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Nick Symmonds' Stack for Producing Certified Bangers on YouTube

Million-view video ideas, picking partners based on deal simplicity, and why he decided to sign with a talent manager

Enjoy this previously paywalled article featuring U.S. Olympian-turned-YouTuber, “MrBeast of Fitness” Nick Symmonds, as I wrap up my last week of paternity leave. New Creator conversations launch next week - stay tuned!

The Stack

Video - $5,000 Sony cameras + $3,000 Drones + GoPros

Audio - Lav Mics

Editing and Design - $5,000 MacBooks + Adobe Suite

All said and done, in the last six months, I've probably put $30 grand into camera equipment and $20 grand into computers. So, $50,000 tech spend - but that was long overdue! I was renting or leasing from my chief camera guy, who had a bunch of gear, and finally, at the end of 2022, I'm like “Listen, I have the revenue now, let me just buy all our own here.”

Asset Management - DropBox + their own server + fiber

This house has fiber - I spent $14 grand bringing fiber to the house.

We have our own server, but we also have Dropbox, so we have a redundant storage between the server and Dropbox. So if we lost Dropbox, we have it on our server, and if we lost our server, we have it on Dropbox.

Story time - I once was working on content distribution for a Creator, and we got them a deal to distribute their YouTube content onto Snap. This was a few years ago, and not so easy to do. I went to them to tell them the news and ask for access to their assets, and the told me “I don’t have my old videos. I just delete them once I put them on YouTube to keep my hard drive clear.”

Needless to say, we didn’t end up distributing that Creator’s content.

I’m thrilled that Creators like Nick understand the value of their content assets, and are investing in keeping them protected!

Project Management - Text, Email, Notes, Whiteboard

I told my team I wouldn't download any new apps. I have them email me - I don't want text, I just want emails. When you need something, I'm on my email 12 hours a day, just managing everything. I’m kind of old school that way.

Video Distribution - Wild Vision

Nick is partnered with Wild Vision, who repurposes his YouTube videos for Snapchat and Facebook. He’s been with them for about a year and is happy so far - some of his Facebook checks have been bigger than his YouTube checks, even AFTER Wild Vision’s cut!

There are increasingly more companies entering this space, which is largely dominated by Jellysmack, so I was curious why he went with Wild Vision.

I was actually talking to Jellysmack, Atmosfarm, and Wild Vision all at the same time, and I just liked the back and forth that I was having with Wild Vision. They were a little more laid back. Their contract was much simpler.

The Jellysmack contract had a few “Gotcha!” clauses that I said I would never sign, and I read all my own contracts, I don't hand them off to a lawyer. I've spent a lot of time reading contracts - that was something I did as a pro runner for 12 years, so I can tell when a contract reads fair and when it doesn't, and Wild Vision had a really simple, really fair contract.

It's really important to me that contracts don't need to be complicated. They really are just, you know, 2 or 3 points that are up for discussion, then a bunch of boilerplate. When I see a 45 page contract come my way, and I'm not saying anybody sent that, but I've seen some 45 page contracts come my way and I'm like “This is not necessary” and it's a huge red flag.

Other Content Distribution - His wife

We find that everybody is so good at their thing, but they're so bad at understanding the whole thing. I wouldn't even know where to begin on TikTok, but my wife consumes a lot of TikTok content. She knows what works there. I'm not a big fan of Instagram, she knows exactly what's going to work on Instagram. I do know what's going to work on YouTube, so I just stay in my lane, and I would say with Wild Vision, though they can do those things, I just think that the scope of work we originally discussed was their specialty - which was Facebook and Snapchat. I just prefer to keep some things in-house and outsource others. I think they could probably do Instagram and TikTok, but not as affordably as my wife can, and I also love to keep it in house when I can. She's great!

App - Playbook

It's kind of like - I don't want to say the word superfan, but like really committed people that want one on one interaction with me.

I would say it's almost like Patreon, but way better than Patreon.

Where Patreon sometimes feels like it's more charity-based, this is straight up like “Hey, the premium, the most personalized content, is behind this paywall.”

It also allows me to do some of my challenges digitally.

Having a white-labeled app or website for membership can feel a lot better to many Creators, Nick included.

That said, I do wonder if he’d have more people paying for a subscription if he used a well-known platform like Patreon. There’s something to be said about the trust - and pre-existing credit card info - people have in known platforms.

Nick’s perception of Patreon as charity is a common one, and probably the biggest monkey they need to get off their back.

Merch - Invisible Narratives

Nick’s partnership with Invisible Narratives is super interesting to me because it represents a meaningful pivot by that company.

Invisible Narratives was started by Adam Goodman, a Hollywood superproducer and former President of Paramount Pictures responsible for shepherding franchises like G.I. Joe, Mission Impossible, and the Star Trek reboots.

Their original premise was to partner with top Creators to launch and incubate new IP, written by Hollywood writers and embedded into the Creators’ YouTube channels, that could then be exploited off-platform (presumably in traditional media).

Although the model wasn’t quite as flawed as, say, Quibi, the economics of YouTube were never really going to work in their favor. That said, it was nice to see another entertainment power player take an interest in the space.

I’m very interested to see how his merch line with them does, and his logic for partnering with them makes a lot of sense:

I really really believe in storytelling. You probably wouldn’t notice it watching my content, because we're pretty much action-focused and not so much storytelling-focused…but you watch somebody like Trahan or you watch somebody like Mark Rober - it’s just incredible storytelling getting tens of millions of views per video, and there's something to that, right?

I think when it comes down to merch, I want to have that story and making somebody feel like they're part of that story - and really like it's a more intimate relationship with the audience than just action action action. I think you'll see my some of my content transition more towards storytelling, and when Invisible Narratives came and said that all of their merch sales are based on this underlying idea of storytelling and invisible narrative - I mean there's a reason they call themselves that. That just resonated so loudly with the Creator that I'm aspiring to become, and I thought “We are aligned in what we want to do.”

So we're currently working on our first merch drop together. I have a good story for merch, you know, like - two-time-Olympian-turn-Creator. I wasn't the person you would expect to be a distance runner, an Olympic distance runner, and so we're gonna kind of lean into that pretty heavily.

But they also, from what I've seen, are very good at Shopify in a very crowded space, and so I'm excited to work with them on this campaign.

I’m rooting for both Nick and Adam (who is a super charismatic, sharp guy) and I’m excited to see what this partnership yields!

Team

Representation - Bottle Rocket Management

I'd had half a dozen managers approach me, including Night Media, saying “Hey, we want to work with you!” and I'm just like “No, I don't want to split my revenue, like I don't want to give you 20% of anything, let alone everything.”

Some of those managers were saying “We're going to take 20% of your entire pie.” I'm like “But you didn't do anything to help me build this! Why would I give you 20% of that?” So that was a non-starter for me, and also, I love doing brand deals! I love negotiating them myself. It's something a lot of creators hate, but I genuinely enjoy the process of negotiating the brand deals and I didn't want to give that up.

A really good friend, a mutual friend of Chas and mine…he's like “Hey, I was talking to this guy Chas, and he's a manager of YouTubers, and he just wanted to pick your brain for 10 minutes.”

I’m like “Oh God, here comes the pitch!”

I love Chas’ charisma and I love how honest he is, and right off the bat - I think he appreciates that I'm a straight shooter, I'm not trying to waste anyone's time - I said “Listen, if you want 20% of everything, don't waste your time, I'm not your creator.”

He goes “I don't want 20% of anything except the brand deals.”

So he got past my litmus test of - are you trying to take everything or not?

And then I said “All right, you want 20% of brand deals. Well, I'm telling you, this is how much I'm doing right now.” And I was pretty good at getting market rate. So I wasn't looking for a manager to help me get market rate. I was looking for a manager to help me stabilize deal flow, because Q4 was so heavy, Q1 was pretty good. Q2 and Q3 were kind of really slow for me.

In my vetting process, I talked to a couple of Creators that he worked with, and they said “Yeah, Chas has been great. He stabilized the deal flow for us. No complaints.”

So I told Chas I was in.

He called me like 10 times before I finally signed the contract. I said “I know I seem like this prospect that's scared to go on a first date with you.” I said, “Let's try it for three months. It'll be Q4, it's the juiciest quarter for brand deals. Let's try it for three months and see how it goes.” And it was great!

Obviously, we continued our relationship into Q1 2023, and I have no reason not to work with him. I love talking to him. I appreciate all the brand deals they bring. Although I do still miss the brand negotiations, it has freed my time up quite a bit to go back and focus on building revenue out elsewhere, which is really what I should be doing.

So now I know that sometimes, I have to give up stuff even if I like it, to focus on other stuff that's going to drive the business.

Content Production and Distribution - His wife, Tiana + 2 shooter-editors + himself + looking to hire a producer

My team is actually pretty small. Two video shooters, they double up - Trevor and Ryan, they they can shoot, they can edit, they can do it all. Tiana, my wife, we've talked about, and then me.

I'm mostly on-camera talent producer, and I write the checks. So I managed the business, and the four of us, we operate out of a house in Coburg Oregon.

Nick’s team’s process for brainstorming and producing content is pretty unique - it reminds me of my days at a 4-person startup, sitting around a whiteboard and ideating.

First and foremost, these are what I would call “Certified Bangers”. They're like videos that are guaranteed to get a million views that I'm working on producing.

We're really kind of moving into this this space where it's quality over quantity. I was making one video a week for the last four years, and now you'll see about 2 videos a month coming from us - but they're going to be much much bigger productions.

I'll come up with an idea, or Trevor or Ryan will come up with an idea, and we'll just sit around and talk about it. Sometimes the the idea comes in pretty raw, and then we'll workshop it. Title, thumbnail concept… if we can get all 3 of those, and if at the end of the conversation we're all like smiling at each other, we're like “Oh my gosh, this is it - certified banger.”

We have to have all 3 thumbs up for us to say “Yes, this is this is a good certified banger.” Like MrBeast has that in his own gut because he's been doing it for so long. We, between the 3 of us, we are not on that level. But between the 3 of us, if we sit and workshop it, and we all get on the same page, then it's a 90% chance that we got it.

Sometimes they still flop, but it's very rare when all 3 of us are excited about the video, the title. the thumbnail that the concept doesn’t go.

He also feels very strongly about keeping his shooter-editors in-house.

I hate contracted employees for that particular role, because maybe I need them on this very specific date because I finally got access to shoot and they're like “Oh, I'm sorry, I'm booked with so and so over here.”

We are so reactionary in the sense that we're planning 6 different videos at once, and when I need to shoot something, maybe a brand deal comes in last minute for tens of thousands of dollars but they need it by Friday, I needmy guys on call to react to whatever great opportunity comes our way.

So I got them on full-time salaries. We've got a retirement plan with 3% matching. We've got healthcare. We've got fifteen days PTO. I pay for all their travel. I mean we've got a really really nice package for people that want to work full time here.

For those who are interested - he’s hiring a producer!

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