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If creators are founders rather than influencers, what is the role of a manager in the creator economy?
Does the gatekeeper model still fit the bill? Or are creators better served by agencies who can work at scale?
There's another option in the mix, according to Zack Honavar and Kate Ward. Their company, One Day Entertainment, offers a new, long-term approach to creator management.
One Day Entertainment manages for tomorrow
One Day Entertainment is a diversified entertainment and media company with ventures that integrate digital content, music, television, fashion, and social good. The company partners with creators to consider four essential functions of a successful creator business:
- Money - how does the business make money? Opportunities include brand deals, merchandise, education, investments, spin-off businesses and more.
- Growth - how do you accelerate growth in the channel/business?
- Community - how do you help the creator generate a community feeling and structure beyond the number of subscribers?
- Infrastructure - hiring the right team, having clean accounts, being incorporated, saving for taxes, systems etc
Managers focus on helping creators think beyond short-term profit and towards long-term security by treating them like startups rather than influencers. They prefer to concentrate on diversifying platforms and developing new revenue streams. That frees their creators to do what they do best. Create.
What are the manager alternatives?
Creators are disrupting the traditional models of entertainment and education, bypassing the gatekeepers and going straight to the people. So, we need to ask: is the old music industry manager model suitable for creators? Does it serve them well?
The internet has all but annihilated the walls in music, so artists are no longer forced to mortgage their futures to fund the present. The same is true for creators.
So, what alternatives are currently available?
Traditional agencies work on a large scale, with so many creators on their books that it's impossible to manage everyone individually. They focus on market share, so they find and optimize the creators who have the potential for hockey stick growth. Then they pick the strongest creators to develop a business with.
You can't think of everyone's long term success at that scale, so they optimize for short term cash for the few years the creators have at their pinnacle. Only a few creators will grow, evolve, and bring their audience with them in the current system. Most have only a few years to make the most of opportunities.
Individual agent as a manager
A manager/agent role often follows the gatekeeper model; the manager steps in between the creator and the public, negotiating sponsorships, brand deals, merch etc. They help with operations and team building and only have short term remuneration available to them, so there's less incentive to think long term.
These agents are effective for creators who want to ride the wave while it lasts and then move on.
"So much comes down to the alignment between company and creator and where they want their career to go. There are some creators who just want to sprint for 5 years and then do a cash grab. (There's) nothing wrong with that strategy."
The One Day long term business partnership model
One Day works on a different scale from agencies and agents. They try to spot creators with potential right from the start. Then they work with these clients to consider how decisions made now will affect their long-term wealth and happiness, especially in the growth and money categories.
It sometimes makes sense to reject specific brand integrations and work on a startup or business instead of when you think like that. That might make less money in the short term but will build equity, which will still be around in five or more years.
After all, there will come a time when you may stop creating content. The brands will cancel their sponsorship deals when you do that, but the business you started five years ago will be going strong.
"It takes long-term foresight to say I'm going to forego short-term cash in my bank account for long-term equity."
Long-term thinking needs equity incentives for managers and creators
Zack believes that for a manager to be incentivized to have long-term skin in the game with a creator, the relationship needs to be a partnership.
Each side brings core strengths to the business, and neither is afraid to question the other or push back on decisions.
"I think a manager needs to be incentivized in the same way as the creator, which is for long-term equity rather than short-term cash."
But Zack and Kate agree that this model isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. They work very much on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs and interests of each creator.
However, every creator business needs to have someone who is synergizing:
- Keeping the day-to-day operations flowing
- Making decisions
- Team building
- Marketing and development
- Checking that outside partners are following their agreements, and more.
One Day's mission involves developing a structure for each different creator that ensures everyone feels incentivized.
One Day and AirRack: Building "Creator Now"
Airrack's "Creator Now" community is a great example of Zack and Kate's commitment to helping creators build long-term, sustainable businesses that can evolve beyond their initial platforms.
"Creator Now" takes everything that AirRack learned as he grew from zero to one million subscribers in just one year and packages it into an innovative, six-week cohort program that resonates with young YouTubers.
Far from a traditional course, which is so hard to complete, it includes workshops and a gamification aspect where teams of 20 compete to keep their weekly streaks going.
Zack says, "The real needle movers for early-stage creators are around building the posting habit and connecting with other creators like them. The workshops are good but ultimately it's the community and the accountability that's making the difference."
We've learned that "Education is a byproduct of a shared experience with other individuals who have the same goals as you. So, you're not trying to start with education. You're starting with... 'Here are a lot of other people who share the same goals; you're now friends and you're going to help each other get there."
Airrack is passionate about all things YouTube, so his channel may run for years. But, if he wants to take a step back or move into other ventures, creator Now is a business with the potential to grow, regardless of AirRack's YouTube status.
One Day: taking their own advice and considering how to scale
Unlike the music industry, with creators - nothing is standardized. Every career is different, and not everyone needs external partners/managers who are focused on the long term. Some creators need more of an internal CEO-style manager instead.
It is probably not realistic to think that this space can have thousands of managers like Zack and Kate? Many creators can't afford the expense of a one-on-one management team, and others don't want to scale or think long term.
So, the question becomes, can One Day Entertainment's management services be productized? Can they put 80% into a standardized product to guide a creator, then provide an individual service when they grow to a suitable level?
"There will be a lot of people who can't access managers, so that would be one way of giving them the insights they need."
As the creator economy continues changing the landscape, it will be fascinating to watch how management structures develop over the next few years.
One thing you can be sure of, One Day Entertainment will be somewhere in the mix.