YouTube’s first transmedia sitcom goes above and beyond

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With YouTube just about to celebrate its 7th anniversary (quick, everyone send socks to San Bruno!), it makes sense to look at one of the more ambitious series to come out of its recent Made For Web initiative: The Fine Brothers’ MyMusic, a sitcom surrounded by a feast of auxiliary content.

The Fine Brothers have a long-established reputation for trying new things with web content, from experimenting with interactive YouTube games to creating a whole fake social network to support a series about social media profiles. And this year, they’re using YouTube’s money to create not just a show, but a fully immersive social media experience — as well as not one but three show-within-a-shows.

The premise of MyMusic is relatively simple: The primary series, an Office-esque sitcom, charts the wacky antics of a transmedia production company focused on music, shot in semi-regular blocks.

On top of that, though, there are three side series being produced every week: The Mosh, an interactive Q&A series, music news show MyMusic News, and a live variety show featuring comedians and musicians (past guests include The Jezebels and Rhett and Link).

Each show is hosted by at least one of the show’s characters, who also have vibrant social media profiles across a minimum of three social networks — each. Between Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Twitter, that’s a total of 25 profiles, each being updated multiple times daily. According to co-creator Benny Fine via IM, there are over 40,000 people following the characters and the company on services outside of YouTube.

Making it happen, said Fine, are 11 full-time staffers “wearing many hats,” including two full-time writers whose duties include the social media element.

“To do this ambitious project with three weekly shows you need manpower, and it’s still not enough,” Fine added. To accomodate the demanding production schedule, the Brothers have had to scale back on their other series, including Kids React and Spoilers.

The cast includes a mix of TV-born and web-born talent, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Adam Busch and My Damn Channel It Girl Grace Helbig. “We really wanted a mix of more traditional TV actors to mix in with YouTube talent, continually wanting to show talent is talent no matter where it originates,” Fine said.

Along the theme of mixing TV and web styles: The comedy component of MyMusic is released as short-form episodes every Sunday. But then, once every seven weeks, the preceding episodes will be cut together as a TV sitcom-length catch-up episode — certain scenes will even be reshot to make sure that the catch-up episode works as a seamless experience.

Thus, by the end of MyMusic‘s 49-week first season, the team will have created a six-episode season of a TV series, “written in a way to have the content fully work as a web series or a sitcom,” Fine said. “We’re the only one in [the Made For Web] initiative, to our knowledge, making a full-on sitcom.”

Since the show’s launch a month ago, the MyMusic channel has racked up over 2.2 million views across all its various series. Is that enough to be considered a success? The Fine Brothers are torn. According to Rafi Fine, “Views are one thing, but who’s to say what number makes advertisers come on board, make YouTube happy and make a sustainable business to keep the show going?”

But for Benny, “Having 100,000 views an episode or more, all year long, for a scripted show online is not something that’s really been done. And being able to see the tens of thousands that are so engaged with this world — that’s success to me as an artist.”

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