Remember when Arcade Fire nabbed the top Grammy last year and people, from everyday tweeters to Rosie O’Donnell, unleashed a collective “who is Arcade Fire” campaign? That incident started a lot of introspection among music writers on the state of the industry. Digital products from Spotify to niche blogs seemed to make it easier for fans to stay in niches, unaware of great music elsewhere.
Now there’s a television show for that.
This year the Fine Brothers — Benny and Rafi — created MyMusic, a zany, youth-oriented, workplace sitcom about a music production company. In the show the company’s leader, “Indie,” employs a ragtag group of twentysomethings who promote various styles. Employed there are characters like “Techno” and “Dubstep” representing electronic fans, and “Idol” who likes Top 40. Indie, for his part, spends most of his time talking about his fixed-gear bike and how Pitchfork is too mainstream.
“The music you listen to does in many ways define who you are,” the brothers said in an email interview. “To those who have known us for years, we are music snobs, but also found a lot of amusement in just how judgmental we are.”
The Fines are two of YouTube’s most celebrated producers, having created a host of quality viral videos and series, from television parodies of shows like Lost, to a long-running series of movie and TV spoilers and the incredibly popular “react” videos, including Kids React, Teens React and YouTubers React. As one of YouTube’s hardest-working and most consistent comedy production teams, Google picked the Fines to create MyMusic as part of its premium content initiative. Of the 100 channels Google selected last year, very few went to individuals, and many of those were celebrities from legacy media like Pharrell Williams, Shaquille O’Neal and Tony Hawk. The Fines join Philip DeFranco, Felicia Day and Michelle Phan as indie standard-bearers.
Originally a pitch for a traditional television show, MyMusic is using YouTube to create an “experience.” After an episode of the scripted sitcom airs on Sunday, users get three more episodes of transmedia content: MyMusic Presents, with live performances from new and YouTube-based bands hosted by MyMusic characters on Monday; MyMusic News, a news show hosted by the character “Scene” on Wednesday; and The Mosh, a Q&A show where characters present fan activity across the over 70 social media accounts from the characters. It’s all quite savvy, given that music, news and comedy are YouTube’s top star-making categories.
“We are somehow pulling this off,” the brothers said. “We don’t sleep and we work 7 days a week.”
The Fines’ production company has a staff of nine dedicated to MyMusic. Episodes of the scripted series — the equivalent of shooting two feature-films — were shot in two chunks during the year. The show’s extensions are shot each Monday. As if that weren’t enough the Fines also re-cut the short sitcom episodes into TV-length episodes with new and deleted scenes.
The big question now is whether MyMusic will get the greenlight for a second season. YouTube is currently reviewing its investments in original programming and deciding which channels to cancel. A reported 60 percent or more of those channels will not make the cut. The Fines are not worried. “With the massive fanbase MyMusic has accumulated, we like our chances,” they said. UPDATE: MyMusic racked up nine nominations for the 3rd annual Streamy Awards.
All in all, the MyMusic channel has over 250,000 subscribers and 20 million video views. In Deadline‘s latest ranking of YouTube’s premium channels, MyMusic ranked 40th. That puts it behind Geek & Sundry, home of Felicia Day’s popular scripted web series, The Guild, currently airing its sixth season, but ahead of Bryan Singer’s ambitious yet dismissable H+, on its 42nd episode, and Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, releasing its second season on Pharrell’s iamOTHER network.
For a new, non-franchise sitcom, that’s more than respectable. It would be wise for YouTube to give MyMusic a renewal. The vast majority of YouTube’s original content is non-scripted, and most of it created by larger companies. MyMusic fits within the company’s public narrative of transforming television. Given room to grow, the show could help brand YouTube in the way original comedies have historically done for cable channels like HBO (Larry Sanders Show) and USA (Monk). It also gives evidence to the company’s claim to be empowering its own, something that has come into question in recent years.
Whether or not it’s renewed, the Fines say that making the show has deepened their appreciation of music.
“We love music, and it’s a big part of our life. What’s been amazing about creating and showrunning MyMusic is how it has changed us from being music elitists, to being music supporters of all kinds,” they said.
Last week’s episodes of MyMusic, embedded here:
Photo Credits: MyMusic (screenshot); Gregory Storm for IAWTV.