Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are creating immediate, unfiltered connections between celebrities and their fans, but where do celebrities (or aspiring celebrities) go when they want to connect with talent agents or other people in the entertainment industry? Facebook is for fans. LinkedIn doesn’t really let them showcase their talents. And niche sites for models, actors, and musicians like ReverbNation or NewFaces are too limited (every model or musician thinks they can act).
Talent Maven, which is launching publicly today after a few months in private beta, wants to become the social network for the entertainment industry. “We try to fill the void between Facebook and LinkedIn for talent,” says co-founder and CEO Jeremy Levanthal. A former investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Leventhal and his co-founders started the company almost two years ago in New York City with a $250,000 seed investment from their own pockets.
Like any social network, Talent Maven lets embers set up profiles, make connections with other members, upload photos, and videos, and share updates through a news stream. The design borrows many elements from Facebook. It is clean and well-organized. There are tabs for managing media, upcoming events like music performances, and opportunities to find other talent (auditions, vocalists needed, etc.). But there is one main difference: exclusivity is built in.
“Unlike Facebook, you can prevent people from contacting you,” notes Leventhal. That is actually very appealing to all the agents and other industry professionals who feel too exposed to every model with an Internet connection looking for an acting job. Members can become fans of other members, but they only get to see public updates and media. To connect to a member you need to know somebody who knows that person and get an introduction. And in your privacy settings, you can specify which groups have access to your feed.
People who work in the industry are verified as industry professionals through their work email. Particularly well-connected or well-known members can be designated “mavens,” which is the highest class. Members can set their profiles to private, but only let verified members see it, or mavens. Talent Maven is all about access, just like Hollywood.
The site is really built for talent agents. Already about 1,000 industry people have been testing the site, including 30 agents at William Morris alone and the head of casting at MTV. Already, rapper Timbaland’s production company is in discussions to sign two new singers discovered on the site.
Aspiring actors and musicians can upload their headshots, photo spreads, music mixes, videos, or other examples of their work to the site and create an online portfolio, or electronic press kit. When somebody gets a recommendation, it comes with a link to their profile where the talent agents can quickly check them out before deciding how, or if, to respond. Hey, it’s a Darwinian world out there, the Web is only making it more efficient.
The only way Talent Maven will survive is if it somehow attracts the right talent, and the people who want to employ them.