With the pandemic digitizing every aspect of our lives, the Creator Economy has taken off like never before, with some estimates saying it’s now a $100Bn+ market. Yet, managing your professional life, whether you’re an actor, model, writer, or designer, is a nightmare of email, manual bookings, and the dreaded PDFs. Even though top agencies are worth $20Bn, creatives still face delays and opaque industry practices. While modeling talent is subject to a commission of 20-40%, social media has gradually replaced traditional agencies. It lowers the barrier for entry and makes talent easier accessible. Social media, however, is not a platform that can be used to manage a career.
Late last year the Contact platform launched, initially offering models a way to take bookings and manage some aspects of their work. The platform is now seeking to solve the larger problems mentioned above with funding from a number of key creative industry players.
Maisie Williams is the founder and advisor to the startup. She’s best-known for Game of Thrones and has been a tireless advocate for improved conditions for artists in the sector.
Contact now has a seed round of $1.9 million, or PS1.4 million in funding from Founders Fund. LAUNCH, the fund headed by investors Jason Calacanis and Sweet Capital (via Pippa lamb), Rogue VC and Angel investors Simon Beckerman and Eric Wahlforsss (cofounders of SoundCloud and Dance), Joe White and Abe Burns are also participating.
Contact was founded in order to address the modeling industry. However, it has a much bigger vision. Reuben Selby, Contact’s cofounder and CEO, is a former member of William’s founder team. Selby, a fashion designer, has previously worked for Thom Browne and JW Anderson. The platform will be a back-end system that can scale across the $104.2 billion Creator Economy. He said the goal is to “democratize” access to some of the most creative talents in the world.
Selby recently talked about his experience as a founder of autism. He is also co-founder and creative director for Reuben Selby’s label and co-founder and CEO of Cortex, a community and creative agency. Selby will be joined by Josh McMillan, CTO of Deliveroo and Daisie as well as the Government Digital Service.
Although Creatively and Patreon are some of its main competitors, Contact’s goal to combine many elements from these platforms into one platform could be called ambitious. It is, however, tantalizing.
Individuals and businesses now have the ability to search for and hire creative professionals directly without having to go through agencies. This is a significant shift in an industry that has been dominated by agencies.
Contact launched the platform initially in October 2020. It allowed fashion models to find and book their clothes, with plans for expansion post-fundraising to include other creative areas such as stylists and videographers.
Selby claims that Contact was inspired by his personal experience as a photographer and model trying to get into the creative sector. He realized there were no secure ways for him to be paid, and that booking agencies did not have basic technology tools. This led him to realize that the main beneficiaries of his efforts was the agency and’middle men’. They took cuts from both parties and sometimes still delivered a poor product.
How does Contact function?
A Creator can showcase their work across multiple creative services, and they may also be able to take bookings.
The business can search for talent and use filters to find the best talent. They also have the option of shortlisting creative talent and providing more details. The web platform allows creatives to accept and reject job offers. Soon, a mobile app will be available. After the job is completed, talent receives payment via Contact.
Contact claims it has signed up nearly 600 designers and 1,400 clients since soft-launching in the modeling sector. According to the startup, the number of users on the platform has increased by 100% year-over-year.
Contact plans to stay in the background, Selby states. This will allow talent to be recognized independently from other verticals. Contact doesn’t take money from the creators. It only takes payments from booking agencies.
Trae Stephens (Partner at Founders Fund) commented: “We love when founders seem to be born to create a company. Reuben certainly seems to be one of these founders. “We are excited to see the company grow and explore new creative areas.
Pippa Lamb (Partner at Sweet Capital) said: “Contact have been pushing boundaries in the creator economics long before it became trendy. Contact is a rare blend of top-notch technical talent and the most innovative minds today. This is the next chapter for us.
Williams is best-known for her role as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. She has also worked on startup projects. Her previous contributions to Daisie, which connects creators to each other to collaborate on projects and helps creators to find collaborators, was her first.
However, it was clear that her desire to break the mold of a creative world controlled largely by “middle men” was not satisfied by this experience.
Williams and Selby spoke to me during an exclusive interview.
Selby stated that the current marketplace for model jobs is only the beginning. “The vision was always about creatives and making sure they get paid for what they do.” The modeling industry was our first vertical. We are currently expanding into other verticals such as photographers and makeup artists. However, this is only a small portion of our overall vision.
According to him, the current focus is on the “distribution of work and how it works with the audience. How they can monetize that.” It’s giving them tools to make money with their creativity, not just physical limitations. This is what we are currently exploring. This marketplace exists, however we view it as a small piece of the bigger picture.
The marketplace model could connect brands to creatives and creators directly, but he stated that brands still have great power. “The creators just sit there waiting for someone to give them something. We’re currently working with them to figure out how they can distribute their work by themselves and monetize it their way. The backend of logistics and operational work are handled by our product, which handles the payment and licensing, as well as insurance and other payments.
Williams, a Hollywood superstar, told me that the entertainment and creative industries she is familiar with are stuck in emails and links rather than the platforms they use. “I have been representing talent agencies my entire career. That whole interaction online is email. None of these assets are ever digitized. My scripts are not stored in a ‘vault. It’s not possible to upload my entire audition tape collection. You can always send an email with a link to the audition tapes. It’s not a industry standard. Agency perspective doesn’t see any work as very efficient or directional.
It is time to make some changes. She said that casting processes are outdated and need to be updated. “We want to streamline the process.”
Selby spoke about the investor team he assembled to support Contact. He said that Founders Fund was chosen as their lead investor due to their collaborative approach. They give you lots of space and freedom to be creative. There was an obvious alignment.
He said that Angel investors such as Eric and Simon were “majorly connected” in music and fashion culture.
Williams spoke out about the possible reaction of the entertainment industry to Contact. He said that actors have many other talents. It is important for actors to be able to monetize other activities. This is especially true since you are often unemployed as an actor.” Williams said that the system was designed so that you “are only as valuable as the auditions you get from your agent. This is not very motivating or rewarding. Many actors create or stream their shows, or make documentaries. Or sell their work through other channels.
Contact said she wants the platform to allow for that. Contact also stated that the platform will enable creatives more freedom and independence. “The music and film industries are full of multi-talented people with diverse talents. They are held in some way by record labels, managers, and representatives who hold a lot power, which keeps them small. It is important to be able offer something that can provide so many additional tools.
The vision Selby and Williams share is clear. But the question remains: Will they succeed?
However, it must be noted that the combined combination of an enthusiastic Gen-Z-influential group (with additional star power), a fully-fledged technology platform, US investors and Angels drawn from the creative industries points to success.
Publiated at Thu, 12 August 2021 11:42:04 +0000