I co-founded DFTBA Records with Hank Green in 2008. DFTBA is an initialism for Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.
Hank and I had collaborated on a few videos and smaller projects before DFTBA, so when I had the idea for a record label that catered only to YouTube musicians Hank was the first person I told. He was very excited about the idea and we partnered to make it a reality.
Hank and I announced the launch of DFTBA Records on both the vlogbrothers channel and fiveawesomeguys channel on the same day. We signed a few of our YouTube friends, including DaveDays, Charlie McDonnell, and Molly Lewis. We grew slow but steady after launch, and just one year after our announcement, we were named “Best Online Music Label of the Year” by Mashable.
On September 28, 2009, YouTube wrote a blog post about DFTBA Records and let us take over the front page for 48 hours to feature a few of our musicians and music videos.
While we only offered CDs and digital downloads at the beginning, we expanded pretty quickly into other merch, including t-shirts and posters. Later we manufactured books, mugs, bookmarks, DVD box sets, decals, keychains, plushies, lapel pins, and more.
By our second full year we were selling over $1 Million in merch annually and had dozens of YouTubers and online content creators working with us, from big names like Smosh and Rhett & Link to lesser-known but awesome creators like Dr. Noise and Karen Kavett.
In 2010 we launched the DFTBA Radio Hour, a weekly live podcast that played music by our artists, hosted by Todd Williams and Caitlin Sky. 65 episodes of the DFTBA Radio Hour were recorded before the show ended and instant streaming of music previews were added to dftba.com
By our fifth year we were selling over $3 Million in merch annually and moved the entire company from Chicago, IL, where I lived, to Missoula, MT, where Hank lived.
I moved out to Montana along with the company and worked with the new Missoula staff for a year before selling my share of DFTBA Records in June of 2014. I sold my stake to Hank and his brother John, so the company “stayed in the family”, as it were. I felt like I had taken DFTBA Records as far as I could and it was time to turn it over to more experienced hands.
I am extremely proud of this small (and then not-so-small) business and all of the awesome projects we got to work on and help produce over the years. DFTBA Records changed the lives of so many content creators, while also changing my life. And even though I’m no longer involved in the company, I still support their mission one-hundred percent.