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How to be rich and famous on YouTube, according to the stars of SBI Media Workshop

By Sam Adeoye
25 December 2021   |   4:00 am
There’s a trick to garnering fame on YouTube — the most profitable website for creators of low-budget videos. Recently in Lagos, at a youth workshop organised by the agency SBI Media...

Kunle Afolayan

There’s a trick to garnering fame on YouTube — the most profitable website for creators of low-budget videos. Recently in Lagos, at a youth workshop organised by the agency SBI Media, three properly famous creative entrepreneurs, whom I’ll name in the following paragraph, talked about this no-brainer hack. And it all boils down to three questions: one, how do I get the people to see my videos? Two, how do I make the videos look good? Three, who am I to make these videos? Simple. Three little questions that, when answered with deliberate calculation, could make anyone a star… sooner or later.

As I promised, the creatives who spoke at the workshop are hereby listed: Kunle Afolayan, poster boy of Nigerian modern cinema; Edem Victor, top of everyone’s list for the most viral Nigerian-made Instagram (and now YouTube) videos; and Unlimited LA, who makes pretty spritzy music videos for some of the biggest afrobeats hits.

The training programme at which they dished out their enormously tasty morsels of filmmaking wisdom was called the SBI Media Workshop.

It was the second in the series, which, as usual, was funded by SBI Media, an ambitious media independent that has itself been collecting a ton of media coverage lately — for reasons pertaining to industry awards and noteworthy financial performance.

“If only young people really knew how much money they could make from video and streaming,” SBI Media’s CEO, Rotimi Bankole, said to me, rather conspiratorially, “they would be all over video.”

Guess who know how much money could be made from video? Mr Afolayan, Mr Victor, and Mr LA (whose name, actually, is Olalekan Buhari). Afolayan currently has eight movies on Netflix, including A Naija Christmas, released earlier this week to encouraging reviews. Victor’s minimalist system helps nearly all the Nigerian comedians with the largest online following and monumental paydays — Mr Macaroni, Broda Shaggi, Bovi, MC Lively, Oluwadolarz — tell stories to enrapture African social media. So, when these people talk about the video business in 2021, they can be said to know what they’re talking about, right?

For instance, here’s Edem Victor on catching those elusive eyeballs on YouTube. “If you’re just starting out, you need to hit them big,” he said.

By “them”, he was referring to the viewers and subscribers; and by “big”, he meant, “a lot of partnerships” with his “famous friends”. He said, “I knew the content was good, but I also knew that if I did not put a face to the content, I might not get that reach.” That’s the consummate formula, apparently, that’s continued to land him thousands of views and gratifying brand collaborations.

Before any of these profitable partnerships could become possible, however, content ideas would need to be prepped and rigged to envisage Murphy’s Law — expect whatever that could go wrong in the process to go as awry as possible. “Every project comes with an issue,” said Afolayan. “So, you have to be adequately prepared. [Not being adequately prepared] is like planning to build a house and you have a weak foundation.”

You don’t want to be caught flailing in the middle of production. He’d advise that you make your list and check it twice. Check the story, check the picture to be captured, check the front-of-camera talent, check the crew, check equipment. Check once, check always. Checking then becomes a habit, which then makes the creator a name for quality products, which then pulls in collaborators, which then pays off in those delightful credit alerts.

At the end of the day, this business of video making — like other forms of art — comes back to the creator.

“You have to make what you enjoy,” Victor said. “If you like what you make, there’s a chance that there will be others out there who will like it.” Right? If social media is a canvas and there are millions of people with esoteric tastes, there should be someone, or a million someones, who share your tastes, even if those tastes would make your grandma wag her finger at you.

So, video is in a place where, as the memes say, you can absolutely do you. Why choose to launch a video channel around fufu (the African staple) when you absolutely detest the taste and smell of it? Even if fufu skits are a lucrative content category, it won’t be interesting to you for long, and, sadly, you’re soon parted with the prospect of cashing out on #fufu.

Meanwhile, the United Nations designated 2021 as the international year of the creative economy for sustainable development. The creator economy, said the UN, now contributes three percent to global GDP. Even CEOs are becoming YouTubers and virtual schools such as Udemy, Domestika, Vimeo, and JumpCut Academy have designed easy-pace curricula to deliver current best practices to starry-eyed future YouTubers.

Maybe SBI Media Workshop would make its own syllabus as well. The clock is a-ticking. We all want to get into video.