Update, March 26
ACTUALLY, NEVERMIND. Roberts canceled this campaign this morning. When asked about it, he writes to the Voice: “Decided that it wasn’t the right move, and that I would be better off continuing to create work in my spare time.” He’s going to stay at his day job, after all. The original story is below.
Benjamin Roberts wants to keep hypnotizing people.
The 33-year-old Toronto man created a moderate internet hit recently with his YouTube video that cleverly combines Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” and Dinosaurs, the Nineties ABC comedy. Now he wants to quit his “pretty awesome day job” and make similar videos full-time.
“I’m putting together a Kickstarter campaign to basically fund a salary for myself so I can do this full-time for a year,” Roberts tells the Voice. “I’m trying to raise the average Canadian salary, which I’m going to use to make one mash-up per month for the next year.”
Roberts is a creative director at a start-up during the day, and assuming he raises $49,000 — the average Canadian salary — he will quit his job and parlay the positive reviews of his video mash-up into a dozen more videos.
“Nothing about this will be half-hearted,” he writes in his Kickstarter campaign description. “I’ll pour everything I’ve got into making each one of these as awesome as possible, and try my best with each video to top the previous one.”
He estimates each video will take about 100 hours to complete — making it look like puppets and cartoon characters are rhyming along to radio rap classics is tedious work, as he recently discussed during a Reddit AMA session. But mostly it involves “embracing the randomness as much as possible” and to “just kind of, like, luck into those moments where it works together.”
Roberts says he won’t stray from the formula if his campaign gets funded: “It’ll be some combination of awesome hip-hop music and really great television from the past twenty years.”
For as much success as he had with the first video (it’s now at 5.8 million views) he made $0 from it because of YouTube’s Terms of Service involving media rights, despite the argument that his project could fall under fair use limitations: “The reason it’s important to do this on Kickstarter is that on YouTube, you’re not allowed to monetize videos that use third-party content. Warner Music Group basically made all the revenue off of the Biggie-Dinosaurs mash-up.”
Roberts says he wants to function like PBS, where people can fund his work directly.
“This is a way for the internet to hire me to make content that’s not going to make money on its own, but is still really interesting and people will want to watch.”
Roberts says he had a feeling the “Hypnotize”-Dinosaurs video would do well.
“I thought it was pretty hilarious, and when I started putting it together I was laughing to myself,” he says. “By the time I finished the video, I probably watched it about 200 times so it had really lost all meaning to me. I showed it to one friend before I launched it and he went crazy and that’s when I knew it could go viral.”
The video gave “Hypnotize” a bounce on the Billboard streaming charts, too, as the eighteen-year-old song received more than 4 million plays for the week ending March 15.
“It’s really interesting, ‘Hypnotize’ and Dinosaurs actually trended exactly in parallel,” Roberts says of Google searches:
Roberts, who’s been to Brooklyn once on vacation (“The most amazing pizza I had in my life was in Brooklyn. It was called Roberta’s”), says his only worry was that B.I.G. fans might get offended at the unlikely pairing of the song and sitcom.
“I don’t know if they would see it as a tribute or if they would see it like as something that was making fun in some way,” he says. “Of course I wanted it to be a tribute, because the music is really brilliant, but I wasn’t sure if people would read it that way.”
The video did cause some controversy, though: Massive hip-hop and culture site WorldStarHipHop ripped the video and re-uploaded it.
Among other things, that spurred the active Reddit user (“I would love to just spend my time making stuff for that community because it’s lots of fun”) to launch his Kickstarter campaign.
“WorldStar didn’t even attempt attribution, they didn’t really attempt anything other than stealing the content and the eyeballs,” he says. “Probably sites like WorldStar, BuzzFeed, all these guys, they earned a whole bunch of revenue off of it just because people would click on the ads on those pages. But as the original content creator, I didn’t earn any revenue from the video.”
Roberts, who is married, said his wife is OK with his decision to quit his job and make mash-up videos full-time — assuming he reaches his goal.
“My employer is the internet and I’m going to make these videos,” he says. “I’ll take a salary hit, but I think it’ll be super fun.”