Artists are always looking for different outlets through which to promote and monetize their brands. Before the emergence of the Internet and social media, it was much harder for independent talents to make a living off their products(at least in my opinion). With fast growing sites like YouTube, artists are able to target niche markets and organically build enough of a following for significant monetization. Such evolution in art distribution has given birth to new media artists. But what are the main differences between these talents and those in traditional media? Here is my personal comparison on the differences and the current pros and cons.
Being a YouTube partner is great in a sense because talents are able to produce content with creative freedom and receive income for it. Musician Paul Dateh told me, “One of the biggest advantages of being an independent new media artist is that you have the freedom to test new business models whenever they’re made available to you. You have direct control over when and how your content is distributed, and you can regularly make changes on the fly to suit your needs.” With the emergence of networks allowing partners to post more targeted ads on their channel for higher CPM’s and other benefits, there’s no question that ways to monetize YouTube traffic are evolving. According to YouTube, partner revenue has more than doubled for four years in a row and currently pays out six figures annually to hundreds of partners. Such statistics show that independent creatives are capable of earning a comfortable living through their user-generated content.
Another great benefit is that with Hollywood getting more and more interested in the scene, many artists have used YouTube as a stepping stone on their road to receiving mainstream recognition. Check out this recent video on SamMacaroni’s channel featuring YouTube personality Shay Carl with celebrities Steven Tyler and Jane Lynch.
From my perspective as an internet marketer in entertainment, one of the biggest downsides of being a YouTuber is that while there are certain exceptions, you’re typically not viewed the same as mainstream talent. Since most YouTubers fall into the category between “unknown artist” and celebrity, you have the benefits of earning money doing what you love, but you don’t hold the same brand equity as a traditional celebrity. For example, if you were to hire Rihanna to do a commercial on TV, there isn’t really a direct way to quantify how much return in investment that commercial has for your brand. Even if you can’t measure the impact of Rihanna’s commercial on sales, the fact that you can say a celebrity endorses your product already ups your brand value. With the emergence of online advertising, advertisers can measure exactly how much traffic you pulled to their site and the sales that result. So essentially, there’s less emphasis on advertisers hiring new media talent for their brand equity, and more on the bottom line: How much return can this investment bring to their company?
Another possible negative of being new media talent is that because you may lack the resources to produce your own content, you may have to learn to wear different hats. An aspiring musician may need to learn proper video production, or an actor may need edit their own clips because he/she lacks the financial stability to hire a professional.
I don’t think I need to really explain this part much. There’s no question that once you become a mainstream celebrity the combination of fame, endorsements, and the support of a quality network can help you earn an excellent living. In the recent movie “The Avengers,” Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly projected to earn 50 million dollars. With Discovery’s recent acquisition of Revision3 for a reported 30 million dollars, I think it’s safe to say this is a payday that an individual new media artist has currently yet to experience.
One other major benefit of being a celebrity is that it’s typically easier for you to gain a social media following because of your mainstream recognition. Remember Charlie Sheen when he got his first million followers on Twitter in less than two days of opening his account?
The two biggest negatives of being traditional media talent is 1. It’s harder to produce and distribute your work, and 2. Most of the time, you won’t have much creative freedom in the content you produce since you need to satisfy the big guy. For new media artists, they can make somewhat stable incomes monetizing their small followings online, while for anyone doing the traditional route, they could be stuck years without a steady income until their big break in a movie or on a record label.
So in the end, what is the better option? In all honesty, I personally don’t know! However, what I will say is that I find it funny that while a good portion of YouTube talent is using social media to build a nationally recognized brand, mainstream talents are all struggling to find out how to appeal to the new internet audience via social media. So what I will conclude with is that for new media artists that are thinking of using social media to build their mainstream brand, they should question the definition of “mainstream” and whether they might be already there.
Do you guys agree? Comment below with your thoughts!