Entertainment talent and creators are increasingly writing their own tickets to fame or building their fanbases through viral online content.
That’s why Kai Gayoso, partner-digital for Range Media Partners, has a client roster that includes YouTubers Dhar Mann and chef Sohla El-Waylly, alongside actors Emilia Clarke and Gabrielle Union. When Gayoso thinks What the Future, he sees digital creators holding more sway with fans and brands.
Kate MacArthur: In the legacy entertainment industry, talent was largely discovered by an agent or studio and then carefully cultivated in that image created by this machine. How does that compare with creator talent today?
Kai Gayoso: Everybody loves being the person to say, “I found this person first, or I saw this person at 200 followers.” Then you see this personal investment in them over time because you were there so early. We are sometimes reacting to a talent that has been able to grow an audience really, really quickly. And then we are taking signals and indicators from the market that this is someone that people want to watch and they want to be, or they want to bring them into their life.
MacArthur: How did creators control their content in the past?
Gayoso: They were just ordinary people sharing narratives and slices of their life that people would find on YouTube and be like, “Oh, I feel seen,” or “This is someone who I know I can be friends with.” They produced their own content, they edited their own content, and they had the luxury of slow growth of an audience over time to really develop what their perspective and what their brand was.
MacArthur: How would you compare that to today?
Gayoso: The biggest difference with this generation of talent is these are kids that have grown up with every major generation of creators. All they know is fandom and star power. You also see it in the production quality. You’re seeing these hyper-produced vlogs or videos that look more like reality shows than they do traditional, digitally native content.
MacArthur: Where do you see that going in the future?
Gayoso: Right now, we’re in this hyper-sprint to be as relatable as possible. You’ll always have that top tier of talent that reaches the level where everyone in the world knows their name. But with the growth of back-end tools and the growth of monetization ecosystems, especially across the social platforms, there’s now this huge opportunity for hyper-focused vertical interests.
MacArthur: How do you mean?
Gayoso: It’s not enough to just be trying to appeal to as many viewers as possible. The way forward is going to be: What is my own personal passion and how can I convey that to others? Let’s take cooking, for example. You’re going to start to see this segmentation of viewers based on what their personal interests are and less of the talent that are trying to come in and be that [famous] person.
MacArthur: How will that affect the business model in the future?
Gayoso: You have ad breaks, which is the bulk of most creators’ revenue. Now you’re seeing creators branch out into multiple, diversified revenue streams. Whether the story I’m telling is straight-to-camera video or an episode of my podcast or a chapter in my book, my fans are always going to hopefully want to consume that. Then also, these are very different entry points into overall fandom.
MacArthur: How will that change the relationship with the brands?
Gayoso: If you look at what’s happening with [industry changes to cookie/tracking policies], advertisers moving forward are going to have a much harder time reaching their target audience and target customer by the means that they had been using for the past couple of years. Influencer marketing in that way really solves a big issue for them.
MacArthur: How so?
Gayoso: Their audience is built of what should be primarily the demo you’re trying to hit. Working with them in a way that honestly feels authentic is the biggest way that influencer marketing has evolved over the years.
MacArthur: How will this change the relationship between creators, brands and the audience in the future?
Gayoso: What creators are really looking for these days is that creative freedom and the ability that brands will be able to trust them to know what their audience wants and that we’re all working toward the same goal. But as that ecosystem starts to develop even further, how can brands come in in a way that’s inherently interesting, whether that is an episodic series or a one-time thing, or become a true presence in creators’ content and lives in that it becomes almost even a character of their content.
MacArthur: Where is the balance of power over the creativity going?
It’s shifting more toward the creator now more than probably ever before. They know that they can build a business via merch or via ticket sales or via any of their other diversified revenue streams, where they’re completely willing to give up revenue in exchange for creating the content that they want. Going forward, brands understand what that relationship is between talent and their audience. To tap into that, they’re going to have to give up a little bit of creative control.
MacArthur: Given the rising demand for diverse voices, how do you see stardom and fandom changing in the future?
Gayoso: What I love about this generation of audience is that they have the audacity to want to be or want to feel represented. There’s just such a hunger to see different kinds of people on screens.