Burnie Burns, who helped grow Rooster Teeth from a hit show (Red vs. Blue) into a thriving 300-person digital media empire, shared tips with aspiring creators during an intimate discussion at VidCon today entitled Gaming New Media.
Burns, 44, who founded Rooster Teeth before YouTube existed back in 2003, discussed the importance of honing a diversified business with varied revenue streams — especially in light of the YouTube ‘Adpocalypse’, in which many creators have seen their ad revenues plummet. Burns said that, in building Rooster Teeth, he aimed to never let any one tier of the business comprise more than 30% of the company’s total earnings.
In the very beginning, Rooster Teeth started vending video subscriptions and DVDs, Burns said, before branching out into merchandise and live events. Pre-roll ads on YouTube were the final piece of the puzzle. As a result, the company has emerged from the Adpocalypse relatively unscathed.
And whereas creators may fear that launching new businesses might be offputting to fans, Burns says they actually tend to present new opportunities for engagement. Events like RTX, which expects to welcome 60,000 guests in Austin next month, have opened up a two-way dialogue between Rooster Teeth and its fans, while selling T-shirts enables members of the community to identify and interface with one another IRL.
Looking ahead to future endeavors, Burns said he always strives to keep in mind that “the internet demands progress, but hates change.” It takes time for people to acclimate to new mediums and shows — and, therefore, persistence is key. For instance, when Rooster Teeth launched the gaming competition series The Gauntlet in 2012, it was met with criticism. After a few alterations, however, the show ultimately became a predecessor to Rooster Teeth’s massively popular Let’s Play gaming channel.