Social Apps Creating More Young Stars Than Traditional Media

At VidCon, live-streaming mobile app YouNow showcased Internet stars such as singer Hailey Knox, who promoted her debut EP in person and to her 80,000 followers. Knox parlayed her online fame to a record deal and a tour, underscoring the reality that today’s young stars and wannabes are more likely to appear on YouNow, Musical.ly, Flipagram, Snapchat or Vine than “American Bandstand” or MTV. Although all these social media platforms skew young, “olds” are beginning to join Snapchat, endangering its “cool” status.

The New York Times quotes long-time digital music executive David Hyman as dubbing the above apps as “the new farm club.” Hyman has launched Chosen, a talent-contest app, one of many that being live, give users “a sense of taking part in something immediate, and creating a new class of performance stars.”

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All research thus far points to just how young the demographic is. On YouNow, 74 percent of them are between 13 and 24, says the company. Musical.ly boasts 90 million users and Flipagram reports 200 million. “This generation was born with screens all around them,” says YouNow founder/chief executive Adi Sideman. “Performing live, and being live, is completely natural to them.”

One standout example is Shawn Mendes, who started on Vine, and then scored a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. Some of these Internet stars are also making money, via virtual gifts from their fans. Performer Brent Morgan says he makes $10,000 a month that way.

VideoInk founder Jocelyn Johnson is dubious about the value of brand endorsements and advertising. “There’s a perception among brands that all of a star’s audience will migrate from their YouTube channel or Instagram feed,” she says. “But what we are seeing is that those numbers don’t always meet expectations.”

The “cool” factor on some of these apps might also have an expiration date. The Wall Street Journal notes that Snapchat might be losing its edge as an increasing number of adults sign up. ComScore reports that, currently, “about 69 percent of U.S. smartphone users age 18 to 24 are on Snapchat, up from 24 percent in 2013.” But Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that, “to really get true growth that can be monetized, you’ve got to be appealing to more age groups which can kind of alienate the teens.”

Snapchat asserts it’s not a problem. “Our community enjoys having their parents on Snapchat because it’s a really fast and fun way to communicate… It’s never been an issue.” The company’s revenue, $60 million last year, is expected to reach “as much as $300 million” this year.