The YouTube Boy Band — as a group of British vloggers styled themselves for a parody video — is not, technically speaking, a real music group. Its five members don’t sing, or dance, or even have a proper name. But the boy-band dynamics are there: Your front man is Alfie Deyes, 20, (2.1 million followers) who is currently one half of British YouTube’s most spazzed-about relationship; the cute one is Marcus Butler, 22 (2.3 million followers); there’s the old guy (Jim Chapman, 26, 1.4 million followers); the baby (Caspar Lee, 19, 2.1 million followers); and the other one (Joe Sugg, 22, 1.9 million followers, who could also sub in for the Cute One, depending on your preferences). Together they look like a boy band, with their fitted sweaters and gently electrocuted hair. (One Direction is a fashion inspiration, admits Marcus.) And then there are the teen girls who treat them like a boy band — commenting on their every video and screaming through their YouTube-tour appearances.
To earn this devotion, the boys just vlog a lot: about their vacations, or new apartments, or frozen-yogurt toppings. (Sugar highs seem to be a major source of inspiration.) Sometimes they’ll answer reader questions or open fan mail; occasionally they film a goofy challenge, like an attempt to consume 120 chicken nuggets in 20 minutes. (Current record: 43.) The five Brits operate as individual YouTubers, but they’ll all tell you that the big view counts came once they started appearing in each other’s videos, forming a gang of online — and real life, they swear — friends that includes the whole world via webcam. Their celebrity is based on a relentlessly sunny familiarity. “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Can you tell me one fact about yourself that nobody online knows?’ ” says Alfie. “And I honestly sat there for about five minutes. There’s not one thing I could think of about me that my viewers wouldn’t already know.”
With anywhere between one and three million (almost entirely female) subscribers each, the guys make enough off YouTube advertising and the occasional live tour to vlog full time. (Caspar’s budgeting: “I just drink water and eat rice, and I make it through.”) Some of them, like Marcus and Jim, hope to spin their vlogging fame into careers in music or television; others, like Alfie, have a hard time imagining anything beyond YouTube. And for Caspar, there are more immediate benefits. “I started YouTubing to impress the ladies somehow, and in the beginning it made it far worse, because I was that weird guy. But as soon as I got over 100,000 subscribers, I was able to talk to girls again.”