Pioneer Video Producer Taro Koki is Now Using Social Media to Distribute Videos
Taro Koki was born in Japan but grew up most of his childhood life in the United States. As a child, he learned that Japanese pop culture was well received among his American classmates. Anime, manga books, figurines, funky snacks and of course cool cars. Japan was the land of all things “cool.” So when he moved back to Japan for college and several years later started his own video production company, he knew there was a demand for Japanese pop culture in the US.
Around the same time, videos from Japan started showing up at Japanese supermarkets in Southern California. This was late 90’s early 00’s and kids were all mesmerized with what the Japanese were doing to their cars in Japan. No one understood what they were saying in the videos but they could see all of the cool aftermarket products and tuning that was being done to the cars. Cars, which also weren’t being sold Stateside. The Nissan Skyline GT-R, NSX Type R, Nissan Silvia, Honda Civic Type R and so on. The only way to get the latest trends was by rushing to Mitsuwa Supermarket in Torrance on the first Monday of the month. I was one of these kids. By watching videos we learned about drifting. By looking at pictures we learned that we could actually take my mom’s old Civic hatchback, throw on a turbo and beat bigger cars off the line.
In 2001 Taro Koki utilized his bilingual skills and started publishing English version videos of the popular car video magazine Best Motoring for the US market. “We were an instant hit at the International Auto Salon(IAS)”, says Koki.
IAS was an event that SEMA threw at the Long Beach Convention Center in 2001, which targeted the young enthusiast market. Throughout the decade, Koki and his team continued their success with Best Motoring and also published a spin-off series called Hot Version. His DVDs were being sold at every Best Buy, Circuit City and mass retail stores around the country. It coincided with the Hollywood blockbuster, The Fast and the Furious and probably even contributed to the success with the groundwork that his titles laid out through true enthusiasts.
Then Bit Torrent and YouTube came along.
People started uploading music, movies and everything they can get their hands on. Koki’s videos were no exception.
Overnight, special interest DVD titles lost shelf space and Koki was forced to adapt to a new form of video production and distribution on the Internet. Videos had to be short form now. Story telling needed to be straight to the point before viewers click out. Headlines meant everything. Yet high production quality was demanded.
Turns out he’s even better at this new form than the old way. Since 2006, the videos which he produced, have gained over 130 Million views on YouTube, making him one of the most successful automotive video creators ever. The video he produced with the late Paul Walker now has over 18 Million views.
His original work is a combination of documentary and action. Many themes focus on challenges brought on to the main character or the car if that is the subject. But let’s not forget there’s plenty of humor in his line up too with works like Behind the Smoke and The World Flip A Bitch Contest. Recently he has been working with creators and directors around the world to develop videos for brands.
“Vision is something you come up with alone but you need to share it with everyone to make it happen”, says Koki about how far he’s come since the days of translating car videos.
Not everyone can produce videos that gets millions of views but the interesting thing about Koki and his GTChannel car video network is that it’s a network of video creators. Video creators that Koki and his staff mentor so they can become better automotive video creators. His vision is truly a video network of this new social media era.
There are approximately 700 automotive video creators in the GTChannel partner network. Collectively they generate over 45 Million views a month with over 3 Million subscribers. Koki’s vision has been to create a vast video network of automotive creators. Michael “SmurfinWRX” Nguyen is a creator that joined the GTChannel Partner Network in 2014. Since then his subscribership and monthly views have quadrupled thanks to the help of the advice that Koki’s staff offer.
Koki has brought in young talent to mentor by meeting them at car events, through referrals or just by surfing the internet. GTChannel has also partnered with United Artist Agency to link talent to brands and develop video concepts into non-scripted TV shows.
“Now with the internet, our audience is 100% global” he also adds. The US is his biggest market but the UK, Japan and Brazil are not far behind. One doesn’t have to run to a Japanese supermarket every month to get what they want anymore. Guys like Taro Koki have made it easy to enjoy automotive content whenever you want, wherever you are.