NOTE: This is the companion article to “Kian & JC: The Exclusive Interview.”
At Ace of Spades on a frigid Tuesday night, a throng of hundreds of teens and pre-teens began to bellow with enthusiasm as two young men bounded onto the main stage of the venue.
But the hysteria was neither over a band nor a solo artist; instead it was for Internet celebrities.
In the past few months Sacramento has played host to these new celebrities and their adoring fans who consistently number in the low thousands and are primed with homemade signs and gifts.
These fans are the bread and butter for celebrities like Kian Lawley and JC Caylen, the subjects of the super YouTube channel “Kian & JC,” which has more than 1.7 million subscribers on the platform.
“It’s not something that happened overnight we had to work for it,” said Lawley of his massive fan base.
In addition to their collaborative channel subscribers, both Lawley and Caylen have personal channels with 2 million subscribers each, as well as millions of followers on social media such as Twitter and Instagram, bringing their combined projected fan base in the high millions.
The fan base of celebrities like Lawley is due to the rapid democratization of the entertainment industry, according to his manager Andrew Graham.
Graham, a senior talent manager at Big Frame, said that the audience having complete control of what, when and how they consume media partnered with the ability to give real-time feedback is key to success. Graham stated that in a few years consumers will have a larger role in shaping what is being produced, eventually becoming producers themselves.
On their channel, Lawley and Caylen take part in “Jackass”-inspired challenges and pranks. Their most recent video event featured “Jackass” alum Steve-O, which as of this writing has 721,833 views since its posting on Oct. 28. A second video stars fellow YouTuber Ricky Dillon (2.6 million subscribers) where an elaborate home invasion was staged with the intent of scaring Dillon.
Before “Kian & JC” Lawley, Caylen and Dillon were part of a different collab channel called “Our 2nd Life” — O2L for short. The “O2L” content consisted of daily videos centering on a weekly theme. The channel has not produced any new content since January of this year.
Ace of Spades was the venue for the Sacramento stop of the “Tour before the Tour,” introducing the main tour for Kian & JC set for June 2016. The show started with a meet ‘n’ greet where fans were able to take pictures with Lawley and Caylen as well as an opportunity to give them gifts that range from scrapbooks and collages to human-sized stuffed animals.
The show started with a set by DJ James Yammouni (72,207 subscribers). When the show began, the audience started to chant, “Kian! JC!” until it became screams of hysteria when Lawley and Caylen entered the stage.
But this was not a concert. It was a set of “skits” that included everything from audience participation to shock collars, similar to the content on their channels.
During the show, the generation gap became a physical barricade with parents sitting either in the back or at the bar and their kids in the front jiving with the syncopation of the house music. At the bar, a father leaned to a mother and asked, “Who is this guy?” The mother just shrugged.
As a result of their large fan base, both Lawley and Caylen have begun pursuits in working in “traditional media.” Recently Lawley starred in “The Chosen,” a horror film about a little girl possessed by a demon. Caylen has spent the past few months in New Mexico shooting a web series that he hopes will be distrubted by either Hulu or Netflix.
“Traditional entertainment collaborators are still very green when it comes to our clients,” says Graham. “That said, over the course of 24 months, we’ve seen a wave of wins… as a result of industry-wide education.”
Lawley and Caylen are far from the first in this new generation of stars to catch the eye of traditional media. Last year Viner Cameron Dallas stared in “Expelled,” which was produced by Awesomeness TV and soon hit No. 1 on iTunes. Dallas will also be starring in “The Outfield” with fellow Viner Nash Grier. It is set for release next year. Smosh, an early YouTube channel with roots in Sacramento and a heaping 21 million subscribers, also came out with a movie this year that is currently streaming on Netflix.
“The big tour is going to be on steroids,” Lawley said enthusiastically.
“It will be bigger and better,” Caylen added. “Just trust us.”