Reaction channels are just one of the latest innovations in the ever changing music landscape.
You can’t avoid reaction channels these days, they have built themselves up to where they reach well beyond their YouTube home. Instagram and Twitter are spaces you will likely find them, but also on sites like Patreon and sometimes even their own websites where they’ll have merch. You’ve got notable faces from that scene like LeeToTheVI, Denz & Renz, Dan & Kaz, ProdByWalkz, as well as international names like NoLifeShaq. But reaction videos haven’t always been such an integral part of the musical landscape.
For some, reaction channels may be relatively new but the earliest channels that dedicated themselves to the medium came about roughly four years ago. The pioneers of the medium were TooBluntTV in America and Deeps Speaks in the UK. With Deeps to this day still posting reaction videos on his channel, and a lot of the newer more recognisable names know that’s where it started. They kicked things off but what made the videos stick initially was TooBlunt, more because he was someone not from the UK shedding a light on the music. At the time US and UK collaborations on tracks had really slowed down so to have that connection was a big thing.
Beyond just paying homage to the UK scene and showing that appreciation, which gained UK fans, he also brought the music over to an American audience. That is no small feat, and its importance can’t be understated. The best messenger is one that’s familiar. Most people don’t openly just accept new things, especially if they feel like its being imposed on them. Music and its fans are the same. US fans didn’t respond that well to UK music for a long time because there was a disconnect and they hadn’t had somebody they could relate to putting them onto stuff from the UK that worked for them. TooBlunt changed that big time.
Despite not being American himself, him being based there meant the American audience were more willing to listen to what he had to say. He also more closely reflected their views so his voice was one that was believable to them. This and the fact that the US is huge population wise led to his channel growing extremely quickly with fans from the UK and US getting behind him. It was his success that spurred on other American channels like ZIAS! to start reacting to UK music and so the cycle continued. Today if you search reaction videos on YouTube you will see a number of people from across the globe have adopted the model of reacting to music specifically not from their countries because of what the people before them have done.
Over on the UK side things took a different route however with a focus on UK sounds. Deeps Speaks is a UK channel that reacts to UK music, so of course it didn’t take too long for people to start paying attention. He mixed reacting to culturally important songs, like the ones from the Chip and Yungen back and forth, with music from artists he rated or suggestions from commenters and subscribers. This meant he often reacted to artists that were either brand new or artists that don’t always get a look in. That of course helped as artists who don’t always tend to get a look in will usually have fan bases that will pay attention to anything relating to them. With Deeps Speaks growing other UK reaction channels began to pop up including some of the aforementioned names like LeeToTheVI and Walkz.
The UK and US also diverged on their paths with joint reactions, which was an inevitable step in building the reaction channel formula and community. In the US they would tend to show music to their friends, barbers, or even stranger – but largely people who didn’t have reaction channels. In the UK whilst some did just bring friends in the move that was more powerful was reactors coming together to react to videos or even projects together. The best examples of this are the three UK channels I’ve mentioned the most as they have worked together several times, sometimes all three personalities at the same time and other times just two of the channels coming together.
That has been key for supporters getting new content and engaging with other personalities, but it’s also helped foster each channels community into something bigger. The supporters are of course the core of the reaction channels as without them nothing would have really happened. From the early days of the channel they are the people that helped the content creators by suggesting music to react to, giving feedback, as well as video ideas. It’s this interactive element that made reaction channels what they are and has kept them so relevant up to today. The supporters also help to fund these channels and not just through providing the views which the channels get paid for. They pay for merch as well as some giving donations which has made Patreon a viable platform for reactors.
Patreon, unlike YouTube, isn’t plagued with the same copyright issues so reaction channels have a lot more freedom over there and that’s where they drop a lot of exclusive content. Patreon allows people to pay for access on a subscription basis and the content creators take a lot more of that money than they do per YouTube view. It wouldn’t be surprising if Patreon becomes the home of reaction channels in the near future, especially for the creators that intend to make it a prominent income stream for them.
Reaction channels today tend to be some of the most active channels with content coming out daily from most, sometimes with multiple videos in a day. They are usually the ones with their finger on the button in terms of popular music’s pulse and are a good way to keep updated on most releases. They can even act as a filter for what’s worth a listen and what isn’t and their opinions have become so trusted some have even moved into other content spaces off the back of the reaction channel model.