WWhat do Ghostface Killa, James Van Der Beek, and Carole Baskin from Tiger King have in common? All are available through Cameo, an online “thank you” service where subscribers can book a personalized video message from a growing army of actors, athletes, entertainers and more.
Chicago-based founder Steven Galanis’ brainchild of Cameo has been around since 2017, but it was during the pandemic that it came across the gold. By providing a much-needed source of income for performers affected by the crash and offering users a safe and memorable way to send some love, it skyrocketed. Right now, there are over 40,000 celebrities ready to say happy birthday to your mom or give your boyfriend a pep talk, with roughly 1.3 million messages sent last year alone.
Earlier this year, Cameo was valued at $ 1 billion, joining the ranks of tech “unicorns” (a private startup valued at more than $ 1 billion) like SpaceX and TikTok. That might sound like a lot of money for a company where for $ 30 actor Fred Stoller, aka Seinfeld’s Fred Yerkes, can lovingly troll his best friend, but Cameo has been praised for its simple model that doesn’t depend on ad revenue. unstable. Instead, subscribers buy a single service, Cameo takes 25%, the rest goes to the creator. With only 20% of Cameos purchased outside of the US, there should be plenty of room for the brand to grow.
And if something tells us its success, it is that 2021 is a good time to be a fan. No longer kept under lock and key from the administration and the media, access to our beloved celebrities is now easier than ever, whether through daily Instagram announcements or direct sponsorship through crowdfunding, OnlyFans and now Cameo.
We asked Steven Galanis about modern fandom and celebrity videos he wishes he had on his journey.
What video of a celebrity changed your life?
I had the idea for Cameo with my co-founder Martin at my grandmother’s funeral. He showed me a video that a friend had made of an NFL player from his favorite team congratulating him on becoming a father. I was like: we have to turn that into a business.
Do you remember who the first celebrity you signed up for was?
Of course! You know, when you are a founder, you do everything except the code, in my case. But I did everything else. Until a year ago, if you called Cameo’s phone number on Instagram, it would go to my cell phone… The first person we signed up with was Cassius Marsh, an NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks. My co-founder is from Brighton, so early on we recruited people like Manchester City soccer player Nigel de Jong and rugby player Maro Itoje.
What have you learned about the international Cameo fandom?
That the world has gotten smaller. Talent is global and its fans are everywhere. Think of shows that are hits in the UK and end up in the US or Hollywood movies that are seen around the world. Now we are seeing K-pop and Bollywood having an impact globally. Last year we sold Cameos in 178 different countries and all seven continents, including Antarctica, where we sold 10 or 11 to researchers there.
Has Cameo reached out to non-millennials?
Twenty-five to 34 is the most popular demographic for Cameo. But all age groups are regular users, even those over 65. It is primarily a gift product, so your mom may discover Cameo to buy you one. Most 18-24 year olds are on the website, but they don’t have the purchasing power. They buy fewer Cameos, but receive more from their parents or older brothers and sisters.
I wonder what kinds of celebrities appeal to the 65+ demographic. Who would your parents want a cameo from?
My dad loves a Chicago Cubs player named Ernie Banks. And I will tell you an interesting story, Ernie Banks is the most famous Chicago Cub of all time, he is a legend. But when Ernie Banks died in 2016, he died penniless. He literally had less than $ 1,000 in his bank account. And I thought how sad it was and as we were thinking about this business, if Ernie Banks had been alive today, he could be making a living on Cameo and he could be turning his fame into a source of income that could have supported him and his family. That was really motivating because I know that by my dad’s 70th birthday, he would easily have paid more than what Ernie Bank had in his bank account, for my dad’s greatest hero to wish him happy birthday.
How much do celebrities earn? I’ve seen some of the big headlines, like Brian Baumgartner AKA Kevin from the office. – won $ 1 million.
When we started the business, a lot of people in the press and even some fans said, “Why are these celebrities making more money? Not rich enough? “But one of the great things I have learned from doing this is that there is a huge gap between fame and money. Most of the people are more famous than rich and many of them are not making as much money as you think. and nine percent of the Screen Actors Guild is unemployed at any given time. In sports, the top 2% of athletes generate 99% of all income. In music, the top 1% of artists generate more than 90% from concert income, etc. For many people, direct income streams to fans like Cameo are the only thing that keeps them afloat.
So last year there were over 160 people on Cameo who made over $ 100,000 a year. That is significant, that helps pay the rent and supports families. And we’ve had a few people now make over a million dollars with Cameo. The last thing I’ll mention is that not all talents are motivated by cash, but they are all trying to be more loved and build relationships with fans.
What celebrity would you reserve for the Cameo Christmas party?
It’s always a surprise, you never know exactly who will be performing at a cameo party. In the past we have had Andy Dick and people from The Real Housewives. Maybe Kenny G is coming to play the saxophone.
Would you make a cameo?
I’ve already done it, I’ve done 700 or more. We have all employees create an account. People often ask me for advice on entrepreneurship.
So it’s not just about toasting?
No way! We are amazed every day by the creativity of our talent and the clients who book. I remember in 2017 Ben Bruce from the band Asking Alexandria got a request and the boyfriend said, “Hey, this is for my girlfriend, she’s really down because she can’t go to your concert in Chicago, her brother has a heroin overdose and She has been dealing with this loss, it has been extremely painful for her. And your music is what helped her get through this difficult time. Tell her how much you love her and that you miss her. “
It still gives me the creeps to think about it, so imagine yourself as an artist listening to that request and talking to that girl. That’s all it is.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism