Music has always been the soul of Shots Studios and its creators. That’s why every member of the eclectic Shots team — from comedians to dancers, singers and producers — is crucial to its continued success. They’re all clearly doing something right: across all YouTube channels, Shots Studios accounts for over 40 million minutes viewed per day on YouTube alone.
“Our goal is to make timeless content,” says Shots Studios CEO John Shahidi. “Music is for everyone. Our vision is to create different types of music to make our content even better.”
Shots Studios was originally founded as a mobile gaming company by John and his brother, Sam Shahidi. In 2013, the company launched a social app (Shots) that generated a user-base of over 10 million — including eventual Shots Studios digital creators Rudy Mancuso (comedian/musician) and comedian/actor Lele Pons. After discovering the digital creators, the company launched a production studio and management company to help spread their original content to every corner of the digital world.
Together, they’ve begun making considerable noise in the music industry thanks to Mancuso’s recent debut single, a piano-based, latin-sounding song called “Black & White,” that was co-written by Poo Bear — a Grammy-winning producer/singer-songwriter (and recurring Shots collaborator) — who has vocals on the track; Swedish DJ Alesso and Brazilian pop star Anitta‘s new single “Is That For Me”; and Alesso’s other single (co-produced by watt, another Shots Studios artist) “Let Me Go” — featuring Hailee Steinfeld and Florida Georgia Line.
Shots Studios labels itself a family as much as it does a management and production company. They pride themselves on the unwavering support they show each other and their ability to do virtually everything in-house.
An example of that all-together vibe is last week’s YouTube posting of a video featuring comedian and digital creator Anwar Jibawi dancing to Alesso and Anitta‘s “Is That For Me” in a luxurious beach-side house in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, choreographed and directed by Mancuso — the perfect illustration of Shots coming into its own. All four artists are signed to Shots Studios.
“Every member of the Shots family is creative,” says Alesso, who signed with Shots in early September. “We can all just bounce ideas off each other. Great music has to be authentic, and it needs to tell a story. Comedy and drama are the same. It’s why it can all happen at the same time. Shots’ ability to do handle everything ourselves is one of the most unique and attractive aspects of being here.”
Mancuso is a self-taught musician, one of Shots’ original creators on the roster (along with Lele Pons), and “Black & White” is his first proper single. Mancuso launched the first Shots Studios channel when he partnered to create the original series Awkward Puppets, where Mancuso puppeteers a character named Diego, who goes on various adventures and interviews stars including Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber.
“Music is everything to me,” Mancuso says. “Watching my single come together like that was a dream come true. I work hard on every single video I put out, but ‘Black & White’ will always hold a special place in my heart.”
In the music video, Mancuso’s face is gradually painted black and white to resemble a keyboard as the song progresses. He tries to escape dancers in all-black and all-white spandex costumes until, by the end, he submits — matching the song’s narrative but dually symbolic of the way music consumes him.
The tattoos on Mancuso’s arms, piano keys and the word “MUSICA,” let anyone know where his heart has always been, and loyal followers of Mancuso know that this is not close to Mancuso’s debut in music. Sift through his YouTube channel — which boasts over 3.2 million subscribers (with more than 5 million followers on Instagram) — and music is somehow featured in nearly every video, even the ones where comedy is the primary intent.
There are videos of Mancuso using car doors as instruments, playing a “magical drum” in Brazil, remixing Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and a silent short titled “Love” backed by a piano composition that brings to mind silent film star Charlie Chaplin. While his iTunes or Spotify listing only contains one song for now, his musical catalog is diverse.
Mancuso’s first experience performing live was opening for Bieber, an early Shots investor, earlier this year during the pop star’s Purpose Stadium Tour dates in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil (Mancuso is part-Brazilian) — in front of at least 45,000 people each night.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Mancuso says. “The energy just makes you want to do more and more.”
That attitude, to do more and more with music, permeates Shots.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” says Lele Pons, who frequently posts choreographed videos to her YouTube channel and has a cameo in Camila Cabello‘s “Havana” clip. “I’m always listening to it and dancing to it and, even though I don’t record it, I try to find ways to include that in my videos.”
Pons’ YouTube channel launched with Shots Studios in mid-2016 and since then has garnered over 800 million views. She also ranks in the top 3 producers of all Instagram Stories with over 19 million followers.
Similar to Pons, Shots Studios creator Inanna Sarkis intentionally weaves her musical background into her YouTube videos. Sarkis, additionally, is a classically trained pianist. And, like all Shots Studios creators, Sarkis doesn’t see YouTube as the end goal. “Music helps set the tone and the mood,” she explains. “I put together the soundtrack for my first short film at Coachella and I’m composing the music for my second one, which I might even record some vocals for.”
Shots Studios has built an empire on a well-versed dedication to understanding and implementing viewing — and now listening — engagement analytics. They have, in short, put their time in. This has helped the company create over 1,000 YouTube videos in less than two years with 81 percent of their videos being watched until the end, according to numbers provided by the company.
The innovative studio now wants to transfer the same model that has helped it flood YouTube over to success on Spotify, Apple Music and eventually Netflix and YouTube Red.
The plan is simple: merge into the music industry — new platforms and mediums — while never forgetting the unorthodox roots from which it all blossomed.