A lift for TikTok and people who earn cash from it
President Joe Biden on Wednesday overturned a number of executive orders from the Trump administration that tried to ban the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat here in the US. The orders had been blocked by federal judges. Instead, the Biden administration is planning a security review of this and other apps.
Many turned to the short-form video app TikTok for entertainment during the pandemic or to create their own content. I spoke to Charley Button, a talent manager at the Select Management Group, where she runs some TikTok creators. I asked her about a typical day. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Charley button: We receive hundreds of emails every day from companies that may be interested in working with our customers. We get hundreds of emails from fans that we need to search. And we also work with lots of younger YouTubers who balance their parents’ school and bedtime restrictions. I contact pretty much all of my clients on a daily basis about something that is going on in their life. I just get to know them on a deep, deep level so I can help them be successful and plan for the long term.
Scott: How different is managing children compared to a young adult or an older adult?
Button: It’s definitely very different. There are many restrictions on what minors can sponsor and how many hours they can work on a given day. There is a lot of educational work going on for parents who are unfamiliar with TikTok and the world of social media influencers. And I think it’s definitely becoming more mainstream and more recognizable as a legitimate career path.
Scott: Especially during the pandemic when the demand for content soared because so many people were stuck at home – what was it like working with YouTubers to not just post new content every day, sometimes several times a day, and avoid burnout?
Button: You definitely had to get creative. We have seen a big shift towards DIY projects where new outfits are created from what you have in your closet and freshened up that way. We saw that many creators took production back when they had an editor or bigger film crews for bigger shoots. They are really back to where they started filming on their phones themselves, posting them and engaging more with the audience in the comments. It’s definitely a struggle for people who are so social and so committed to this world to stay home. And I think it really has taken an enormous toll on everyone’s mental health. But I think we’ve seen so many amazing messages of resilience and staying together while apart. I think the successful creators were really able to accept this and come up with healthy ways to stay connected, stay healthy, and entertain from the safety of their homes. And a lot more interest in meditation and self-help genres, especially on TikTok, was definitely booming, and the creators able to tap into that definitely saw some success from it.
Scott: It seems that one of the perks or advantages of social media is that you don’t need a middleman – people don’t need a record label or a movie studio. Why do these creators need you?
Button: So it’s definitely hard to get a feel for the whole business and audience potential you’ve built unless you have a relationship with a manager or someone who understands the industry and knows the parties and is in is able to negotiate your worth because it’s very competitive out there and not too many people are able to make this a really legitimate day job.
Scott: Bella Poarch started out on TikTok but just came out with a popular music video, and then Charli D’Amelio, another TikTok star, has a reality show about her family. I wonder if these traditional music and television venues are still the target of some of these creators?
Button: Not for every creator, but it’s definitely legitimate to have a real Hollywood studio interested in sending a large production crew to your home and filming something with you. It will help you get that verified check mark, it will help you expand your audience from the people you just found on the platform, and it will also help you attract brands and close other doors to other potential things open that you might want to test, whether it’s writing a book or developing a clothing line – anything along these lines will help you get that credit on IMDB. It won’t necessarily be a breakthrough for their business, but it’s still something that people see and are impressed with and that helps TikTok creators do other things and penetrate other areas of the industry that they may want to test out because they still idolize Ariana Grande and want that celebrity one day. And you have to test the waters in [the] traditional [media industry] to keep up with this bigger celebrity crowd that has that traditional Hollywood support.
Scott: Just as you need to convince parents that this is appropriate for your child, I wonder if you had the same conversation with your own parents or grandparents.
Button: Yes, I had a lot of explanations to give to my parents. And I think the more traditional media recognizes TikTok and other social media platforms and the huge size of the industry that is now built on it – this definitely helps give more context to more people, and it’s interesting to see . My grandfather has been watching YouTube every day since he heard about my job, and I got my great-aunt interested in TikTok. It’s not that it couldn’t appeal to this demographic, but I think they often need a personal connection in order to have a reason to get onto these platforms.
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One of Buttons better known accounts that she manages is @whataboutbunny, which features a Sheepadoodle that appears to communicate with her human by pressing electronic buttons.
I spoke to Button about burnout, and shortly after we had a chat I saw a story about it in the New York Times. Reporter Taylor Lorenz examined the psychological challenges faced by many Generation Z influencers due to celebrity, financial stress, and constant pressure to post new content. One Creator said, “I feel like I was tapping into a barrel that has been empty for a year.” Who has nothing to do with it?
And there is a lot of competition between platforms for all of this content. Facebook adds incentives to post more YouTubers on its apps. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the changes on Tuesday. On Facebook and Instagram, YouTubers can earn bonuses for longer streaming and commissions for selling products. Zuckerberg said he wanted to help build a “middle class creator” by investing not only in established stars but also in emerging creators with fewer followers.