Spoiler Alert: The Fine Brothers Are Rising Stars Online
After years of hard work, the Fine Brothers have built a huge following. Now, they're helping young talent navigate the business of online video.
We’ve been called uncles,” said Rafi Fine, one-half of the Fine Brothers
. “Grandparents, I guess now.”
“I prefer uncles to grandparents,” said Benny Fine, his brother and the other half of the team. Whether they’re uncles or grandparents, Rafi and Benny (29 and 31 years old, respectively) -- the hardworking, constantly creative Fine Brothers -- are already elder statesmen in the YouTube universe. They’re looked up to not only because they consistently make entertaining and innovative online videos, but because they’re generous with their time shepherding young talent through the minefield of unfair creative contracts. Talent management isn’t any friendlier, it seems, just because it’s now online.
“With all of the multichannel networks that have sprung up and the shady practices so many of them have, we’ve become big advocates of getting a good deal, and people know that they can come to us to speak about networks,” Benny said.
Those shady practices include the kinds of draconian contracts that should have died out in Hollywood several decades ago, but are now surfacing online. It’s not YouTube that’s at fault, but it’s a symptom of the content ecosystem that’s sprung up around YouTube. Young creative talent often doesn’t know the business side well. Someone’s got to watch out for the kids.
“No, it’s not with YouTube themselves,” Rafi explains. “Where the unsavory business practices are coming from are the multichannel networks. Basically, YouTube has given a lot of power over to these multichannel networks to be able to almost be the support system for all the top people on the site, even the tiny people on the site, that are trying to become bigger. All these networks, like Maker Studios
, Big Frame
-- I think there’s a good couple hundred now, if not more, that all have been making people sign contracts with them, similar to how an old, traditional Hollywood studio would, where they’re owning IP [intellectual property] for doing almost nothing for the people.”
Brothers Benny (left) and Rafi Fine aren’t just two of YouTube’s biggest names; they’ve emerged as “elder statesmen” of the YouTube generation.
Even though getting started on YouTube is a lot easier than getting started on television -- all a person needs is a video camera and an internet connection -- getting attention is another matter. Online networks help a fledgling show get viewers by putting it in front of an established audience. That’s gold to young talent, and often they’ll sign too much away in an effort to get there.
“A lot of these networks try their best to get these people to not even show their contracts to lawyers. Like it’s part of their business practices to try to get them to sign it without showing a lawyer. There’s various things that are going on -- such as 50 percent ownership over a channel -- that we’re very much trying to make sure that people understand that they need to be very careful when they come to networks,” Rafi said. “We do believe that the future is with these networks. But the networks have to be far better at giving good deals and being good partners for these rising stars.”
“Hopefully, as time goes on and on and on, change will continue for the better,” Benny said.
The Fine Brothers Are on the Rise
The brothers didn’t achieve their trusted uncle, or grandfather, status overnight. While they’re a blip in mainstream consciousness, they’re huge on YouTube thanks to the clever and funny videos they’ve been turning out for years. They achieved early fame with a series of spoiler videos. In these, the brothers face the camera directly and reveal the endings to as many movies they can as quickly as they can, all in one take. Always ready to milk success, the brothers extended this idea with genre spoiler videos, such as horror spoilers and Oscar spoilers.
The Fine Brothers are best known for their React series of videos. Working with a beautifully simple concept, they show viral video hits to kids and record their reactions. They extended the Kids React idea with Teens React, Elders React, and even YouTubers React. In that last one, YouTube giants such as Shane Dawson and Smosh react to viral hits they’ve usually seen before. Tay Zonday reacting
to his own “Chocolate Rain” is sublime. “Oh boy,” he sighs, looking less than enthused.
All that attention led to the brothers getting a channel in YouTube’s original channel initiative. “In 2012, between our channels, we put up 450 videos,” Rafi said. “So more than a video a day if you average it out. Right now, there are ten people that work for us, most of which though are all working on ‘My Music,’
which is the name of the sitcom that is part of the YouTube Originals initiative. So the React team is really just us and like one and a half other people. It’s a tight operation, but we pull it off.”
A Lifetime in Video
While the brothers are still young men, their success has been anything but overnight. All they’ve achieved now is built on work that goes back to their teen years.
“We were making feature-length films when we were teenagers that got into some small comedy film festivals back around 2000–2001,” Benny said. At the time we thought, ‘Okay, this is how a couple of former Orthodox Jews are going to break into the business.’“
A giant on YouTube but not the rest of the Web, Maker appears to be looking for a broader reach and greater revenues.