Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts, Cameo and more: the new guest skin


The appetite for face-to-face interactions with artists during the shutdown has spurred the growth of this virtual guest-appearing market. CEO and co-founder of Cameo Steven galanis says bookings on its site have increased 400%, with weekly bookings rising from 5,000 at the start of the year to 68,000 in the third week of May. Patreon says more than 70,000 new creators have launched on its platform since mid-March, with a 150% increase in the number of musicians, according to a spokesperson for the company. Topeka says he has tripled the number of participating artists in the past eight weeks and has held more suspended sessions over the past month than December through March combined.

Musicians who previously avoided direct fan-paid engagements are lining up to participate and are even welcoming a new opportunity to connect with their fan base.

Galanis says Akon, who turned down an application to join Cameo last year, slipped into direct messages from the CEO in March, saying he was missed by his fans and was ready to sign up. He now charges $ 444 for a shout custom video.

“This is something we hear over and over again: Many talented people who previously thought they didn’t have time for Cameo, because they were busy on tour, add this as a critical part of their commitment to Cameo. fans and their branding strategy, ”said Galanis. .

Rapper Red man – which charges $ 150 for its videos – has even started calling Cameo a “business plan.”

“Honestly, I was getting a lot of booking requests before COVID, [but] Since COVID started, it seems like more people are being hired because of the quarantines, “says Redman.” Cameo’s money has definitely increased some of the volume I usually earn at this time of year, particularly around 4/20 in April. “

The niche market has also fostered new services like Topeka, which helps fans connect in real time with an artist through Zoom calls. Andy Levine, who previously created Sixthman, the company that launched immersive themed rock entertainment cruises hosted by bands from Bon Jovi to Slipknot, says it launched Topeka in December to provide a quiet space for fan-to-fan conversations and performers after watching years of spectators desperately shout questions at musicians on stage.

Levine, who has since sold Sixthman to Norwegian Cruise Line but remained chairman, said that with the cruises and the festival on hold, Topeka has created online channels for these events to show past performances and to offer fans personal sessions with their favorite bands. He says they now book over 33 artist-hosted “Hang Sessions” per day, ranging from $ 150 for a 15-minute conversation to $ 2,000 for a six-song mini-concert, part of all profits. being donated to Circles Morningside.

Fan requests for artists on the platform like Emily Sailers from the Indigo Girls, Matte Scannell of Vertical horizon, American artist Stephen Kellogg and singer-songwriter bluegrass Molly tuttle have ranged from organizing corporate bingo events to one-on-one guitar lessons to intimate musical performances and more. Levine says each virtual concert is overseen by a moderator who guides the session and, if necessary, eliminates awkward moments.

“A lot of Emily’s people just want a 15 minute conversation where they can just talk about religion, parenthood, or tattoos, and it’s amazing to see them having a real conversation,” Levine says. “Emily is going to come down and say, ‘I could have talked to this woman for an hour, she was so interesting.'”

The extra work also has its reward. Since the shelter-in-place orders, some performers are finding they could be on track to making more than seven figures from the side concerts, Galanis says. “There are a lot of customer requests and fans are always looking for ways to connect with their favorite artists in a world where every gig, tour and meeting is suddenly canceled overnight.”

Topeka says one of the artists on his platform made $ 20,000 in his first month. Group manager of Invictus Entertainment Jim cressman says that reservations for his artists, like country singers Brett Kissel and George Canyon, to join corporate Zoom calls, Google hangouts, and other visual teleconferences can cost between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000 for a session. 30 to 45 minutes.

“It’s literally, set up your phone and let’s go,” he says. “The idea behind it was to generate income for our clients, but we also understand that many businesses struggle to maintain morale while they have people working from home. There is a lot of uncertainty and it just gives them an opportunity to give their employees something to look forward to during their conference calls. “

Streaming giant Spotify brought in artists such as Swizz Beatz to participate in the music team’s Zoom calls to explain the motivation behind Verzuz’s ‘hit-for-hit’ Instagram battles he launched with Timbaland, but also included motivational interviews from non-musicians such as Monica Aldama from the Netflix show Applaud and chief entrepreneur Ellen Bennet of Hedley & Bennett.

“We try to bring people both for the music, but outside of the music to provide an hour with the team where we don’t really talk about work and we can just get together,” says Spotify vp and co -responsible for music. Marian Dicus. “It’s just fun things to clear your mind.”

These virtual suspension sessions became so popular that they prompted Spotify to create an ongoing social series called The Drop-In based on the premise of artists surprising their No.1 fans by going to their virtual gatherings. In the pilot episode, the country singer-songwriter Morgan wallen crushed a trio of Zoom calls from Knoxville fans, much to their disbelief.

Money is not the only reason musicians participate in these virtual appearances. Understanding that people work on tight budgets, many artists are cutting their fees, volunteering their services, or choosing to use their talents to raise money for charity. Singer-songwriter Joshua Radin was so moved when he learned that an emergency nurse who was due to revamp his wedding plans on May 16 contacted Topeka to book him to perform his song “You Got What I Need” as his first dance song. told them he wanted to do it for free. After seeing Busy Phillips delivering personalized messages on Cameo to benefit the No Kid Hungry program, Galanis says Mandy moore signed up last month to do the same. In April, Cameo saw a 16% increase in talent joining charitable causes.

“There’s a lot of pain there,” Galanis says, “and these artists are trying to help.”

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