Everyone Is Suddenly Obsessed With Cameo — Here’s Why

Photographed by Refinery29.
I don't know about you, but lately, my Instagram feed has been overtaken by celebrity Cameos. I'm talking Danielle Staub of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Nikki Blonsky from the movie-musical Hairspray, and Joe Exotic's ex-husband John Finlay, of Tiger King fame. And as it turns out, this isn't just my personal Instagram algorithm — according to Cameo CEO and co-founder Steven Galanis, new talent has been flocking to the platform and the number of videos created has increased dramatically since the beginning of March.
Now, there are over 30,000 celebrities are on Cameo, with many of the newcomers, like the Bon Appetit YouTube channel stars and even Busy Philipps, joining specifically to fundraise for COVID-19-related charities. The business model is simple — celebrities set their own rates, and the platform takes 25% of every video created, no matter the price. From April 16-18, Cameo will also be hosting Cameo Cares, where all proceeds of videos sitewide will be donated to COVID-19-related charities in the hopes of raising $1 million (£802,025) in just one weekend. Ahead, we spoke with Galanis about how COVID-19 has affected Cameo's business, who makes the most money and videos on the platform, and why the concept behind Cameo is so resonant with people right now.
Refinery29: Have you seen an increase in sales of Cameo videos since the start of this time of self-quarantining and social distancing?
Steven Galanis: Yes, absolutely. I'll preface this by saying that obviously when the market crashed we were really worried about how this would affect consumer discretionary spending. But last month we saw a 78% increase in new talent onboarded and a 30% increase in the amount of Cameo videos being created. As far as when we really started to see a spike in our business, it was kind of mid-March. Overall, basically our sales have doubled over the last three weeks.
We've also actually seen with the increased amount of requests that a higher percentage of the videos are getting completed. The talent has seven days to create the video, and if they don't do it in seven days, that's called an expiration. But while bookings have doubled, expirations have cut in half. The completion rate was over 90% already, but now it's under 4% of all video requests — a huge increase, and I think mostly it's just because people have more time. The talent is sitting home on their couches like you and I are.
What kind of celebrities get the most requests?
Historically, comedians and reality TV stars have been the best performers, as well as a Hall of Fame athletes and musicians. I think people who are funnier tend to do better on Cameo. Last year, Gilbert Gottfried made the most money on Cameo, and his videos have been about $150 (roughly £120). Cameo's a cool platform because we do really well with people in pop culture who are trending in the moment. This year the most booked person so far on the platform has been Jerry Harris from Cheer on Netflix. And in the last two weeks, the best people have been the Tiger King cast. Saff, who had his arm bitten off by the tiger, made $150 (roughly £120) a week at the zoo in Oklahoma, and now he's making tens of thousands of dollars a week on Cameo. It's really cool to see people who have these viral moments be able to make life-changing money really quickly.
Then on the other side, you have people who joined recently like Mandy Moore and Akon, who were some of the biggest stars in the world 10 years ago. So we've always done really well with nostalgia talent as well. If you go on the website and watch some of Akon's videos, he's just so personable and he's got such a great personality. You can tell if someone is gonna be good or not. And then we also do well with people who are trending on the internet on their way up. We tend to see digital talent doing the most quantity, and they tend to be way lower priced because they have a younger fanbase. For example, TikTok stars. Their videos might be $10 (roughly £8), but they're doing thousands of videos.
Do you find that people on the platform increase their video prices as their popularity grows?
It depends. One thing that's really counterintuitive is while our business has been skyrocketing and people are busier than ever on Cameo, we've actually seen people dropping their prices so they can do more Cameos right now. In the last two weeks, the average price per video has decreased by 27%. 
How do you get new talent on the platform?
We have a talent acquisitions team whose job it is to help recruit new talent to the platform. Once on Cameo, you're assigned a talent relations representative who helps you with promotions and marketing and that type of thing — like a white glove concierge service for our talent. Today, about 50% of our talent we recruit, 25% comes from referrals from other talent, and 25% will just download the app and join themselves.
How did Cameo come to be? What was the idea behind it?
We had the idea that selfies were the new autograph. We were trying to figure out: how do you take a selfie with someone without actually being there with them? And this was our solution to that. Looking back at it, obviously we weren't expecting to enter a world of social distancing, but in many ways this is kind of the perfect product for an era where every meet and greet, fan convention, and Comic-Con is cancelled. This is a way for the talent to have a Comic-Con in the palm of their hands.

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