The world demands more out of its stars. In old media, an actor only had to act. A writer only had to write. Singers could get away with not knowing how to dance. Now? Everything bleeds together under the banner of ‘entertainer’. Managers are increasingly demanding more of their talent, so if one branch of their career stagnates, they have others to lean on. Is it always good? Examples say no!
Jake and Logan Paul
Singing on Youtube makes sense. That’s where most people go to see music videos nowadays. It only makes sense that the reverse, an internet personality choosing to sing, would happen eventually. Dancing? Sure, same thing. The Paul brothers have done both, with mixed results.
Boxing in particular is odd, but boxing as a sport is slowly inching closer and closer to wrestling – Youtuber Drew Gooden described the phenomenon as a way for unlikeable people to get money for getting punched in the face. It’s the perfect way for physically fit Youtube stars to show off their physique without actually putting themselves at risk of serious harm, as long as they’re going against other rookies… or professionals who are ‘in on it’.
Therefore, it’s perfect for Logan Paul. He’s physically fit, that’s impossible to argue. Does he have any boxing skill? Some would debate. Against other people in the same social media circles as he is, Logan boxes completely fine, even above average. Against people like Floyd Mayweather, it’s apparent that Mayweather went easy on him. Even a layman could see that Logan Paul could have been gotten in the jaw once or twice at least with how long he kept his hands down, compared to Mayweather’s past opponents. People were understandably angry at what they’d paid for, likely expecting a serious beat-down only to get a watered-down slap fight.
The Paul brothers also make music! Or, they made music: Team Ten, Jake’s project, is all but defunct. It was very ambitious, so I’m not too surprised it failed – it likely would have failed in anyone’s hands, he’s just not a particularly good manager, so it happened faster. Not to mention that the music itself wasn’t particularly well-liked. “It’s Everyday Bro” was the subject of commentary and critic channels for weeks, months even, with a whopping 5.3 million dislikes to 3 million likes. That’s a bad ratio. Do other personalities-turned-musicians fair any better?
Hard to tell.
Bella Poarch released a song titled ‘Build a B!tch” with a surprisingly violent music video just a few months ago, and it sits at a very solid 8.5 million likes to 311K dislikes, significantly better than Jake’s. It did pretty well, and it’s not bad – If Ariana Grande were just a smidge worse, this sounds like something off-brand Ariana Grande would sing. That’s not an insult, professional singers have entire teams of people composing songs for them. To almost nail the vibe of another singer is pretty impressive when you have little to no previously published works.
Meanwhile, Dixie D’amelio, sister of TikTok star Charlie D’amelio, makes songs that are… not as good. These other personalities sit in the middle – they’re much more likeable than Jake just by benefit of some self-control, but the music still is still the subject of critic channels across multiple platforms. The lyrics are vapid (especially vapid, not just pop-vapid), and that’s excusable if the flow of the music is good, but that falls down too in every song she’s published so far. She’s doing too much of it herself, and she’s a decent singer, dancer, she’s attractive, etc – but she’s just not particularly good at the rest of the things that come with being a popstar.
PodCasts: The Cast
Charlie and Dixie also have their own podcast, and it’s about what you would expect from a couple of young teenaged girls who got famous off of dancing. There’s just not that much content for them to work with outside of TikTok tips, and their own personal lives. Charlie was a dancer, so that’s cool, but it’s not a constant, sustainable source of content.
Podcasts are most interesting when they’re made by people with some degree of experience. Experienced interviewers, experienced craftsmen, experienced comedians, etc. All make good podcasts given the right conditions, and one of those conditions is a ‘content well’. A ‘content well’ is what it sounds like, a well of content. For interviewers, it’s their interviewees. For comedians, it’s current events. For true crime podcasts, the content goes back decades if not centuries. Charlie has plenty of experience on TikTok, about as much as anyone could have, but the content well she leans on is just too shallow.
Why is everyone making a podcast? Markiplier, another big Youtube star, recently started his Distractable podcast. The question is no longer ‘is it good?’, it’s ‘do I want to hear more of this guy?’ And there’s a difference. Podcasts are being set up for fans of the content, not new listeners, and as a result they tend to atrophy quicker. Tune in to some of these podcasts as a new listener, and you’ll be completely lost in a way you aren’t for podcasts that are just podcasts. The same for the D’Amelio podcast. Are you enough of a fan to listen in for an hour every week for updates on their content creation elsewhere?
Merch is an essential part of fandoms. Merch allows people to signal to other fans out in the wild that ‘Hey! I know that obscure reference!’ It provides room to start conversations with total strangers. In the ‘before’ times, there were three channels on TV. You could almost guarantee anybody you talked to watched the same episode of the show that you did last night. Now, a Youtuber could have 10 million subscribers, and you’d have no idea where those ten million are. Trying to reference a show or community that’s completely online to someone who doesn’t even know that Youtube has shows is an easy way to make yourself seem totally insane. “No, see, it’s funny because this one guy on Youtube…”
So merch is critical for community. However, what’s better than merch?
Just straight up starting a clothing brand! Merch used to be primarily fan-made, and when Youtubers started creating their own merch, it used to always have someone else’s tag on it. Zazzle, Redbubble, Fanjoy, etc. all put their own branding on the tag of the shirt. The creators were subject to the rules of the site, and the site got a cut of the money. If the material in the shirt was bad? All the creator could do is switch sites. Meanwhile, clothing brands give the creators much more control – they pick where the shirts come from, they decide what’s on the label, and they decide who gets how much money when the shirts are sold. There are downsides, of course, but big Youtubers can often afford to hire personnel for specific branches of their branding.
However, even this can be difficult. Designing your own clothes seems easy. And designing for your own show on Youtube is a sort of ‘easy-mode’. You have fans to poll. You likely have some references that most fans will get, like Markiplier’s pink moustache, or the Game Grumps’s particular shade of orange. And yet, that same easy-mode makes it incredibly difficult to make something good. Hardcore fans want campy gear, while casual fans may want something classy.
You want the reference to be solid, and pretty broad, but still niche enough to give a sense of being in the ‘in-group’. Meeting all of these desires on a site that offers shirts made-to-order is easy, because there’s never unsold stock – doing it for a line of shirts you’re responsible for storing if they don’t sell is miserable. It’s a lot of added responsibility. Many DIY designer lines come out generic as a result.
And then there’s books. If you were on TikTok in 2019, you might remember Gabbie Hanna’s poetry book coming out and then getting a lot of flak. Gabbie was an entertainer first and a vlogger second, but she still fits nicely – the book was pushed to fans of her content and advertised across all channels, and her social media channels for TikTok and Youtube were not excluded.
Poetry is difficult. New-wave poetry, where the rules are tenuous and the audience demanding, is even more difficult. Gabbie has made poetry before, but it was always on her terms, and her schedule. The jump to a publisher meant that she was now forced to adhere to a timeline that pushed her product out the door before it was ready, leaving several pages blank except for one- or two-liner jokes and puns put into a poetry book with otherwise serious subject matter. It changed the tone of the whole book.
And why? Someone on her management team thought this was a good idea, and it just wasn’t. Rush art, and you get rushed art. However, it can be done, which is why management teams try it. Rush someone who’s never written a book before, and you get Jake’s surprisingly well-received advice book, which – as people point out – sounds like it was written all in one day. Still sits at a solid 4 stars at Goodreads. Books are simultaneously one of the easiest things to start doing and one of the hardest things to master. Writing is easy, writing something that really resonates with the reader is hard.
Nonfiction, on the other hand, has much more success – Good Mythical Morning’s fan book was very well-received, even by critics of the channel, a tough feat for online personalities.
Ultimately, what separates the good songs from the bad, the good boxing matches from the bad, the good merch from the bad, is passion. Does the creator actually want to be doing this? Do they have something already in mind? Do they have access to the resources they need to ‘make it work?’
If the answer is no, they’d be better off not attempting to spread themselves where they don’t want to.