A YouTube Studio Borrows The Old Hollywood System To Make Big Hits

Does a billion hits a month sound pretty good to you? Meet Danny Zappin, cofounder of Maker Studios, which is poised to reach that milestone in June.

Danny Zappin is one of the cofounders of Maker Studios, a studio for aspiring YouTube stars. Having raised over $1.5 million last year, Maker has been growing rapidly. It stands to hit a billion views this month across its network of some 700 YouTube channels.

FAST COMPANY: What’s the idea behind Maker Studios?

DANNY ZAPPIN: We came up with the idea of creating an actual studio system, a sustainable new kind of studio model for short-form content. We created a model that could bring together lots of different individuals, give them a production infrastructure and business support, the ability to collaborate, and to build audiences around their content. We started in the summer of 2009, first with a YouTube channel called TheStation, and it grew really organically pretty quickly. We began building more production infrastructure and producing for individual channels as well.

What elements of the studio system are you recreating?

The great thing about YouTube is you don’t have to rely on anyone else, but that’s also the bad thing about it. You want support and infrastructure. It’s hard without having people to help find locations, get props, coordinate, produce, and so on. Creating all that for one channel doesn’t make sense, but if you could create and share that infrastructure across dozens or hundreds of channels, then you can share resources and get a lower-cost production model going.

Do you charge people to join Maker Studios? Where do you get your talent?

We start primarily with people who are already on YouTube with an audience. We strike a partnership agreement with rev share, structured in various ways. The goal is, for every video put out there, to generate as much viewership as possible. Some of our channels get 5 million views on every video; others are in the 10-20,000 range.

Do you have a studio lot?

We have a 20,000-square-foot building. The back half of it has three production stages. There’s a full props and wardrobe department, and an art department. It’s not as big and fancy as a studio lot. It’s somewhere in the middle between a random few cameras in an apartment, and a giant studio. It’s fairly professional at this point.

How many Maker-affiliated channels are there at this point?

We probably have 600-700 channels. Some are branded, others aren’t. We had 876 million views in May. We’ll easily be over a billion views in June.

What kind of money are you making?

I can’t speak to revenue right now. But there’s a lot of opportunities on the sales side. We have the ability to package together 200 million video gaming views, or 200 million comedy views—different audiences that advertisers may be interested in.

It seems like you’re a lot of businesses in one—a studio space, a talent management company, a branding agency...

We’re definitely going for a more fully integrated model that has a lot of different components. It’s a different, more holistic, everything-under-one-roof kind of approach.

What’s some of your recent successes?

TheMomsView has had a very successful launch. Moms content is something there’s not a lot of, since most moms are so busy they can’t make videos.

Is part of your integrated model to have day care?

We have certain talent that helps with the babysitting. We’re looking into day care.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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[Image: Everett Collection/Shutterstock]

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