Meet the Vine-ographers Who Can Make $10k in 6 Seconds
Friday, January 24, 2014 - 05:00 AM
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Vine, the app that lets you shoot and share six-second videos with your smartphone.
Unlike Twitter and Instagram, the video platform isn't dominated by celebrities. The most popular users are comedians, musicians and stop-motion artists — some of them virtually unknown before Vine came along — who have built up a following through the app.
(Ever heard of Nash Grier? The North Carolina teen is the top Viner with more than 5 million followers.)
Many of these so-called Super-Viners are making thousands of dollars a pop by creating Vines for Fortune 500 companies. It's such a thriving business in fact, that some people have turned it into a full-time job.
"We spend at least five days a week shooting Vines, if not seven," said Meagan Cignoli, a fashion and portrait photographer who has made stop-motion Vines for more than 60 brands like Lowe's, Puma and eBay.
Her Vine business is so lucrative and consistent, she's brought on several full-time and part-time employees, and her home-studio in Lower Manhattan has quickly developed into a small guild of artists who execute her vision in materials like Play-Doh, paint and jelly beans.
Super-Viners like Cignoli say there's enough work out there that they can maintain creative control by turning down gigs for campaigns they don't want to do.
"I don't want to do advertisements," said Vine sensation Nicholas Megalis. "I want to do funded art projects. And if it's just an ad, if it's just like, 'buy this soda,' then that doesn't interest me even remotely."
Following the success of his viral six-second songs, Megalis is making a living off Vine too. More than two million people liked his "Gummy Money" Vine where he sings a catchy ditty about a wallet full of gummy worms, and brands took note.
The Vines he's made for the likes of Virgin Mobile and Trident have put enough dough in his pocket to let him live his life and do creative projects every day.
Jeff Stevens, fan engagement specialist at Comedy Central, said people like Megalis understand the 18-to-24 year-old demographic of so-called "millenials." They also have the skills and fresh ideas to reach them.
"There's something that happens behind the camera that a lot of big brands don't know how to do," Stevens said.
There's so much money at stake in this micro-economy, it even has its very own middleman. Jerome Jarre is co-founder of GrapeStory, a company that helps brands connect with about 20 of the top Vine-ographers.
"Right now we are signing year-long campaigns for 2014," he said.
With more than four million followers, Jarre himself is one of the most popular people on Vine. His videos are a mixture of light-hearted pranks and other zany antics performed in public. He's a Vine trendsetter as well as an observer of trends who thinks it's inevitable that more brands will want to get on Vine.
"I think any industry will figure out a way to communicate in six seconds. And will have to, because all the new generation is thinking in six seconds now," Jarre said.
The platform's immediacy also means quick turnaround. Meagan Cignoli said if a brand contacts her on a Tuesday, she can make the Vine on Wednesday and see it posted on Thursday.
"It's really fast," she said.
So as advertisers figure out how to use Vine to promote products, they're creating a whole new mini-industry where creative people are making videos and money along the way.