Much has been said about Texas-born, Sing Off launched a cappella group Pentatonix, their rise to fame and their effect on a cappella. But if there’s one thing that could disrupt the 2015 a cappella universe for better or worse, it’s actually Superfruit.
Launched in August 2013, Superfruit is a video log or “vlog” hosted by Pentatonix vocalists Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying. In those 16 months they’ve produced 64 videos, gained over one million subscribers and 75 million video views.
In contrast, the Pentatonix YouTube channel has 7.3 million subscribers and 782 million video views. However, the Superfruit channel launched two years later and reached the one million subscriber mark five months faster. Even more telling, the Superfruit videos have a significantly higher positive sentiment than the average Pentatonix video as measured by likes versus dislikes.
Vloggers record their antics, observations and thoughts to share with thousands, sometimes millions of viewers. More importantly, these vlogs are often interactive with the larger internet public. Vloggers take questions via any number of social platforms, repurpose fan-created content and sometimes even phone viewers allowing the audience to take part in the action. And for livestreams, vloggers have instant feedback in terms of comments and viewership. If it’s boring, viewers will leave. Too crass? The commenters will let the vloggers know.
Monday evening, Superfruit did their first livestream to celebrate reaching one million YouTube subscribers. The livestream hit roughly 12,000 viewers on average according to the public count. The event, #superfruitlivestream, generated 80,000 tweets according to Twitter and was the top trend in the US for much of broadcast and into Tuesday morning. It briefly was the number one worldwide trend.
And here’s where Superfruit is in new territory. Many bands actively blog: Amanda Palmer, Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean and Moby, to name a few. But true vlogging (as opposed to simply musicians who have a YouTube channel) is dominated by beauty, gaming and pop culture channel. Lady Gaga was an early major voice in music vlogs, but she has recently stuck to traditional music videos.
Right now, Superfruit is one of very few leaders in the music space.
In their year and a half existence, they rarely talk at length about what has made them famous – Pentatonix. They aren’t pushing tour dates, merchandise or iTunes downloads. If anything, the only ask is to subscribe to see more. This level of authenticity is often lacking in most a cappella groups’ owned social spaces where it’s often about safe choices, basic marketing, “me me me” or a third person voice creating distance between the band and their desired audience. A cappella groups traditionally strive to have one voice on the stage which often leads to homogenizing group personalities beyond the songs they sing into the emotions and words presented on stage.
In contrast, the Superfruit viewer gets to experience the personalities of both Grassi and Hoying. Superfruit is remarkable by keeping it real and keeping it fun. That’s not to say it’s all fluff. Some of popular Superfruit vlogs are an interview with fellow YouTube star Miranda Sings, a separate Miranda gag reel (watch to the end when Miranda spits in Scott’s eye then burps) and a truly bold “what is happening” wicked choice on Hoying’s birthday.
YouTube vloggers are popular with Madison Avenue for many reasons not the least of which is online video is seen as the next step in a post TV world. And in total, YouTube reaches more US adults 18-34 than any TV cable network. Popular vloggers can get in the range of $20K to $50K for product placement. It’s not unheard of for “A-list” vloggers to receive a fee in the low six-figures for a multi-video, multiplatform deal by partnering with a brand.
Beyond the data and dollars, this speaks to the influence that Mitch, Scott and yes even little Wyatt hold in 2015 above the heights that Pentatonix has achieved. An epic rap battle between Ben Folds and Ward Swingle? That’s an easy 5 million views. A vlog about a cappella in general? CASA knows a little something about that. Or maybe Wyatt and Grumpy Cat have an adventure in a Lifetime movie? Stranger things have happened.
2015 will probably be the biggest year in contemporary a cappella to date. As odd as it is to say, it’s Superfruit that has the best shot to shape its direction. When you speak or sing - not to an audience but with a fanbase - big things can happen.
Whipping Post is a new column from CASA in 2015.