@ pcE11: So You Want To Be A YouTube Star?

(L to R) Robert DeSantis, Maddock And Company, Lisa Donovan, Maker Studios, Dana Settle, Greylock Pa

It’s an age of seemingly unlimited potential for those with creativity and drive, given the freedom that the Internet has provided to anyone with a camera and a cable modem. But what happens when you start get big? A panel of creative and business types tackled that question during paidContent Entertainment 2011.

For artists like Hayden Black (producer and star of Goodnight Burbank) and Lisa Donovan (LisaNova on YouTube), the Internet is an important vehicle for artists who want to reach audiences without having to go through the traditional talent-development process. Unlocking the opportunities that success can present, however, requires a combination of a do-it-yourself strategy when it comes to marketing and promotion and help from professionals when the water gets too deep.

Online audiences demand engagement, Donovan said. That engagement can be the content itself, given the personal nature of many *YouTube* videos, but it’s still something that creative types have to manage much more than in the past.

“What it took to be OK Go is very different than what it took to be The Rolling Stones,” said Jesse Dylan, founder and CEO of Wondros, a media production company.

Yet the traditional talent-development process can help artists make the leap from YouTube curiosity to sensation. “They need a place that does the parts that they don’t do,” Dylan said, citing an example where his company produced a video for The Black Keys for very little up-front investment that did a million views on YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG). (Updated 4:11 p.m. PT to correct the number of views actually received by the video.)

Donavan has since branched out into the talent development process herself, with help from Dana Settle of Greylock Partners.

“One of the reasons we got exciting about maker was YouTube as a platform,” Settle said. “There’s a huge opportunity for creative people to have a lot more control over the product and the monetization on this platform.”

Professionals can also help artists understand where their promotional activities are best directed. Robert DeSantis, president of transactional media for Maddocks and Company, related the story of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and his promotional strategy for a drink that failed miserably in taste tests prior to launch.

“What a lot of us do is try to market to everyone. They were smart enough to say ‘I’m going after the #1 beverage in the demographic I want,” DeSantis said, which in that case was teenagers. Years later, everyone from kids to clubgoers to 65-year-old accountants are drinking Red Bull.

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