Dan Weinstein, Co-founder and Partner at Underscore Talent, on Scaling Creator Businesses
How can creators create a sustainable, long-lasting, and successful business? Today, Dan Weinstein, Co-founder and Partner at Underscore Talent, shares his experience scaling massive creator businesses to new levels. Read on to learn about the biggest mistakes he sees creators make and the many monetization opportunities available for creators.
Who is Dan Weinstein?
Dan Weinstein has been a part of the creator economy for nearly 15 years – before it was even known as the creator economy. Previously, he worked at a traditional management company, The Collective, in 2006, representing celebrities like Martin Lawrence, Kanye West, and Linkin Park. In 2008, he began working with the first wave of YouTube stars. Eventually, Dan parted ways with the traditional management industry and struck out on his own.
Before founding Underscore Talent with his partner, Weinstein was the co-founder and President of Studio71, a global multi-platform media company known for producing and distributing original entertainment programming for social media platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok.
During his time with Studio71, Dan built an impressive talent lineup and many ground-breaking content initiatives, such as cross-platform business models. He had a direct hand in nurturing the careers of well-known YouTube creators, such as Logan Paul, Lilly Singh, and The Fine Brothers.
In 2015, Studio71 was sold to the German media company ProSiebenSat.1 Group at a valuation of $185,000,000.In 2020, Dan and his partner created Underscore Talent, a next-generation management company that helps talent create long-lasting careers built on many revenue streams and platforms.
What is Underscore Talent?
Underscore Talent set out to build a scalable management experience that helps creators, artists, personalities, and entrepreneurs with all areas of their careers, including consumer products, brand deals, podcasting, content distribution, film and television, and more.
Dan shares, “Their businesses are incredibly complex and complicated. There are myriad ways to monetize the audience from subscriptions to this to that to whatever the case may be, and it’s just incredibly complex to navigate.”
He adds, “In our estimation, the representation business of creators hasn’t matured as fast as the opportunity, and so there was no scaled played in the space.”
As a result of this gap, Dan and his partner decided to create a management company dedicated to helping talent leverage their audiences and scale to new heights.
Underscore Talent is not a vertical management company, meaning they don’t focus on a specific niche of content creators, entrepreneurs, and artists.
“We want to work with people that are entrepreneurial, that are ambitious, that are creating great content, that are communicating with an audience.”
Underscore’s typical creators are top of the top in their niche. Many have been doing everything independently for years. Underscore Talent helps them build a supportive infrastructure to scale their business even more.
Vlad & Niki Campaign Success
Underscore Talent has had countless campaign successes, but Dan shares the following example with us today.
“We represent Vlad and Niki, which is one of the largest kids’ channels on YouTube. They do billions of views a month, and we helped broker a campaign with Mattel.”
He explains that the Mattel campaign involved multi-video deals and showing off many toy lines, including Hot Wheels and Monster Trucks. This campaign was recently renewed for its third year and involved over 20 videos in two years.
The Creator Economy
When asked about the creator economy’s size and impact, Dan shares, “It permeates all sectors of life at this point, and it intersects with all other forms of media whether it be traditional or otherwise. Even looking at things like BookTok, right? It’s TikTok, [but] they’re talking about books and this and that, but it’s moving the needle in traditional publishing.”
BookTok alone has created many best-selling books, giving it a significant impact on the traditional publishing industry.
Dan shares that he anticipates the value of influencers and their audience connections to only grow, prompting companies to transition their marketing dollars from traditional media to digital media. Another trend he expects to see with Gen Z and future generations is less value in traditional media.
“I see it even with my own kids. Zero interest in television. It’s a little interest in streaming here and there, but it’s TikTok, it’s YouTube, it’s Snapchat. It’s all of these other things, and that chasm is just going to continue to grow as more and more kids continue to mature.”
Monetization Opportunities for Creators
The opportunities for monetizing your audience are greater than ever for creators, from different options like Patreon or YouTube memberships to creating merch to brand deals.
“The important piece to unlock that value is actually to create a real audience, right? Sometimes there’s a lot of scale of audience. You see these big numbers, but how real is that audience? How much of a fan are they of yours? Will they convert into some other funnel for revenue, and I think that’s the biggest key for creators these days.”
Dan shares that a creator’s most important asset is their audience, so it’s also important to consider your audience’s feelings and to be thoughtful about monetization.
“Today, a creator has to look at themselves as equal parts content marketer and content creator or business person if they want to do it as a profession.”
He also believes that it’ll become more and more common for creators to build their own businesses.
For example, Emma Chamberlain has launched a successful line of coffee. One of Underscore Talent’s creators, CelinaSpookyBoo, recently launched her cosmetics line, which has been doing very well.
The Creator Economy
Dan shares that one of the biggest creator mistakes he sees is creators not investing in their business and future, especially when it comes to longevity. Many creators build their business and manage every part of their business on their own, which can make outsourcing work or hiring others to help them expand difficult.
“I think another issues is just sort of throwing stuff at a wall as things come new, without putting much thought or strategy into it.”
Timing is another crucial part of a successful creator strategy. Sometimes creators jump into publishing, TV, merch, or different markets too soon, and this can be offputting for their audience.
Dan notes that he wants more consolidation in the creator economy and marketplace.
He shares, “Finding individuals that want to be in some form of the digital content business whether that be in production or distribution or social or marketing or whatever but that don’t want to be the influencer or person in front of the camera and marrying them with people that are the people in front of the camera that need to scale their business.”
This could look like agencies in the future that manage individuals in the digital content business who can help with content production, edit videos, edit thumbnails, and more.
Dan shares that Underscore Talent is looking to continue scaling their representation business while continuing to provide immense value for creators.
“We believe that to be an effective representative in the space; it’s not just about managing an inbox; it’s how do you provide infrastructure and other elements that can help enable parts of creator businesses, so I tend to refer to it more as a management platform than a company.”
Underscore Talent is continuing to expand so that creators can take advantage of the many services they offer to help them build their businesses.
“It’s really been about creating a new level of sophistication, experience, and expertise in navigating these new worlds so that creators don’t have to figure it out on their own.”