The Behind the Creators – Managers, Merchandise and Beyond panel took place on Friday at Summer in the City 2019, on the Lifestyle Stage. It was chaired by Teoh Lander-Boyce.
The panel featured Si Barbour-Brown, director of Sharper Group, Maxim Savard, managing director of Dialogue Management, founder of Black Creators Matter Audrey Solvar, and Luke Hodson, founder of Awesome Merchandise.
Teoh began the panel by asking if there’s anything that takes place behind the scenes that the panellists think deserves more recognition. Si’s answer was the “one million emails”, as with every job there are so many things that need to be picked up and organised. He said that even though the industry has been established for a few years, he still gets asked the same questions over again.
Maxim thinks it’s the need to constantly make content and promote it. Audrey added that there’s the challenge of keeping their creators motivated, whilst also looking after their mental health.
Teoh then asked Si and Maxim at what point they think creators should look to get a manager. Maxim responded that the best time is when you’ve grown an audience, as a manager is there to “help you past the borders” after that. If your channel is going well and you decide that YouTube is what you want to continue to do, then you should look into it.
Si added that it’s probably good to look for a manager when there are too many emails to handle, if they’re too complex or if legal issues arise. A manager should be seen as an extra in your team.
Teoh furthered this discussion by asking what three things creators should consider before signing on with a manager. Si and Maxim agreed that you should look for chemistry, between you and your potential manager.
You should always meet with your potential manager before signing any contracts, and if they ask you to pay a monthly fee then you shouldn’t sign with them. Maxim gives creators a three month trial period to see if they think it’s working out for them.
So what is out there for creators who aren’t in a position to get management? This question was posed to Audrey and she spoke about the YouTube Space, where she used to work. The space is available for creators that have 1,000+ subscribers, and they hold workshops and networking events.
Audrey explained that the motto of the YouTube Space is to learn, connect, and create – she emphasised the importance of learning your craft and connecting with other creators to collaborate. There are people that can help you learn about monetisation, help you get motivated and give you feedback.
The conversation then moved on to monetisation. Teoh asks the panelists what advice they have for creators trying to turn their passion into a job that pays the rent. Luke commented that merchandise is an excellent way to grow your revenue: “using not only what you might associate with merch like t-shirts and stickers, but a whole bunch of other creative products”.
Maxim added that everyone should have a part-time job while they are building their revenue as “no one gets to be billionaires right off the bat”. He said that diversifying your revenue stream is key, with avenues such as merchandise, AdSense, and brand deals.
Si was on the same wavelength. He said you should look to have multiple revenue streams, both on and offline, across different platforms. He concluded by encouraging people to take as many opportunities as they can get their hands on, and that having a few safety nets to fall back on is also good.
Teoh asked Luke what merchandise works well for creators, and whether there are particular products that work better than others. Luke said that the first thing to consider is what you’re putting on the merchandise, and whether it will resonate with your audience or not.
He added that you should ideate and do some tests, but the key pieces are usually t-shirts, headwear, and hoodies. However, it depends on what your content is – for artists, items such as art prints or comic books could be successful. Then, if your merchandise is successful, you could go into selling limited edition items such as enamel pins. Si advised that you should always start small, even if its just t-shirts.
Luke suggested that if you have an audience and think people may be interested in what you want to sell, then you could open an online web store. You can put up a template and see if people want to buy it, and if you manage to sell about 20, then that’s a sign you can probably print more.
He said that there are also instant print websites, which are good because if nobody buys your design then you haven’t lost anything. From there, if it goes down well, there are avenues you can go down to change it up. His main piece of advice was to try to see if you can sell the product before you print it. Make sure your audience is big enough and are engaged. Teoh added that he has made the mistake in buying in bulk before.
Teoh then began talking about how, in the creator community, we’re starting to see creators behind the scenes grouping together to form their own support networks. He asked Audrey what groups like Black Creators Matter can offer creators.
Audrey detailed how the idea for Black Creators Matter started when she was working at YouTube, because “being the new black woman”, she was being asked to hold events. Two months after she started at the YouTube Space, they launched YouTube Black and she found that the creators were saying that they did not see each other or know of each other. As a result, they felt their voices were not being heard.
When Audrey left YouTube, she said that she was receiving complaints that there were no events for black creators, so she created Black Creators Matter to connect black creators with brands, with each other, and to create a community. Although they are only six months in, Audrey said that they’re working closely with YouTube to see changes.
Teoh closed the panel by asking what the panelists hope for from the future of the creator industry. Maxim hopes the industry will become as established as any other industry, as currently it can receive a lot of hate. He thinks this is because, as it’s a growing industry, it can be seen as a threat.
Si wants to see “respect all around” from the brands, the creators and the agencies and Audrey hopes for “more doors to be open for all creators”. Luke concluded the panel by saying that “the great thing about the internet as a whole is that it’s empowering people to build their own businesses.” His hope is that more people will have the chance to build a career online.
Photos by Christy Ku.
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