The Creator Economy Grows Up: How Jellysmack Helps Talent Gain Scale

Sean Atkins has watched the digital media revolution transform entertainment throughout his career as a content executive for Discovery Communications, MTV and HBO, among other outlets. In his present role as president of talent and marketing firm Jellysmack, he’s now got a front-row seat to watch how social media and the growth of the creator economy is transcending media.

“The creator space will impact everything in the GDP,” Atkins predicts on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”

Jellysmack’s pitch to social media creators is that the company can help them grow followers and impact by adapting their content for multiple social platforms. It’s incredibly labor-intensive for creators to adapt their material for platforms ranging from YouTube to Instagram to TikTok. Jellysmack operates partly as a talent scouting agency that nurtures emerging creators and helping them focus on growth opportunities. It also helps with content marketing and distribution for its creator clients.

Demand for Jellysmack’s services is a sign that the creator economy is maturing into a real business.

“Creators are in that moment right now, where they’re realizing, ‘I’ve got to hire editors, or I need capital to build a studio, or I want to build a merchandise line, or I want to build a touring business,’ ” Atkins said. “I need partners who understand that scale and what that infrastructure needs look like. We use all of our AI and technology to develop services that identify these creators at an early stage and then support them so they can grow into real viable businesses across multiple areas.”

Another significant change that Atkins is seeing more and more is social media creators who shy away from moving into traditional media even when courted.

“When they see the economics of the deal you want to do with them and they’re like, ‘Let me get this straight: I do whatever I want creatively every single day, and all the money accrues to me. Yes. But if I can work with you, I got 20 people giving me notes on every single thing I do. And you’re gonna pay me like one-one-hundreth of what I make now and I own none of the rights. Why don’t I do that?”

Atkins notes that about 80% of Jellysmack’s clients make $250,000 a year or more. He points to travel influencers Kara and Nate, a married couple from Nashville who travel the world. They built up a following by posting travelogue videos on YouTube; more recently the pair launched an e-commerce business that helps users book travel at a discounted rates.

“That’s something you wouldn’t see in traditional media, where [Kara and Nate] use the power of their distribution activity to build a while new business that gives them visibility and credibility in those areas,” Atkins said. “It’s really hard to find a vertical that doesn’t have dominant creators. People don’t understand the size of the impact that is happening. It’s not just in media.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud and more.

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