In this week’s web series lesson we look at the #36 most subscribed YouTube channel, Epic Rap Battles, and learn a few secrets about perfect programming.

Epic Rap Battles of History

Epic Rap Battles of History is a web series and channel created by YouTubers Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd and produced at Maker Studios. Each video stars at least two pop-culture icons squaring off in a vicious and hilarious rap battle – complete with loud music, loud costumes and loud visuals. Enjoy the latest holiday entry for yourself “Moses vs. Santa Claus”:

For video creators and marketers, Epic Rap Battles is a perfect case study of programming from the YouTube Creators Playbook.

Captivate Your Audience

Epic Rap Battles has a consistent and predictable formula that captivates the audience.

Epic Rap Battles answers the “what am I watching?” question immediately. Every video hooks the viewer with captivating branding and a declaration of who is battling. After 7 seconds you know you’re watching “Epic Rap Battles of History: Stephen Hawking VS Albert Einstein”. Now that attention is captured, Epic Rap Battles keeps you watching with a relentlessly paced music video with 2 verses by each character. The content is always short enough to leave you wanting more – which means you’ll reach the end-slate and likely click-through for more videos.

If YouTube audiences subscribe for “more of the same”, do your different types of videos belong on a single channel or multiple? Epic Rap Battles produces a Behind the Scenes video for every music video and uploads it to a separate channel,, to help curate the programming for viewers. If you subscribe to the main channel you only receive music videos and scripted content. If you want a bit more depth and behind the scenes you can also subscribe to /ERB2. (If you want to know what Nice Peter ate for breakfast you can subscribe to NicePeterToo.) However this doesn’t mean every new show deserves it’s own channel. If Epic Rap Battles made tutorials it could go on /ERB2 (unscripted) and new music video concepts could be uploaded to /ERB (scripted). Programming is about the single, themed experience for your viewer.

But Epic Rap Battles has struggled with consistent programming. It’s clear from the behind the scenes Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd put a high level of polish on lyrics, editing, production value and well, everything. Due to variable creative turnaround and production, videos would be uploaded at random and far between. They recently began addressing this issue by announcing a new video every 2 weeks… until the Holidays. Even with a short term commitment Epic Rap Battles is balancing consistent quality with consistent programming – a smart strategy so you don’t get burned out.

Pop-Culture & Tent-Pole Programming

The controversial and provocative tone of the rap battles lends a share-worthy emotion for viewers. This is only enhanced by pop-culture and tent-pole events . Does your programming allow you to appeal to both niche and broad audiences ? Epic Rap Battles programming provides an opportunity to reach a new audience with every upload while satisfying a large base of pop-culture fans. “Stephen Hawking vs. Albert Einstein” certainly reached deep into the nerd/science community while “Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare” made great fun for literature fans and “Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates” was featured on every major tech blog.

Epic Rap Battles served up tent-pole programming genius like “Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney” which dropped 1 week before election day and spoon fed every audience and blog on the internet with content they craved.

You may have also noticed the holiday video “Moses vs. Santa Claus” above featuring Snoop Lion (Dogg)? Epic Rap Battles uses cross-collaboration to promote their videos across the YouTube community and reach new audiences. ERB has featured major YouTube talent like Rhett & Link, George Watsky, AlphaCat, DeStorm, PrankVsPrank and more. The Snoop Lion collaboration is the apex of cross-collaboration and tent-pole programming!

Calls To Action

“WHO WON? WHO’S NEXT? YOU DECIDE!” is the elegant call-to-action for viewers to comment on the video. It’s only natural for viewers to share their opinion on who won. Viewers also get to submit ideas for future videos which Epic Rap Battles will give you credit if they select yours. How can your programming prompt a natural call-to-action for viewers?

The end-slate provides viewers with a simple call-to-action choice: “More Battles” or “Behind the Scenes”. Below the content calls-to-action are annotations to get Merchandise and download the song from iTunes.


While YouTube advertising allows a certain degree of monetization of your content, YouTube knows video commerce can be extremely lucrative for creators and brands. How will you bake in a monetization strategy for your programming? Every video from Epic Rap Battles has a song available for download on iTunes and a limited edition T-shirt. And the click-throughs are pretty good. Over 92,000 people clicked their link to download the “Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates” song on iTunes. Epic Rap Battles maintains its own site to provide more value to its fans and monetization opportunities off YouTube.

Who won? Who’s next? Who has questions & comments? Leave a message below!