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When a technology conference full of investors attracts hip hop artists, Chamillionaire, and producers Chaka Zulu and Quincy Jones III, it's clear the walls are breaking down between the artist and audience. It's no wonder Hollywood talent agencies are quickly moving away from their old business model and embracing the ways of Silicon Valley. The agencies, such as United Talent Agency and William Morris, are becoming more like venture capitalists as they move toward an ownership model and further away from the representation model, said Chris Pappas, head of digital media practice for United Talent Agency. "We find the right artist (and) we create a company around his/her intellectual property," he said. As for the artist, "they'll have a substantial ownership position," he added. "The idea is that they'll be the owner of that content and not just workers for hire."
Indeed, actor and comedian Will Farrell appears to be proving (though it's still early) that he can
bypass talent agencies and own a big chunk of his creation. Last year,
he co-founded Funny or Die,
and received funding from Sequoia Capital. Chaka, who manages rap artist Ludacris, was at the OnHollywood event last week to be on a panel but to also find investors for his startup - WeMix.com - a social network for musicians. It was at that OnHollywood panel where I caught up with Chris, and met Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60Frames.
To some extent, 60Frames and its origins underscores the evolution of talent agencies. Last July, 60Frames, a company incubated inside UTA and ad network startup SpotRunner raised $3.5 million from investors. (See paidContent.org piece.) 60Frames is an online content and video producer. In March, talent agency William Morris announced that it's partnered with Silicon Valley VCs Accel Partners and Venrock to fund digital media properties in Southern California. (See NYTime piece.)
So, how's the model working so far? I asked Chris.
"We're very early stage on this. I don't think this happens over night," he said. "If we can have one or two successes, you'll see more artists going down that road."
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