Who would win in a rap battle, Adolf Hitler or Darth Vader? Maybe that question hasn’t exactly been gnawing at you, but in the cutthroat emerging market of Internet entertainment, writers, actors, and producers innovate tirelessly to get your attention.
One of the strangest commercial successes to rise from this crucible is the Epic Rap Battles of History, a YouTube musical-comedy series that now has more than 1.8 million subscribers. That’s a block of loyal fans that most TV stations would kill for.
Before hitting on success, the series creators, Lloyd Ahlquist and Peter Shukoff, each struggled for a decade in live comedy, doing cheap shows in cheap clubs anywhere they could. In 2010, Shukoff branched out into online videos, but few people even noticed his uninspired YouTube sketches and songs.
Finally, after a disappointing improvisational theater session in 2010, the two comics hit on an idea that consumers actually liked: the Epic Rap Battles of History.
Shukoff and Ahlquist made a couple of 2-minute rap-battle videos, and the viewers suddenly flocked to them in the millions. The advertisers followed. And fast as they could, the investors rolled in to support and improve the product with capital goods (like green-screen studios and closets full of wigs.)
Today, Shukoff and Ahlquist are the star talent in a booming new entertainment company; they’ve created 25 wildly successful epic rap battles of history; and they are making good money by doing what they love. That’s the power of the market.