If you had to recruit the ideal team to help you navigate the intersection of technology, media, and celebrity, it probably wouldn’t look much different from the partnership behind theAudience. The stealthy social media company, which has flown under the radar until recently, counts Sean Parker, Ari Emanuel, and Oliver Luckett as its co-founders — just your average startup’s triumvirate of tech and entertainment influence.
Parker is best known as the co-founder of Napster, Plaxo, Causes, and most recently Airtime, as well as the founding president of Facebook and as an early investor in Spotify. Emanuel, on the other hand, is probably one of the best-known talent agents, currently serves as CEO of the William Morris Endeavor, is the brother of Chicago Mayor (and Obama’s former Chief of Staff) Rahm Emanuel — although he may be better known for being parodied as Ari Gold on Entourage. Oliver Luckett, theAudience’s acting CEO, may not have been immortalized on-screen by Jeremy Piven or Justin Timberlake, but he does have some digital media chops.
Prior to theAudience, Luckett co-founded a social media startup called DigiSynd, which Mike covered when it was acquired by Disney in 2008. After the acquisition, Luckett went on to become a senior vice president at Disney, serving as co-head of innovation and, through DigiSynd, managed social media for Disney’s big properties. Before DigiSynd, the Memphian co-founded Revver, a user-generated video site that helped popularize rev sharing in digital video.
Yet, in spite of its co-founding team, theAudience has maintained a low-profile, which is clearly by design. (Under Luckett’s leadership, DigiSynd, too, remained in stealth-mode through its acquisition by Disney.) While theAudience has yet to make details of its plan clear, fellow TCer Josh Constine and I speculated that, given Emanuel’s position, the startup could be readying itself so that, say, if a William Morris gets stars movie and commercial deals or record contracts, theAudience would get them spots in viral videos, startup demo videos, Internet talk shows, etc. It might even encourage their clients to set up presences on Tumblr and Instagram, or hold Ask Me Anythings on Reddit, for example.
Though that’s just speculation at this point. In fact, the startup’s website gives little information about what the team is up to, and theAudience likely would have happily remained under the radar for as long as possible.
However, last week, Stuart Dredge of Music Ally culled together bits and pieces of info on the startup from various sources, including what is the most complete description of the company courtesy of a profile of Luckett in the magazine of his high school alma mater, Memphis University School:
[theAudience] is is the first celebrity-driven content network across Facebook and other social media outlets. TheAudience was born from a partnership between the famous Ari Emanuel (personified on Entourage), The William Morris Endeavor Agency, Sean Parker, and Luckett. TheAudience network manages the social media of more than 60 celebrities who have already accumulated more than 300 million fans on Facebook. They have offices in Los Angeles and London and employ more than 50 people.
Piggybacking on Dredge’s work, we were able to get the company to confirm that Parker, Emanuel and Luckett are indeed co-founders and that this description is, for the most part, accurate, although the company did say that the numbers are out of date. TheAudience wouldn’t reveal any more, so it’s unclear whether or not the site will be used as a media property or as the base of operations for what is obviously an expanding client roster.
The startup is also actively hiring, which has been made clear by a number of posts on Jobvite for positions like “Content Curator” and “Director of Video Partnerships,” which come with job descriptions like “ideate and recommend to Client team opportunities for increased fan/follower reach via content, applications or other forms of engagement.” And, as Music Ally noted, these listings come on top of its already-sizable roster of employees on LinkedIn, which likely totals more than 60.
What’s more, given these posts, theAudience is clearly doing more than just managing tweets and Facebook posts for celebrities, with employees actively participating in expanding client outreach, and likely more than that. As Hypebot recently intimated, it seems as if theAudience is quietly trying to build a social media empire fit for the red carpet. Or at least a talent agency for the social media age.
Given that DigiSynd described (via paidContent) its mission as “translating brand magic to the social space” for fans and media and was “credited with bringing Disney to Facebook,” including 150 million likes and over 500 million monthly impressions, this makes a lot of sense.
With the level of influence the startup’s co-founders have in the music industry, Hollywood, and digital media, it will be very interesting to finally get a look at the company’s client roster — and the full picture — when it pulls back the curtain. Which we’ve heard from sources may happen in the next few months.