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Summary:

As YouTube’s self-made stars have grown in popularity, a number of companies have been founded to maximize their online influence across multiple platforms. Here’s an overview of those working behind-the-scenes on big deals for Ryan Higa, Annoying Orange, ShayCarl and Mystery Guitar Man.

ryan higa agents of secret stuff

YouTube’s self-made stars have grown in popularity, and it’s little wonder that companies are being built around maximizing their online influence across multiple platforms. Some operate as traditional management companies, while others prefer to build and produce projects, with the diversity of approaches speaking to how young and unformed this industry currently is.

Many of the YouTuber deals we’ve covered over the last few years have been driven by companies like the ones below — but not much is reported or written about them. So here’s an overview of some of the players working in the space, behind the scenes but on the cutting edge of digital entertainment.

Maker Studios

Founded by: Danny Zappin, Lisa Donovan (LisaNova) and Ben Donovan. Founding partners include ShayCarl, Rawn Erickson (HiImRawn) and Kassem Gharaibeh (KassemG).

Currently represents: In addition to the founders, RayWilliamJohnson, NicePeter and TimothyDeLaGhetto are among the talent represented. Maker claims to represent over 150 YouTube channels in total.

Company mission: Via a spokesperson, “Maker Studios was founded by top YouTube talent who wanted to create a collaborative network specifically designed for independent content creators. Maker offers production, distribution and ancillary including sales, marketing and enterprise. We pride our self on having the ability to provide real value to the talent and brands we work with. Our goal is to empower the individual content creator through meaningful partnerships that support channel and brand building.”

Recent deal made: Maker Studios has received a total of $4 million in funding from Greycroft Partners and GRP Partners to support professional-level production, Kara Swisher at AllThingsD reported this week.

In their own words: Says co-founder Danny Zappin via email, “Maker was created by talent to fill a void in the YouTube ecosystem. We’re a next-generation media company; think United Artists of today but for YouTube. We have formed a community to support content creators in their work and allow them to support themselves doing what they love. We’re focused on creating the best content and delivering the best experience for its audiences.”

The Collective

Founded by: CEO Michael Green

Currently represents: YouTubers including Annoying Orange, Fred, iJustine and Freddie Wong. On the non-digital side, they also represent Slash, Alanis Morissette, Godsmack, Martin Lawrence and Michelle Rodriguez.

Company mission: Via a spokesperson, “The Collective’s mission is to unlock the value of the direct relationship between artists and their fans by identifying, developing and maximizing opportunities for creative talent across a multitude of media platforms.”

Recent deal made: The Collective partnered with Blip.tv earlier this month “to provide a mix of technology and ad sales for some of the management firm’s web original clients,” Ryan Lawler reported earlier this month. They are also producing the new Yahoo series In the Dressing Room, featuring So You Think You Can Dance‘s Cat Deeley.

In their own words: While probably the most traditional management company on this list, the Collective includes the Collective Digital Studio, which Green describes via email as “an integral part of our plans to capitalize on our existing social media capabilities to grow huge online audiences for artists while also catering to corporate America to create specific programs for brands.”

The Cloud Media

Founded by: Manager/owner Sarah Evershed

Currently represents: Mystery Guitar Man, DeStorm, Tay Zonday, Peter Chao, Brittani Louise Taylor and others.

Company mission: Says Evershed via email, “To enable emerging online artists to achieve their most ambitious goals through strategic partnerships and development support.”

Recent deal made: The Cloud Media just struck a deal between Verizon and DeStorm for a branded video campaign. Evershed was also one of the producers of the DigiTour, the first-ever live concert tour featuring YouTube artists.

In their own words: “The Cloud Media does day-to-day management for well established YouTube content creators. We also focus on developing up and coming talent who we believe have the ability to make a big splash online. We work closely with some of the biggest brands in the world to create high quality custom content for their various campaigns. We have worked with brands like Coke, Disney, Sony, Microsoft, GE, Verizon and many more,” Evershed said.

Digital Artists

Founded by: CEO Adam Shaw and CCO William Kendall

Currently represents: Does not actively manage talent, but works with talent ranging from football star Cristiano Ronaldo, documentarian Morgan Spurlock and YouTuber Ryan Higa.

Company mission: According to Kendall via email, “Digital Artists studio empowers leading creative artists and global brands to produce multi-platform (360) digital entertainment, engage their social media fanbase, and reach their largest potential audience across all screens.”

Recent deal made: Digital Artists was behind the distribution of Ryan Higa’s Agents of Secret Stuff, and is now currently producing Ryan Higa’s next multiplatform action-comedy.

Fullscreen

Founded by: Former YouTube exec George Strompolos

Currently represents: Fullscreen does not specifically represent individual talent.

Company mission: Via the official website, “Fullscreen is a digital media company powered by the creativity and distribution of people. We create and distribute original content and brand activations with online influencers.”

Recent deal made: Fullscreen was behind the launch of the GE/Howcast/ShayCarl Tag Your Green branded integration campaign, and is also working with The Cloud Media to create a network of music channels on YouTube.

In their own words: According to Strompolos via phone, Fullscreen is trying to avoid becoming a management company — instead, it’s working to set up deals with other management companies that do represent talent. “We don’t manage [YouTuber] careers; we are building networks, and partnering with brands, media companies and talent to drive those channels. And we plug and play well with management companies — in fact, we prefer to partner with companies instead of the artists themselves.”

There’s no doubt that new companies will appear to join these — as that happens, we’ll update this post or do a followup. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Great post Liz — I would add MACHINIMA also – they have a couple of biggies in their group like Tobuscus (Toby Turner) and Reckless Tortuga – and yah know since it is video gaming that makes it even more special!

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  2. Is Hitviews still around?

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  3. something that i’d like to see addressed is the controversy that surrounds some of these companies.. places like maker studios was also founded and made successful by people who have left the company (shane dawson, sxephil, finebros, pretty sure davedays too)…..fishy to me how they aren’t even mentioned as such.. makes me concerned as a content creator over what really is going on at these types of companies and if it truly makes sense to join vs. being independent.

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  4. Great post! – Mud Hut Digital also work with a lot of very successful youtubers like Tyler Ward, Kurt Schneider, Sam Tsui, Jeff Hendrick, Alex Goot, ortoPilot, Megan Nicole and many more…

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  5. Great to know, I have seen many of these talents, such as Annoying Orange, so its good to know who’s behind them. Something I wouldn’t have really thought to look up, so thanks.

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  6. Thanks for putting the list together. Great post!!!

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