What is it, exactly?
Schadenfreude, if you didn’t know, is a German word that means something to the effect of “taking pleasure in other people’s pain.” If you’ve never experienced this feeling, might I suggest heading over to cameo.com to peruse the list of minor celebrities and has-beens who’ve set a firm price on their dignity?
The basic conceit of Cameo is a simple one: ordinary, everyday folks can pay real live famous people to create short videos, basically saying anything you ask them to. The celebrities don’t have to take every request that comes their way; they’re free to decline anything that doesn’t fit with their brand, or violates their standards in some way. And yet, here we are, in a world where former NFL quarterback Brett Favre unwittingly sends shout-outs to white supremacists, former rock-star/heart throb Mark McGrath broke up with a woman’s boyfriend for her, and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer thinks anyone might be interested in paying him $199 to make a personalized video. At least with Spicer, saying anything for money is on brand,
Astute readers will notice that all those people I just mentioned are best described as a “former” something-or-other, and that gives you an idea of the general vibe of the platform. For every actual decent person like Steve Wozniak doing Cameos for charity, there are probably ten former reality stars desperate to stay relevant any way they can.
And now, influencers are looking at the platform as another potential revenue stream.
What’s the Cost?
Personalities on Cameo get to set their own price, with the service taking a 25% cut of all transactions. If the Cameo was requested via the iPhone app, Apple takes a 30% commission off the top before Cameo takes its cut of what’s left. Good thing for Lindsey Lohan that 75% of the world uses an Android smartphone.
The 25% cut also applies to Cameo’s other revenue generating methods: private messaging, promotional Cameos for corporations, and 10 minute Zoom calls, the newest feature.
This isn’t really a bad deal for the C-list (and lower) celebrities who make up most of the platform’s roster. What else is The Todd from Scrubs going to do? For an influencer, though, it seems a steep price. That’s because influencers already have the tools to make personalised shout-outs for money. Why do they need Cameo to do it for them?
Is It Easy to Setup and Use?
If you know how to install an app and shoot a video, you know how to use Cameo. Setting up a profile is pretty easy, too: a quick bio, an introductory video, and the ability to type your own name are really all that’s required. When you get a request for a video, you have four days to accept or decline it. And that’s about it, apart from actually making the video.
Still, if you’re famous enough, you don’t even need to put that much effort into the videos themselves. You can look through the site to find any number of examples of celebrities doing the bare minimum to earn their fee. Checkout these stills of Cameos in which Caitlyn Jenner took $2,500 to look like she’d rather be doing anything else.
Show Me the Money
As for what you can earn, this is all dependent on what you charge and how often you want to do it. Cameo prefers the lower-cost, high volume transactions that would be the sweet spot of internet-famous influencers. Much as we’d all love Snoop Dogg (an investor in Cameo) to wish our loved ones a hizzle to the bizzle on their birthdays, the $1,000 price tag makes that out of reach for most of us. But the same video from YouTube sensation (and son of God) Jesus Christ would only set you back $21. At least He’s staying true to his “blessed are the poor” thing.
If you’re an influencer looking to get on Cameo, your price will likely be in the range between Jesus Christ and Kevin from the Office. Of the nearly 2,500 influencers on the platform, about 1,600 of them are priced at $100 or lower. In either case, the pay is pretty decent for 30 seconds of your time, but those half-minute videos need to pile up if you want to make an impact on your bank account. Cameo’s top grossing celebrity is none other than Kevin himself (actor Brian Baumgartner), who’s already cleared more than a million dollars in 2020 at the very affordable price point of $195 per shout out. Of course, Baumgartner’s also been doing Promotional Cameos, which the service encourages its celebrities to charge 5 to 20 times more for and has something to do with impressive earnings. Still, that million doesn’t come easy—Baumgartner puts in the time and effort to make his videos actually worth sending.
Another way to earn on the service is through the pay-per-message chat feature—for $19.99 fans can send you a 250 character message, to which you’ll have to respond. How personal or in-depth does your response have to be? Not very, as it turns out.
The Bottom Line
Whatever you—or I—think of Cameo, there’s clearly a demand for the service. For celebrities, former and current, who became famous in traditional ways it makes a lot of sense to use the service. Since the platform takes care of the mechanics of every transaction, it’s a minimal effort to join and start making videos. All they have to do is show up.
The service makes no sense for influencers, though, who become famous using essentially the same tools provided by Cameo. You’re already distributing content, engaging with your fan base, and working with brands for promotional purposes. Mostly, though, the big reason for not joining cameo boils down to authenticity and accessibility. Influencers become famous in part because of those two things, and the whole point of Cameo is to connect people with celebrities they’d never be able connect with otherwise. An influencer’s fans already feel connected; that’s what makes you an influencer in the first place. It’s one thing to use another service to offer premium content to your fans. That makes sense. But for these one-off personalised video messages? You could make and sell them yourself through your own channels, and you won’t be risking your credibility by doing so.