Not into Instagram photo sharing, YouTube performance clips, or online “zines”? Then the names Lindsey Stirling, Cameron Dallas, and Tavi Gevinson may mean nothing to you.
But to the 600-plus young entrepreneurs running and attending the second “Forbes Under 30 Summit” at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, these twentysomethings are major celebrities in the parallel universe of online media. They’re innovators working with wits and low-cost technology to disrupt – and perhaps dismantle – the big money status quo, the underlying theme of this three-day rally.
Moderator Taylor Hanson, the “Mmmbop” popster and now beer-brand promoter, was too polite to push the point with the celebs at the “Do It Yourself Entertainment Moguls” panel. But there’s certainly evidence these moguls have gotten rich at a young age.
The-Net-Worth.com site reports musical eccentric Stirling, 29, and cute online cutup Dallas, 21, each salted away between $1.2 million and $2 million in the last year, while e-magazine publisher (Rookie mag.com) Gevinson – just 19 but blogging since age 12 – is worth about $10 million. Gevinson’s work is aimed toward teenage girls.
“The “gatekeepers” at “every record label and radio station turned me down for being outside the box,” said Stirling, a rock-, pop- and electronica-influenced violinist and dancer. So, too, did dismissive judges on America’s Got Talent, who couldn’t grasp that “being different” was an asset, she said.
Then Stirling discovered YouTube – the video site where the will of the public rules. With her posted performances, melodiously sawing away and twirling in pretty outfits (think Yanni on tippy toes), Stirling started connecting in a big way.
One 2012 video, the “Dubstep Video Original” version of “Crystallize” performed in a dreamy ice castle setting, has clocked 130,763,295 views as of Monday. And every time an adjacent commercial plays, an angel, a.k.a. Google Adsense, has to give Stirling a little bit of the action. Fast Company says the going rate is $2,000 per million views.
But the real blessing, said this Salt Lake City, Mormon-raised talent, is being able to make albums on her own and to take her uplifting music – “it’s all about hope and community” – to fans worldwide. She’ll be serving it up here Tuesday night for free at the Great Plaza at Penns Landing in the company of Hanson, Shawn Mendes, and A$AP Rocky at the Under 30 Music Festival closing the conference. (The event also is open to non-conventioneers who register at GlobalCitizen.org.)
Handsome hunk Dallas started out sharing “model shots on Instagram,” he said, then shifted gears to pranking and flirty videos made with goofy buds for YouTube and Vine.
One lengthy bit involving competitive pickle eating and hairy leg waxing has garnered more than 11 million hits.
Dallas also promotes “Magcon” “meet and greet” events with fellow online stars, and has acted in coming-of-age flicks The Outfield and Expelled.
Building healthy relationships with followers also is core to Gevinson with her online magazine Rookiemag.com. She started out blogging on fashion, then expanded to pop culture and feminist themes, evolving the e-mag into a young woman’s ideal screen companion.
Unlike teenzines past, “Rookie doesn’t prey on insecurities, things you can’t get past,” she said. “I try and be as positive as possible,” even urging followers to turn off the tech, and deal with people face-to-face.
Gevinson exited her comfort zone as an actress – with a well-reviewed stint on Broadway in This Is Our Youth and “another upcoming” show.
Forbes Under 30 also has its serious sides. Monday’s sessions began with a special award to Elizabeth Holmes, developer of the Theranos “painless prick” blood testing system that purports to inexpensively scan for “30 illnesses in two drops.”
University of Pennsylvania student Elizabeth Beattie Hunter presented the exoskeletal/robotic Titan Arm, which can give extra strength and aid rehabilitation. She also described extra tiny micro-bio robots that could one day deliver medicine to knock out bacteria.