Charli D’Amelio pictured above is one of Tik Tok’s biggest stars. Between June 2019 and August 2020 she made $4 million dollars off Tik Tok, notably via her collaboration with brands, sponsored posts, and a line of merchandise that she released.
All this is amazing because Charli joined the platform in June 2019, and her popularity shot through the roof – enough for her to become Tik Tok’s second highest earner behind another young woman named Addison Rae Easterling who made $5 million in that same time.
Perhaps, one of the most interesting things about these two ladies is that they are, or rather were part of a collective of Tik Tok starts called “The Hype House.” The Hype House, as its name goes, is an actual physical location – a mansion in the suburbs of Los Angeles, in a gated community. The Hype House was founded by 3 Tik Tok stars. They took the money they generated from the platform, rented the mansion and they live there.
So, why is the Hype House interesting? Well, simply for the philosophy behind its creation. The underlying philosophy is that if many Tik Tok stars come together and live in a physical environment, interacting daily and charging off each other’s creative juices, they can be capable to churn out content after content which they can all share to their individual platforms. Thus, they can all thrive singularly and collectively. The Hype House is quite simply what is known as a creative hub.
The essential core of the people that live in the Hype House are people who choreograph themselves dancing to snippets of songs and posting to their preferred platform and to YouTube Short. When we are aware of the power that TikTok has in pushing music by making it go viral and grabbing more plays for it on platforms like Spotify, one begins to see what power lies in the Hype House. Especially since the current member of the Hype House share, between them, 126 million followers on Tik Tok.
In 2020 alone, A song like Drake’s “Toosie Slide” hit a billion plays on TikTok in just 3 days. Cardi B’s “WAP” hit that mark after 2 weeks. All in all, 176 songs hit the 1 billion play mark on TikTok
This is no doubt thanks to people like the young men and women that live in the Hype House – mostly teenagers. As a matter of fact, the Hype House was founded by 3 people in 2019; the youngest, 17, and the oldest, 21.
In Cameroon, the closest we have had to a creative hub in the last decade is Molyko. The core of what constitutes the movers and shakers of the entertainment industry today are mostly bi-products of Molyko. Even some of the brightest tech minds we have today are spawned from Molyko’s Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, the Anglophone crisis has caused a huge dent in the growth and the strengthening of these two sectors.
That notwithstanding the music industry, accompanied by its cousins in the performative arts sector such in our movie industry, as well those in the visual arts sector like film and photography has witnessed its greatest growth in the last decade, especially in quality.
I am one of those people who believe and have been rightly convinced, that the creative sector in Africa is going to be a strong point for the creation of value with a corresponding value in financial gains. Already we have seen how Afrobeats is taking over the world. We saw how Beyonce sought African creatives to do the “Lion King: The Gift” album and its corresponding music film. Even more recently we saw Locko feature on the soundtrack of Coming 2 America.
Our music industry is the closest thing we see in terms of collaborative work. And even though that does not usually happen in a Hype House mansion, the studio is a bit of a hub for them. Many collaborations like Tzy’s “Na So” have received rave reviews and acclaim while many others have fallen flat-footed. Sometimes the magic works, other times it does not.
But usually, we limit our thinking to musical collaborations only because the music business is the one thing that seems to be functioning in this country. I mean, if people like Grand Barack and Joel Lafleur could rise to such ‘prominence’, it means that something is happening somewhere.
Unfortunately, we do not see the creative field as something wider than the scope of music. Essentially, in creative work of any kind, many creative disciplines and fields usually overlap. Just on a simple music video set, you can have a makeup artist, a stylist, a photographer, and a director. These are 4 different fields that can further be broken down.
The issue is that in Cameroon for example, most directors set the tone and everyone follows. There is no real collaboration. Creative hubs usually come in to solve that issue. Most of the time people are on equal footing and people just sit, talk and bounce around ideas that could potentially be formed into something. Since everyone talks as an authority figure in his field, there is a better chance of having refined ideas that can be blended into a seamless product or outcome.
I say this from experience because I have been in an unplanned creative session with a couple of people and the ideas we had about the things we could have created with our collective minds were only limited by money.
As Africa pushes forward and creates this giant creative industry that will give many young people a real shot at making something out of their lives, a creative hub is a good place to start if you are just starting out. You may not have money to fly people out to Hawaii like Kanye West did to make an album. That is fine. But you may know a quiet place with working amenities where you can meet up with fellow creatives at a defined time and a defined number of days a week solely to talk about creative findings you came across during your day and creative ideas you have had.
You bounce those off and you and your people decide to do something tangible, with the resources you have just for the fun of it. Great creative work starts with small creative work. Eventually, that snowballs into a project that could land you on the covers of major magazines.
Most creative and artistic work is interdisciplinary. A jazz musician might have more in common with a painter and a circus juggler than you might think. Getting people that are not necessarily in your creative discipline together with yourself might broaden your perspective in ways that you cannot imagine.
But getting into a creative hub also means that you have to be selfless. People are usually afraid to share ideas even the ones that they cannot fully execute. The truth is, by sharing with the right people and discussing this with them, you even get more in return.
The kids at the Hype House understood this. Their constant collaboration helped strengthened their individual platforms, so much so that they just signed a deal with Netflix, which will produce and direct an unscripted series in which they will all feature.
- Wandji Wilfred