Casting Coin, a new online platform, could change the way brands and artists connect and interact. Founded by Michelle McCormack, a former photographer, the site vets models, photographers, influencers, makeup artists, hair stylists and stylists, who post their profiles once accepted. Advertising agencies, brands and editorial outlets can peruse the profiles and book talent directly for shoots and campaigns using the free service.
“It’s highly curated. Out of 5,000 artists who signed up, 300 have been accepted,” McCormack said, adding that the biggest group of applicants is photographers, followed by models, hair and makeup and influencers. “Brands are looking for microinfluencers, not the big ones.”
As a lenser, McCormack experienced the tedium of the production process for those involved in image-making, and heard many complaints. Previously working as a coder and producer of ad campaigns for Rockport and Bank of America, and the founder of popular online community Secret Boston, qualified her to tackle the problem, McCormack said.
Bonnie Pressman, cofounder and chief merchant of online innerwear brand OuiHours, is Casting Coin’s global head of brand partnerships. Previously, an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren and Theory, Pressman in the Eighties was instrumental in the expansion of Barneys New York‘s women’s store.
Robin Domeniconi, founder and ceo of mission-based fashion brand Threaded Tales and former chief brand officer at Elle and founding president and publisher of Real Simple, is Casting Coin’s brand expert. The site’s technology was developed by the chief technology officer who built JetBlue’s app, McCormack said.
“There are other apps,” McCormack said. “The difference is that this is a much bigger idea. On the artist side, models and other talent can manage their careers and brands can produce entire campaigns.”
Casting Coin has signed a letter of intent with Liberty Fairs, which will give it access to over 350 brands across five fashion fairs annually. The site will bow at Liberty Paraiso Fair during Miami Swim Week in July.
McCormack projected Casting Coin’s volume in five years will reach $130 million. “We plan to be a unicorn company,” she said. “Our goal is to branch out globally in the next two years, and two years after that, we intend to go to smaller markets and second-tier cities. The rush is on for content. If Facebook is allowing anybody to create ads, we’re going to facilitate that content.
“We’re looking to solve a problem with a big idea,” McCormack said. “We’re targeting the mid- to top-level talent. We see agencies and studios as vehicles. We’re open to giving agents a majority of the commission. Our goal is to scale, and agents will give us access to high-quality talent.”
Casting Coin has a dashboard for artists with a mini newsfeed for members to post relevant articles. “Everyone rates one another within 24 hours of a shoot to minimize trolling behavior,” McCormack said. Group health benefits are available, and because many models end their short careers deeply in debt to the IRS, there’s an automatic tax-withholding option for payment. Artists and brands have to attach a payment source to their profiles. When a job is complete, money is released through a payment gateway into the artist’s account, minus Casting Coin’s 10 percent fee for artists, and 15 percent for brands, which McCormack said is less than traditional agents.
Pressman, who met McCormack through an advisor to Casting Coin, said, “Michelle wanted to talk to me about building brand partnerships because of where I’ve been and because I understand the nuances of the industry. It’s been kind of full circle for me. I started working as a model when I was 17.
“When I was at Ford, it was all done over the phone,” said Pressman. “People are getting paid a lot less on both sides now.”
So far, Casting Coin has been largely funded by a angel investors. “We just did a seed round,” McCormack said. “I’m not in a rush to do series funding. We’ve had a lot of interest from big money. The goal is to protect the equity in the company.”