The Confessional #9: Talent Manager

My latest interviewee for The Confessional is the founder of a YouTube management agency.

We covered a lot of ground and dove into some juicy topics, including:
-The process of working with brands and creators
-The role MCN’s currently play with his talent
-Media sales
-The future of MCN’s

The Confessional is a series of anonymous interview with influencers, brands, marketers, agencies and MCN executives to get honest, no-bullshit opinions on working in the space – the biggest gripes, the toughest lessons, the most valuable advice.

The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What’s it like working with brands and creators?
I think that it’s fun because people are getting a bit more used to what a YouTube integration campaign looks like. There’s not as many questions as there used to be.

That being said, there is still is a lot of education that’s occurring on a daily basis and sometimes we as managers are educating the people who are bringing us the deals, because all they want are the impressions and the views and they don’t understand that it’s a fine line that needs to be walked. If they are too heavy-handed, they’re going to defeat the purpose that they’re trying to achieve.

Where are most of your brand deals being sourced from?
I get deals from all over- MCNS, PR companies, ad agencies, and brand direct. What role do the MCNs play in the ecosystem for you with your talent?

They’re just a sales agency at this point. They definitely don’t manage any talent, nor should they because there’s an obvious conflict of interest. MCNs will always do what’s best for them not what’s best for the talent. They’re not trying to nurture careers and look at long-term effects of what actions will have on creators, because their end game is squeezing out as much profit as possible.

The talent is a commodity to MCNs.

Do the MCN’s sell the media for any of for your talent?
They rarely sell media, and there’s really no reason for a buyer to buy media from an MCN. Why should they when they can buy from Google directly.

I feel like the MCNs are delivering value to a very, very small number of people in their network. And it doesn’t justify their business model. It would be a lot more honest if MCNs just called themselves what they were, which is a sales agency. The fact that MCNs have contracts that auto-renew without notifying the creative party is an indication of their awareness that they’re not delivering on their promise to creators.

Why else would they be reluctant to notify the party that their contract’s up for renewal?
If you’re confident in the service you’re providing, you’re never hesitant to let the other party know that it’s up for renewal. Why would you be? It’s professional courtesy.

How does your talent feel about being in an MCN?
Most are indifferent. Some want out of their contracts and be independent.

So, where do you think the MCNs are headed?
MCNs are waging a propaganda campaign where they’re telling all these ad agencies that they have relationships with creators that are exclusive, when they’re not. They’re not even remotely exclusive.

They say that they alone know how to handle campaigns with creators, when they could just go directly to the talent handlers. If an MCN brings me a deal for my clients, I’ll definitely do it if it’s right. But I think it would just be better for everybody if they were more honest about the role they play.

What role is YouTube playing these days in terms of the relationships of talent?
They’re trying to increase their role. YouTube’s so big, YouTube’s so vast, and the fact that it’s so vast affects how it interacts with talent.

If you’re a network, a television network, and you’ve got basically half-hour slots, Monday through Sunday, 24 hours a day, there’s only so many people that can be on air. But if you’re a website, and anyone who can upload anything can be successful, anytime, it just creates this very unwieldy landscape. It’s hard to manage and have impactful relationships.

Why do you think they bother trying to cultivate real relationships?
Most likely because of YouTube Red. Google’s always thinking a few steps ahead.

YouTube Red is going to be a challenge for them. It’s a bit nebulous what it is at the moment and paywalls are so fucking weird. If you set one up you better give me a solid reason that I can remember as to why you did it. But if it’s just so I can download content, I’m not sure that it’s worth it.

What do you think I haven’t covered off on that people should know about? What’s the juicy topic you want to talk about?
I would say it’s really that MCNs are really exploitative and don’t deliver on their value promise. And that people should know that, creators should stop joining and stop renewing their contracts.

Why do you think they are joining?
The top ones are joining just because of minimum guarantee deals. That’s it… it’s free money.

The MCN’s guarantees that the creator will make X amount in integration deals over the course of the term. And, if the MCN doesn’t deliver that amount in brand deals, then the MCN writes a check.

Thanks you for your time!