The panel featured Riyadh Khalaf, Mark Walker, Mikey Pearce, Laura Bubble and Vashti-Iona Beckford, who discussed how the success of YouTube had impacted their careers. It was chaired by AJ Brinnand.
The panel started with the speakers introducing themselves and their careers outside of YouTube. Mikey came first and mentioned how his channel which has allowed him to start his own sweet company. Next was Laura, who spoke about her film and TV achievements.
Vashti is the head of talent network Wall of Comedy, and Mark the director of Free Focus. Last was Riyadh, who mentioned his work with the BBC (including his 2am start that morning covering for Adele Roberts on Radio 1).
The first question AJ posed to the panellists was how they reached the stage of having a social media role within another business.
Riyadh answered first, simply stating “I’m greedy”. He then went into more detail, explaining how he never feels satisfied when it comes to his career and often wants to expand further into jobs he feels suited for. Although he then went on to say he hopes to one day find contentment in what he has.
Mark shared that he never knew how insane the YouTube scene was until he attended Summer in the City back in 2014 and witnessed creators such as dodie and Emma Blackery performing to thousands of fans. After seeing those acts, he found it weird that none of them had management – so created his own company.
Vashti used to work as a community officer. Through working with children, she was able to learn about what young people were watching and used that knowledge to create her network.
Radio 1 reached out to Laura at the age of 17. She accepted the job, then took a break before jumping back on the bandwagon of YouTube, getting an agent and beginning to earn a living.
Finally, Mikey spoke about how he ‘fell into’ YouTube by appearing in a Joe Sugg video and suddenly, he was in high demand. Then, because of his success on YouTube, was able to start his own sweets brand, Diet Starts Tomorrow.
When asked to give advice for aspiring talent or business entrepreneurs to find success, Mikey quipped “be friends with Joe Sugg”, before stating people should be willing to work hard and “PR the hell out of it.”
This moved to discussion onto how hard it is to now break into the world of social media. Laura came forward saying that it shouldn’t be all about the numbers and if you started to think about those early on – you’d break before you’d even started.
Riyadh joined in, saying that if you do focus on your numbers then the audience will notice you aren’t putting your best work forward. The best advice he gave, which he uses himself, was to “imagine your channel as an online portfolio.”
Laura suggested using rejection as a motivator. This prompted Vashti to say “I don’t like the word rejection. I prefer the phrase learning. It can be disheartening, but you can also learn and go onwards with the knowledge you now possess from that rejection.”
This then led to the rest of the panel agreeing that the famous phrase ‘something better is around the corner,’ is the perfect cliché to follow when it comes to rejection.
AJ’s next question was how to bring YouTube talent to mainstream outlets. Riyadh said: “be clear to mention that you don’t want to be known as just an online influencer”. Mikey added that it can be used to your advantage as producers often like that you already have an audience. Vashti advised that you should understand the client and audience you pitch to and be confident about how you want to portray yourself.
The panel then discussed how, for some companies, having an audience is definitely not something they’d be interested in. Because of this you should have a long-term plan and know what the stepping stones are to reach that goal. “Get all your ducks in a row,” was Mark’s advice.
Mikey joked that you should “have talent,” adding that “just because someone with an audience gets in a show or film – doesn’t mean they’ll be good.”
Riyadh added that companies are actually catching up with YouTube now and are starting to realise that numbers don’t always mean a good outcome.
This led to the last question from AJ, which was “what are your long-term goals?” The panellists were actually quite stumped. Riyadh mused that a high-quality production company would be fun and made the joke: “I want everything and that’s ok! Although remember it’s ok to take a break.”
Then the panel was opened up to the audience. One audience member asked if the panel think YouTube Originals opens doors for creators or is completely pointless. Mark concluded that it’s a bit of a mix and match: “It can inspire people but it is a challenge.”Riyadh added that it’d be interesting to see where it goes in the future.
The final question was “did you find support from friends and family when you initially started?” Vashti stated that YouTube is hard to understand for some people, although it’s a lovely place once you’ve found a friendly environment.
Riyadh suggested not recording when your parents are home as it will affect the quality of your presenting. Finally, Laura stated that sometimes those people who don’t understand actually keep you grounded and not always focusing on social media.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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