SANTA ANA, California – Many great YouTubers make money from advertising on their videos. Not the Carnation Boys. The creators often and proudly state that despite regular video uploads, high views and millions of loyal subscribers, they do not generate any income with the platform.
The fact that your channel is not generating any income is neither coincidental nor coincidental. Their videos revolve around allied parties and elaborate pranks that sometimes encourage illegal activity. They drink and curse and make rude jokes in front of the camera. The police show a lot.
YouTube doesn’t love that. Because of this, last year, after a series of incidents where the group encouraged fans to disregard Covid-19’s safety guidelines, Carnation’s sewer was dismantled.
The Nelk Boys’ answer: Who cares? Ads weren’t a big part of their livelihood.
“In every video we swear we’re doing things that might be questionable or illegal, we’re making sexual innuendos or drug references,” said Kyle Forgeard, 26, the group leader. “So we didn’t make any money on YouTube at all.”
Instead, they sold their 6.6 million fans the Nelk Lifestyle, which is both a state of mind and a growing line of subscriptions and products, all of which are grouped under the cryptic catchphrase “Anything But a Brother.”
“At first it meant partying, but now it has evolved into ‘any activity you do do your best,'” said Mr. Forgeard. “When you’re in the gym, you have to send the gym full up.”
And while their work on YouTube can often seem like a game, a visit to Nelk’s headquarters painted a much more serene and corporate picture of full send life.
All in one working day
Outside a nondescript building in a modest office park in Santa Ana, California, there were few signs of the Nelk Boys, other than a truck with suitcases from the group’s new hard-seltzer, Happy Dad, and a bright red Lamborghini with “Full Send” emblazoned on the hood.
There was a similar silence inside. During the reporter’s visit, most of the staff in the open plan office worked with their heads down on videos and business development.
The scene in the office – and later in the sprawling house the boys live in – was a stark contrast to Nelk’s public image.
“If you’ve taken the frats shown in college movies of the 80s and 90s and given them the technology of 2021 America, that’s basically what Nelk is,” said Joshua Cohen, founder of Tube filter, a website dedicated to the creator economy. “They are popular because they always look like they are having fun and embody this seemingly idyllic party life.”
The members of the group not only go full send with their parties, they also have issued as a real estate agent and fortune teller; QR codes changed on the menus of restaurants; trolls Trump supporters (then met with the former president); and Zoom-bombed Distance learning – anything to piss off their fans and ruffle other people’s feathers.
“If you’re a certain guy, that seems very cool,” said Mr. Cohen.
Nelk was first founded in 2010 when Mr. Forgeard was a freshman in high school. The name was an acronym and stood for its original jokes: Nick, Elliot, Lucas, and Kyle, who grew up together in Mississauga, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. The “N” and “E” didn’t last too long, but the “L” – Lucas Gasparini – continued to record and upload videos with Mr. Forgeard.
Early on, Nelk’s YouTube channel was grossing around $ 500 a month in ad revenue, a sum based on the number of impressions on each video. “We made more money on YouTube then than we do today,” Forgeard said. When that number rose to $ 5,000 a month in 2014, Mr. Forgeard and Jesse Sebastiani, another member of Nelk, moved from Toronto to an apartment in downtown Los Angeles.
Her first big hit came in 2015 when Mr. Forgeard and his friends putting a large pack of Coca-Cola in the trunk of a car and began offering “Cola” to passers-by in Venice Beach. It wasn’t long before the police showed up; When they opened the trunk, the officers burst out laughing. The video was instantly an Nelk classic and garnered more than 44 million views.
‘Full send’ go to full send
Over the years the Nelk Boys have toured the country filming pranks, parties, and nurturing new talent. Steve Deleonardis, 22, joined the group in 2018, and Salim Sirur, a 19-year-old from San Jose, California, joined the group last year after Mr. Forgeard discovered him online.
The guys always stuck to their tried and tested methods: getting a little crazy in the service of the brand.
In 2020, however, the group went a little further with their antics. After Nelk promoted a personal college party at Illinois State University last September, YouTube demonetized their channel, citing a violation of the platform’s “Creator Responsibility” policy, stating that the guys were “a widespread risk.” for public health ”.
“We had nowhere to go initially so we tried to get it working by filming around the house,” Mr Forgeard said of the pandemic, “but Nelk is so travel based, that was our whole business being a travel . “Show.” (They eventually stopped promoting their stops to prevent large crowds.)
“Many YouTubers pretend they have been trained by the press,” says John Shahidi, one of the group’s business partners. “At Nelk you get what you see.”
Mr. Forgeard said that’s what isolates them from backlash: backlash is part of their brand. “A lot of YouTubers are fake, or they’re so great online. Then you go to a party in LA and they do drugs in the bathroom, ”he said. “We were always real, we didn’t want to be a fake for the camera.”
In the winter of 2020, Mr. Shahidi joined as President of the Nelk business, including the Full Send merch line; he encouraged Mr. Forgeard and Mr. Deleonardis to focus more on marketing their lifestyle through products. He also brought in his brother Sam Shahidi to oversee Nelk and Happy Dad at the executive level.
According to the company, Nelk sold $ 50 million in full send merchandise last year and could top $ 70 million this year. Merch is sold in limited “drops”, so the hype remains high. Commenting on the tens of millions of dollars in revenue, Mr. Cohen at Tubefilter said, “Those numbers are really high, but when you look at the top YouTubers and online video stars, they can do just that. ”
Happy Dad’s Hard Seltzer line also brings in a lot of money. When the drink was released in June, noisy fans lined up outside some stores to meet the creators. The Selzer quickly Sold out online and in liquor stores across California.
“YouTube money is pennies compared to building a business like a seltzer,” said Mr. Forgeard. “We’re not going to sacrifice or change our content to make $ 500,000 a month on YouTube,” he added. “Maybe we won’t buy lambos like other YouTubers in the short term, but we could have a billion-dollar business in hand with this tough seltzer.”
Happy Dad is only the first step to a hoped-for entire line of products and services. John Shahidi envisions that one day Nelk will compete with multinational corporations like Amazon, Anheuser Bush and Apple.
“We can build pretty much anything with our audience,” said Mr. Forgeard. “Maybe we could start a men’s grooming company or sell condoms if we wanted to. We could open full-send gyms. We could deliver pizza. “
Mr Shahidi said they could “have a network of drivers who can eventually deliver whatever is in our ecosystem – whether it’s a hoodie or a 12-pack Happy Dad or a protein bar”.
One way that Nelk won’t make any money is with pump-and-dump cryptosystems, the have become popular with other influencers. You recently warned fans in a Twitter post not to invest in alt currencies that are being sold by creators. “If you TRUST them all and invest, they will sell and make a lot of money with YOU!” read the tweet. “Don’t fall for it.”
The group recently jetted across the country promoting Happy Dad, meeting fans, and of course getting into trouble.
In April there was Mr. Forgeardard arrested on charges of riding a Segway through a mall and posing as a security guard for a video. The charges were later dropped, but the hashtag #FreeKyle was trending on Twitter and fans were raising money for his bail.
For some makers it would have been a scandal. It was a boost for the Nelk Boys. “Once you have your own platform,” said Mr. Forgeard, “you can do what you want.”