National / International News

For wannabe YouTube stars, L.A. is the place to be

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-19 06:32

If you keep track of this stuff, you might have noticed quite a few YouTubers have crossed over into the mainstream lately. They’ve landed network TV deals and spots on reality shows. Then there’s Michelle Phan, who spun her Internet fame into a line of cosmetics for L'oreal.

The success of stars like Phan has inspired Youtubers like Meg DeAngelis to make the pilgrimage to Los Angeles, which is emerging as the center of YouTube entertainment business, in search of Internet gold.

DeAngelis is a college dropout who started making videos in the 8th grade when she was into gymnastics. DeAngelis’ early videos are of her doing backflips and other tumbling moves. The videos are washed out, the sound is distant. All in all, they just look like clips of a young girl having fun.

“I started by posting videos that were like my hobbies,” DeAngelis says. “Stuff that wasn’t meant to be like a genre or a channel.”

But the videos got of tens-of-thousands of hits and DeAngelis kept making them. She might have just kept making and posting videos as a hobby,  but things changed last year when she came to Los Angeles to visit a fellow YouTuber.

“She kinda took me around L.A. and I met so many other YouTubers,” DeAngelis says. “It was weird to me too. And to find out they all live close to each other and hang out was really cool. I just wanted to be a part of that whole bubble.”

And so DeAngelis dropped out of college in Florida and moved to L.A. to join a growing community of 20-somethings who’re trying to make it as YouTube stars.

“I like putting an insane amount of music in it,” DeAngelis says showing me how she edits her videos. We’re in the lobby of her apartment and these days, DeAngelis’ videos are way more polished and mostly about fashion. In the one she’s showing me, DeAngelis is modeling fall accessories that she made.

I asked DeAngelis what’s it mean to “make it” as YouTuber? Is it a role on television or a movie?  Maybe on reality TV, like Bethany Mota, who got onto Dancing with the Stars? But DeAngelis says she’s not interested in acting  

“I really want to have a clothing line because so much of my show is about fashion,” she says.

For YouTubers, making those goals come true starts at a place like Awesomeness TV, one of a growing number of multi-channel networks on YouTube.

Awesomeness is housed in a large converted warehouse in West LA. Jackie Koppel, the head of talent development, showed me around. Anybody can start a channel and post videos on the network. At the same time, Awesomeness TV also creates original videos that feature YouTubers like DeAngelis.

“So much of what we do is in-house,” DeAngelis says. “So we have editors, we have a production team, we have reality, the sales team.”

Koppel says when DeAngeles came to Awesomeness, she had about 250,000 subscribers.

“Just about 8 months later, she’s over 1.3 million subscribers,” Koppel says.

She says Awesomeness helped DeAngeles do that by plugging her into its shows.

“We have her in a scripted show with Royal Caribbean, where she went on a cruise,” Koppel says. These “branded shows” are paid for by companies that want to promote their goods.

“And then we also have her in some of our more beauty focused content like Makeup Mythbusters, that’s a show she sorta helms,” Koppel says.

And remember, this isn’t to launch DeAngelis into an acting career but to get her a clothing line.

Lisa Filipelli, is a talent agent at Big Frame, which is an independent subsidiary of Awesomeness. She says lots of people mistakenly think of YouTubers as “talent” like in the Hollywood sense of the word as in actors.

“They’re influencers, not talent,” Filipelli says. “Talent is a person who just shows up to set and they do what they do and then they’re done.”

An influencer is somebody who is constantly engaging with their audience — whether it’s on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. And Filipelli says these influencers get their audience to talk about stuff and increasingly they’re getting people to buy stuff too.

“There’s YouTubers on the New York Times best seller list and selling out tours and selling massive amount of product in stores,” Filipelli says. 

And she says, YouTubers are disrupting almost every segment of the teen consumer market. For example, instead of fashion magazines, teens are increasingly turning to YouTubers for beauty and fashion tips.  Filipelli says with more advertising money moving from television to video that trend will accelerate.

Back at DeAngelis’ apartment, she’s still waiting to make it. DeAngelis won’t say how much she makes at Awesomeness, but she does say she’s mostly living off savings.

“When I was living with my parents I didn’t pay rent and so I just saved a lot,” she says.

DeAngelis worked odd jobs and also, made money off the advertisements that ran on her YouTube videos. She says, if she runs out of money, she’ll probably go back to college. And while she’s hopeful about the opportunities ahead, DeAngelis is also conscious that her time might be limited.

“I can’t do Vine, Snapchat or like any of the new apps, like I can only do Twitter and Instagram and the basic ones,” she says. “And it almost feels like I’m getting really old."

How old, exactly?

"I’m 19.”

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