Country singer Tegan Marie making her debut at the Grand Ole Opry

The importance of influencers today isn’t lost on any lifestyle media company or brand looking to publicize their content or product. New kinds of media companies have popped up to ride the wave of influencer talent aimed at Generation Z.

These new media firms have become a sort of incubator for talent, who they will connect with clients to market goods. Some of those companies are finding success as talent agents and signing their homegrown stars to major television, film and record deals.

Take Sweety High as an example, a Gen Z-focused media firm that boasts a client roster which includes NBC Universal, Disney, Sony, Macy’s and Pepsi. Last week, Sweety High signed Tegan Marie, a 13-year-old country music singer from Flint, Mich., who it helped develop, to a record deal with Warner Music Group’s Nashville division. Marie became the youngest country artist signed to the label and the youngest female in 45 years since Tanya Tucker signed with CBS Records, now Sony, in 1972 to ink a major country record deal.

“We only work with very specific talent. We are curators of talent,” Sweety High cofounder and chief executive officer Frank Simonetti told WWD. “Tegan was special. We are her manager, her production company…and we have a deal with Warner where we have an override [of her contract].”

Although Sweety High derives the bulk of its revenue from working with brands and creating content using its influencers, data and audience metrics, Simonetti said it has interest in exploring the manager game if the situation is right.

“Because we have experienced success with Tegan, it makes you want to do more but it’s a really slippery slope…we don’t want to become in-the-trenches managers,” he noted.

Founded in 2009, Sweety High essentially is a video-centric media company consisting of a lifestyle site, content studio, SH Music and SH Insights, which provides data, premium content, talent and audiences to create and distribute. Simonetti pointed to a successful campaign for the “Trolls” movie, for which NBC paid Sweety High to “keep ‘Trolls’ top of mind.” The firm accomplished that by putting “Trolls” product in its videos and giving product to its top influencers to publicize on their social media accounts, for instance.

Simonetti declined to provide an exact amount on such a partnership other than offering that they are “nice six-figure deals,” with some topping the “midseven-figure range.”

Sweety High Influencers Piper Rockelle and Miriam for “Trolls.” 

The ceo said his firm doubled its revenue in the last 18 months, but noted that it is not yet profitable. He emphasized that it is not yet in the black because it was “early” to target Gen Z, which according to the U.S. Census has an annual spending power of $44 billion.

He noted that the company is inking larger deals because it specializes in Gen Z girls.

“The media is going to become more idiosyncratic. As the markets become more segmented, the companies that serve them will become more segmented,” he said. “We will see more companies like Sweety High that offer solutions on the brand and content side because they understand how to make cultural products. That’s the hardest button to hit…The idea of broad publishing does not work in niche cultures.”

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