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Collins and Devan Key on Building 19.5 Million Subscriber YouTube Channel: “You’re Never Too Old to Play Around and Have Fun!” (Exclusive)

Collins and Devan Key are among one of the most popular digital entertainers today. With a YouTube following of over 19.5 million subscribers, their content has been referred to as “this generation’s Saturday morning TV.” Collins had exploded onto the scene in 2013 at 16 years old as a fan favorite as well as a […]

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Collins and Devan Key are among one of the most popular digital entertainers today. With a YouTube following of over 19.5 million subscribers, their content has been referred to as “this generation’s Saturday morning TV.” Collins had exploded onto the scene in 2013 at 16 years old as a fan favorite as well as a finalist on America’s Got Talent and had also opened for Demi Lovato on her tour. He was the 1st digital creator to be given the opportunity to create and produce six weeks of interstitial content for the Disney Channel.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and what made you start creating content on YouTube.

COLLINS: Devan and I both fell in love with entertaining at the age of four, which is when we both began performing in Shakespeare plays. From there, Devan found a passion for art when he was 10 years old, and at 12, I came across the art form of magic. When YouTube came along, we saw it as an incredible opportunity where we could take our unique backgrounds of magic, art and performing and combine them to create something very new and special on YouTube.

How do you get your ideas for the content you create on YouTube?

COLLINS: Our fans play a huge part in the creation of our content. They are so engaged with the videos that they’re constantly commenting suggestions of what they would love to see next. And a big principle that we have for our channel is that our content should be dependable without being predictable, meaning we want the audience to know that when they click on a Collins Key video it’s going to be fun, energetic, upbeat, and it’s going to leave you with an enthusiasm for life. But what we don’t want is our content to be predictable.

DEVAN: So, the way that we deliver that experience needs to be different each time. Our fans often give us great suggestions for videos they want to see and then it’s our job to come up with a unique and creative way of presenting it.

What are some standout, favorite videos that you have done?

COLLINS: This is such a hard question because we literally have to pinch ourselves every day that this is actually what we get to do. We love every single video that we’ve made, and we just feel so fortunate that our fans love watching the crazy things we do.

DEVAN: One that jumps out to me is when we filled our pool with 10,000 pounds of slime and had to replace our entire backyard after. And of course there are videos like the pancake art challenge that just come out of nowhere. We liked the idea and thought it might do well, but had no idea just how well received it would actually be.

COLLINS: That’s the great part about our channel, it’s all about the idea that, “you’re never too old to play around and have fun!”

Are there any collaborations you have done that stand out to you the most?

COLLINS: One of my favorite collaborations is when I got to work with AT&T on a series called The Disappearing Girl, which was a first of its kind digital show that was was told across all social platforms, with an interactive scavenger hunt component that allowed the fans to help shape the story as it unfolded. I was beyond humbled and thrilled when it went on to win a Shorty Award, an AdWeek Arc Award, Streamy Award and Cannes Lions even did a case study on it.

What does your content creation process look like?

COLLINS: It really starts off with the idea for the video, which again oftentimes is generated by the fans. And then from there, my brother and I just brainstorm as much as possible on how we can make this the most entertaining video possible. Each video is a unique process, but it ultimately starts with us throwing crazy ideas on a white board and going from there.

DEVAN: In the beginning, there are no bad ideas. Once we have enough strong ideas on the board, we of course go into the feasibility of it all. But even though this part can get a little analytical, it’s important for us to keep in mind that our end goal is to create content that represents a safe place where they can escape anything that may be going on in their life, and enter a world that is all about the exploration of fun and crazy ideas.

What are some tips for those who want to start a YouTube channel?

COLLINS: The most important thing with starting a YouTube channel is to really focus on something you’re actually excited about and something you have a lot of passion for because that’s really going to come through on camera.

I’ve seen YouTubers who have focused on a topic that no one else has made popular before, and because of how authentically excited they are about it, they single handedly popularize the genre.

DEVAN: A big thing on YouTube is authenticity; your audience can feel when you’re truly passionate and engaged in a topic and it’s going to make the content so much more captivating and enjoyable. Plus, there are so many people watching YouTube that chances are, there’s an audience who is interested in the same things you are.

Are there any new projects that you are working on that you can share?

COLLINS: We’ve got a whole lot planned for 2020 and beyond. Some really exciting work that we’re going to be doing with brands where they are actually collaborating with us to help create videos that we never even dreamed were possible. Stuff that involves breaking world records and a whole lot more.

DEVAN: When it comes to the actual business side of things, we have some new verticals that we’re going to be launching in 2020. Without giving too much away, 2020 is going to be a really exciting year for us and we can’t wait to see what it has in store.

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