTV and Comedy Central “it’s for teens but at the same time it’s a little edgy, ” Padilla said.

And while the SMOSH brand maintains its comedic atmosphere, the type of content they put up expands and evolves constantly.

Since 2015, SMOSH has experimented with a variety of formats. They have released two Saturday Night Live -esque live sketch appearances called SMOSH Live, two seasons of a sitcom (< em> Part Timers ), and launched eight new appearances( including the popular Last-place Blank Ever series ).

They have also launched two movies, which have completely different tones.

The first cinema Smosh: The Movie had more of a YouTube-centric premise. In it, the two teleport into different YouTubers channels in order to delete an embarrassing video of Padilla.

Ghostmates has a crony slapstick look. It follows socially awkward Charlie( Padilla ), who moves into a furnished apartment where Eddie( Hecox) also lives. Eddie is obnoxious, self-involved and a ghost, one that only Charlie can see. To get rid of Eddie, Charlie agrees to help him get to heaven.

While they dabble with all types of programming, the two “ve never” truly “sold out, ” as fans would say. There has been somewhat of a subdivide between OG YouTubers and those who became overnight famous via vlogging. The latter of the two groups tend to use YouTube like a stepping stone rather than a place to sharpen their craft.

Tons of YouTubers have moved on from vlogging to write journals, take personas in movies and TV appearances and go on nationwide tours. Others have juggled doing content on multiple platforms including Instagram and Snapchat at once to maximize their audience reach.

But for SMOSH, YouTube remains their primary home. Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms serve more as ways to promote their YouTube videos.

“Other people that started YouTube later than us felt ‘this is a great starting point to do other things, ‘” Padilla said.

“And you’ve seen Hollywood performers start canals but you can tell their heart isn’t in it, they aren’t truly making it, they are just kind of a appearance, and I guess people see through that, ” Hecox said.

SMOSH has many things going for it, but two mainstays stand out: They were early to the YouTube game and they have stayed with it, without vacating their YouTube fans to test other platforms. YouTube fans are fickle and their anger swift.

Joe Bereta, creative administrator of SMOSH, attributes the brand’s success to something he deems “the Jackass factor.”

Jackass wasnt inevitably successful since they are risked living and leg whilst buck-naked( although it was awesome ), ” Bereta explained. “It was successful because you wanted us to hang out and have fun with that crazy group of guys. I think thats what we[ at SMOSH] offer up now, except “were having” daughters in the working group, this is why we win.”

WATCH: How To Be Youtube Famous

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