By Chris Landa, Former Sr. Director of Content Partnerships at YouNow
As news of Studio71’s lawsuit against Bethany Mota broke, an aspect of the lawsuit most spectators focused on is the alleged diva behavior of Mota’s “Dadager” Tony during the deal. Many people reacting to the news brought this up as the reason behind the collapse, while other more experienced professionals felt this was a weekly occurrence in the influencer marketing world that finally managed to get publicity.
While the verdict on Mota’s case hasn’t been given, and will most likely be settled out of court, it’s raised questions regarding representation in online video. Below are the four different types of representation in online video along with insight into each.
A “360° Manager” is the same as a manager in traditional media with one notable exception: they often negotiate deals themselves. These managers have an exclusive relationship with talent, work with them on all matters relating to their career and help shepherd their career forward.
Even if the 360° manager is employed by a company and isn’t independent, the talent only pays the 15-20% commission to the manager and the expectation on the talent’s side is that the number one priority of the manager is their career. An interesting trend over the last few years is for Multi-Channel Networks to have a department for 360° managers, most recently evidenced by Studio71’s hiring of longtime independent manager Naomi Lennon.
Pros: A 360° manager can be worth their weight in gold as they often take the majority of the non-creative work off the creators plate and are a trusted ally in making sure they can continue their career growth in a way that allows them to be creative and happy.
Cons: As with YouTube and each emerging platform since, 360° managers with no real experience (or experience at all) often approach talent as they see an opportunity to establish themselves and make money. As a 360° manager is the biggest investment talent can make in their careers (15-20% of all earnings), talent needs to carefully vet any potential manager and make sure they know their experience, reputation and personality before signing with them. Additionally, there should not be a contracted term in the management agreement, which is something many new and inexperienced managers insist on.
Multi-Channel Network Managers (MCN Managers):
As Multi-Channel Networks formed and signed talent to their networks, the companies built out departments in order to provide customer service and other promises aligned with the company’s offering to talent at the time, such as channel optimization, promotion and brand integrations. The people working in these departments were often called Talent Managers or Partner Managers, which was never initially meant to include opportunities outside the ones provided by the company.
As time passed, many talent considered their MCN Manager their overall manager, as they didn’t fully understand what the role meant. As MCNs started offering more than their initial offering, including touring, merchandise, custom programming and more, more talent has decided to stick with their MCN Manager as their only form of representation. An interesting note is that often larger talent has both a 360° Manager as well as an MCN manager, who in that case is mainly maintaining and facilitating the relationship between the talent, the 360° Manager and the company.
Pros: If an MCN Manager is prioritizing the talent, they can often help bring more brand deals and revenue opportunities due to the company having fully staffed sales, distribution, touring and merchandise teams. Additionally, the MCN Manager gets no fee from any deal outside their purview unlike an Agent.
Cons: Typically, an MCN takes a 30-50% margin on all incoming deals, so if they handle any deal that is brought to talent, the talent is paying a larger amount to representation than normal. Another issue is that the loyalty of an MCN manager is ultimately to the company and not the talent, so if push comes to shove talent may have someone they perceive as their closest ally talk them into something they may not want to do.
When looking at the relationship between MCN Managers and 360° Managers, it’s important to note that many of the best known 360° Managers started as MCN Managers before taking the leap and going solo.
The role of an agent is pretty much the same as in traditional media. The agent procures and negotiates deals, as well as helps talent move into new areas of the entertainment industry such as film and television. The biggest difference is that in traditional media an Agent (or an Entertainment Lawyer) negotiates all deals on behalf of talent, while in digital 360° Managers may negotiate as well.
Pros: They can expand a talent’s career and open up new opportunities for revenue and exposure. Since talent agencies were started by focusing on film and television and are the heart of those industries, they are also best positioned to help talent make the jump to traditional media.
Cons: While some Agents have really helped establish some of the biggest stars in online video, there are talent that have found little value in being represented by an agency. As some talent have 360° Managers to negotiate on their behalf, and have little desire to enter film or television, there may not be much value to being represented by an entity taking at least 10% on every dollar made even if they weren’t part of the deal (which may or may not include platform earnings such as AdSense). While agencies typically charge 10% for their services, that percentage may increase depending on the type of deal they do.
Momiger, Dadiger, and the Rest:
As a lot of young talent rises to internet stardom, parents, significant others and friends often times occupy various roles for talent. While this can be extremely helpful to emerging talent, there are often times where the people stay on in the assigned roles for longer than they should.
While I know wonderful managers that are related to the talent or grew up with them in some way, I have also ran across a lot of talent with poor management as a result of being overly loyal to friends and family. Looking back at the Mota case, there’s a lot of claims that may or may not be true, but there is a general stereotype against this type of manager that makes them easy to gossip about (rightly or wrongly).
Pros: Who knows the talent better than their friends, family or significant others? Also, who’s willing to invest their time and effort into the talent before the talent has established themselves?
Cons: Often times this type of representation has a lack of experience and hasn’t been trained properly for what can be a huge job. They also may not understand the industry or what behavior is acceptable. They can really dent the reputation of talent and turn people off of working with them.
Overall, there’s quite a few different types of representation in online video that offer different services for talent. While the above is a breakdown of the 4 different types of representation, there are variations in most cases to percentages and other details as no industry wide standard yet exists.
Chris Landa (Pictured) most recently served as the Sr. Director of Content Partnerships at YouNow, where he worked with top talent and brands to maximize their presence on the platform. With a wide range of expertise around brand integrations and original content featuring creators, Chris recently launched Transparent Influence, a company focused on accountability and transparency in Influencer Marketing.
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