Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat and other felines are helping cats (and their owners) build careers on and off YouTube.
The economy of Internet cat videos? Yes, it’s a real thing. The Internet Cat Video Festival? Another real thing. A “meme manager” whose job is to build online brands for Keyboard Cat, Nyan Cat and Grumpy Cat? Oh yes, he’s real too.
Funny cat videos were a thing long before YouTube, but cats of all shapes, sizes and degrees of grumpiness have become one of the defining content categories on Google’s video service.
A panel session at the SXSW conference (film, interactive, and music festivals) in Texas, United States this weekend dug into some of the business aspects around this phenomenon, helmed by Scott Stulen, curator of the Internet Cat Video Festival – a travelling jamboree of feline videos which sold 11,000 tickets at last year’s Minnesota State Fair – 3,000 more than Depeche Mode.
The festival has since toured the US, and popped up in Vienna (Austria), Jerusalem and Derry (Ireland). “At each of these events, people showed up their passion for cat videos,” said Stulen, who stressed that the festival itself is a “break-even” event: “It basically just pays for itself, and that’s been the intent from the beginning.”
Stulen was joined on the panel by Will Braden, creator of YouTube channel Henri le Chat Noir, a series of moody “existential” videos shot in black and white which has notched up more than 7.2 million views, plus another 10.9 million views for the first two videos on Braden’s personal channel.
“In no way did I ever think this was going to be a career, or any money was going to come out of it,” said Braden, who posted the first Henri video six years ago. “I just thought how exciting it was that I was getting millions of views for this video.”