Hollywood And Vine: An Interview With King Bach
King Bach isn’t your normal YouTube star. Sure he’s got the stats, like being the most followed Viner of all time and having 15 million followers on Instagram, but he’s also a theatrically trained actor who has the most viewed movie on Netflix, ever.
If you don’t know who he is, you should. Next to Kevin Hart, he’s the most followed African American entertainer on social media.
Not a bad resume for a guy who was just posting videos in order to get acting work.
I sat down with King Bach and we talked about social media, influencer marketing, the future of digital media, and his charity work.
Tom Ward: Take us back to the beginning…Tell us about the apartment complex. You moved out here, from Florida, and in that apartment complex you had Logan and Jake Paul, Lele Pons, Amanda Cerny and all of thee huge stars now. But you were all in little apartments trying to make it.
King Bach: I wanted to move to the Hollywood area and there was this place called 1600 Vine, and Vine (the social media platform that made King Bach famous) didn’t even exist yet.
Ward: So you weren’t big when you came out?
Bach: No, I started from scratch when I came out. And the reason that I started doing these videos was that going to these auditions, I noticed that they kept giving these roles to people who already were somebody, like Marlon Wayans and Don Cheadle. I was like, “These guys aren’t actually auditioning for these roles.” So I thought to myself, “I need to make a following to break into this industry.” So I started making these YouTube videos, so I could make a reel. So I could show these directors and producers that I had talent. And in creating these reels and these videos, fans started to follow me.
Ward: So when you started, you weren’t trying to be a social media star. It was a means to an end. I’m going to make these videos in order to get more acting roles.
Bach: Exactly! And it just started happening. I got a couple million followers. The top 3 agencies were calling me to sign me…One of my first gigs was House Of Lies, with Don Cheadle. I did six episodes of that. I think I did five episodes on The Mindy Project. And then movies started coming. I did 50 Shades Of Black with Marlon Wayans.
Ward: So the roles were coming in, why continue with YouTube and the social media stuff?
Bach: The thing is, I could make six figures for doing a six second video. And I’m like, “Maybe keep up with this Vine thing a little bit!” Laughs
Ward: Amazing! Laughs. How long did it take you to build up your following on Vine? Was there a strategy behind Vine? Was it thought out, or were you just trying to make funny videos?
Bach: It definitely was thought out. I got to the point where I had a calendar and I wrote down what types of videos people liked the most…I would write down how many followers I got a day. I was getting 50,000-75,000 followers a day. Sometimes even 100,000 followers a day. That’s what kept me going. It became a game.
Ward: Your parents are both accountants…When did they get involved? Were they the grownups in the room?
Bach: At first, I didn’t even know what Vine was. I was just doing it to do it. I didn’t tell them about it. Like, “Hey, I’m moving to LA to make Vine videos.”
Ward: But you didn’t call your mom when you made that first big check?
Bach: Of course!
Ward: And what did she say?
Bach: They were like, “Nah. It’s not real.” But then they saw the bank account and it was real! Laughs. And the deals kept coming in. And I think what set me apart was that I was one of the first to do it, so it catapulted me so far ahead. I think the only other social media influencer, who’s African American, who’s ahead of me is Kevin Hart. He gives me advice all the time. He’s business oriented. He’s always thinking about the next move. He’s always 10 steps ahead. You see his clothing line. His collaborations with Nike.
Ward: Do brands get it (influencer marketing) yet?
Bach: They’re starting to get it. The problem with a lot of brands is they don’t let the influencers be hands on. They want to do it their way because they do all their research…but it doesn’t work like that. As an influencer, I go off of a feeling an emotions and I connect with my fans, so I know when to do something and how to do something…If a viewer feels that they’re being talked at, they’re going to reject it. But if they feel it’s natural...then they’re going to support it.
Ward: I see that a lot on social…and reality TV stars are the worst at it. I get it. They’ve got a small window of fame and it’s like, “What deals can I get?” And it’s the Daniel Wellington watches, or the eyewear, or the gummy vitamins or the teeth whiteners and all that stuff…how do they manage it? Those middle tiered influencers. How do they get income coming in, while still being true?
Bach: That’s actually a very good point you brought up. There are these people who have a high following but don’t know the value…They don’t have that Kevin Hart mentality. Not everyone has the business mindset. Another reason that I’m so successful is that you’ve got to know what to say “no” to.
Ward: Who else, other than yourself, has made the jump to traditional media successfully?
Bach: Jake Paul, he did the Disney show. Logan Paul, we did a movie together. But the problem…a lot of the social media stars they don’t take the craft seriously. A lot of them got famous by accident and then they say, “Oh. I want to be an actor.” Whereas, I’m theatrically trained. I did a masters program for acting on film. I take the craft very seriously. Every night, before I go to sleep, I’m watching a movie. I’m not watching for entertainment, I’m watching to study.
Ward: What trends do you see coming in the entertainment space? Where do you see it all going?
Bach: I see everyone going to Zeus! Laughs. Zeus is a subscription video that myself, Amanda Cerny, and Destorm Power created. And we just want to give premium content that the fans can go and subscribe and get to see their favorite social media stars, traditional stars, musicians, all in one area. The technology we have is like no other. The fans can actually purchase any kind of merch directly from the app.
Ward: The other thing that I was really impressed with was your charity work and your connection to Jamaica.
Bach: Every year I go down to Jamaica and give back to the kids. We do a celebrity sports camp, an actors workshop, a self-esteem workshop, a dance workshop, a music workshop, etc. And I bring all my actor friends down. So we do that, and then we have my NFL friends come out. Marshawn Lynch was down there last year. And they just teach them the fundamentals of the sport and it’s good for them to see because everyone tells them their story and how they got into it. And they can see that everyone is just a regular person. And anyone can make it, if you just apply yourself.