“Sometimes I only eat half my salad,” rapper Riff Raff yells to nobody in particular. “That’s to remind you that I’m still hungry.”
He throws his beer to the floor like an exclamation point as he finishes this statement.
The clip, like all Vine videos, lasts less than six seconds. Yet in the first 13 hours after being posted, more than 2,050 people have liked it.
Riff Raff has made rap albums. He’s said to have inspired James Franco’s “Alien” character in the film Spring Breakers. He starred on MTV’s reality show From G’s To Gents (lest you forget, he has a tattoo of MTV’s logo on his neck). But he is also one of the first in a new breed of celebrity. He is a “Vine star.”
As Facebook reportedly prepares to launch video for Instagram, Twitter’s first video app, Vine, is reaching a kind of milestone in the same niche. Like YouTube and Internet memes before it, the app is getting its own talent agency.
Representing Vine stars is Gary Vaynerchuk, a brand consultant and author who built a wine retail business partly through social media. Perhaps the opportunity for a pun was too enticing. Vaynerchuk is a wine expert. Twitter’s app is called Vine. And Vaynerchuk’s agency for Vine stars will be called “Grape Story.”
“I’d seen this rodeo before,” Vaynerchuk tells Fast Company. “I started a YouTube show in 2006, so I lived that phenomenon. I lived what happened on Twitter for the first year and a half, before quote, unquote, real celebrities were on it. It’s just so obvious to me that this is going to happen.”
Riff Raff won’t necessarily be among the agency’s first clients (with the exception of Grape Story’s cofounder, Vine star Jerome Jarre, the agency hasn’t announced it’s roster). “A lot of people who are YouTube celebrities and have crossed over to Vine are not doing well,” Vaynerchuck says. “This takes a very specific skill. So we’re going to be looking for people who aren’t famous for anything else other than they artistically figured out how to storytell in six seconds.”
Virgin Mobile will be the first company to hire Grape Story’s stars. Though the talent will have a level of creative freedom while crafting contracted videos, they’ll incorporate specific Virgin Mobile messages. Vaynerchuck wouldn’t disclose how much stars will be paid per video, though he did say that a star who made about 20 videos each year could make a living. That’s only two minutes of video. In a year.
Ron Faris, Virgin Mobile’s head of brand marketing, says Vine is particularly well-suited for brands. Nobody skips your pre-roll. Your audience only needs a six-second attention span to get the message, and they might even watch it twice.
Instagram’s rumored video option, meanwhile, doesn’t seem as interesting to him.
“I often question when a platform has its tried and true, which is photography, still photo, moves into another medium,” he says. “What is really the motivation behind it? . . . There could be a host of reasons other than this is what the consumer wants. Vine is something that was born into the model of [six]-seconds of video. And I think when you see other people trying to replicate that model, it’s not going to have the same organic lift and success as the person who came up with it first did.”
Brands are obviously still making efforts to infiltrate Instagram and its enormous user base of more than 100 million users (Vine, by comparison, had about 13 million users when it launched its Android app in June). Vine, however, has a head start in video. Not only has the app done time in the top slots of both Android and iTunes’ most popular free app charts (it currently claims the sixth and fourth spot, respectively), but, according to Topsy, its presence on Twitter is already about as large as that of three-year-old Instagram.
Vine has, in other words, established itself nicely since launching in January. And judging by the success of Facebook’s past attempts to compete with Foursquare, Groupon, Quora, and Snapchat, the company is not great at playing catch-up.
Gary V.’s agency could be another small sign of how much distance Facebook will need to make up–not necessarily with users, of which it already has more than 100 million, but with brand advertisers. The distance between a branded Vine and a promoted Tweet that features it is short, and an agency dedicated to Vine signals there’s demand at the beginning of that path.
Then again, it could flop. In which case, the platform’s stars can always take a cue from Riff Raff.
The rapper has edited his six-second Vines together into a three-minute video and posted this on YouTube. When you press play, an ad for Advil comes up (one of several ads in rotation). After the video is over, there’s no product I want more.