TikTok has quickly become a hotbed for social-media talent and its stars are flocking to Los Angeles.
To pursue careers in the entertainment industry, many of its stars are now moving to LA. Some are renting houses together, following a collaboration playbook laid out by their Vine and YouTube predecessors who chose to bunk in groups after moving to the city.
Much of the recent coverage on TikTok creator houses has centered on a couple LA mansions, the Hype House and Sway LA, which host several of the app's top users. But there are a handful of other creators who are investing in houses with the dream of using TikTok and social media to grow careers in the entertainment business.
Devion Young is one of them.
The musician and social-media influencer (Young has 144,000 Instagram followers and a few thousands fans on TikTok) founded one of the latest TikTok mansions, the "Drip Crib," in February. He's already invested tens of thousands of dollars of his own money in the project according to documents reviewed by Business Insider and he's renting a house that's listed at $18,900 per month by its realtor. Young estimated that his total initial investment in the project is around $100,000.
"After I saw the other two houses open up and saw how they were operating and what they were lacking, it kind of ignited my interest into starting and really going full throttle with my house," Young said. "I committed to the process of looking for people and really putting it together around December. I put my own money into it. I paid for the lawyers, the paperwork, the contracts, deposits, and the first and last month's rent for the house. I covered all of that out of pocket."
As with any "collab" house upstart, Young's goal is to work with other house members to cross promote each other's accounts, create videos with other influencers passing through (when shelter-in-places policies are lifted), and hopefully grow a following on other social-media apps like YouTube. As a music artist, he also plans to produce songs with some of the other house members.
How to start a TikTok house
Drip Crib is located in the heart of Los Angeles' social-media scene, just a few minutes away from the Hype House and residences of top YouTubers like Logan Paul and James Charles, Young said.
In the competitive TikTok "collab" house world, Drip Crib is effectively a startup. The house's TikTok account has around 35,000 followers compared to the 15.2 million fans who follow the Hype House and 2.9 million followers of Sway LA's TikTok account.
Drip Crib is a 12-person TikTok collective, though only eight of its members (who have a combined seven million followers on TikTok) are listed as residents in the house's pitch deck for brands. Young said he chose Drip Crib's location because he knew that the house's owners would be amenable to a group of social-media tenants who post videos night and day. He was able to secure a lease for the house in part because he had a mutual friend with its owner.
"This house is kind of known to be heavy on filming and heavy on events," he said. "That made the whole process of securing the house easier, and getting something that I'm going to be allowed to run production at while we're living here. That was kind of in my prerequisites of the house I wanted to get. I wanted to make sure that it was definitely a house that's already known in LA and the whole entertainment world."
Young describes the Drip Crib as "very modern" with "tons of bathrooms" — bathrooms are a popular filming location for TikTok stars — and "a lot of good photo opportunities at our fingertips."
The house's defining feature, a waterfall that streams beneath an opening in its outdoor pool deck, helped inspire the name "Drip Crib." House members often jump into the pool from its balcony in videos (these posts are frequently flagged by TikTok with a disclaimer that "the action in this video could result in serious injury").
Luxury rental company The Maimon Group posted photos of the Drip Crib property on Instagram:
A post shared by LUXURY RENTALS (@themaimongroup_)
As Young began work to secure a lease for a house that would suit his content creation needs, he also started reaching out to friends and scouring TikTok to recruit talent for the new group. In an Instagram story advertising the opportunity, he mentioned that he was looking for creators with at least 200,000 TikTok followers.
"I reached out to a few of my friends and told them what I was doing, what my ideas were, and so I had people recommending people," Young said. "And then I also was taking note of who kept popping up on my 'For You' page and I kind of created the concept based on that," he said, referring to TikTok's content recommendation landing page where many of the app's creators get discovered by fans.
"A lot of us already followed each other and we were already acquainted and we met at parties or something, so we were already within the same social group," he said. "But this is officially the first time we all actually became friends."
TikTok insiders Monty Lopez and Ariadna Jacob's Influences come on board
Shortly after moving into Drip Crib, Young met Monty Lopez, the father of one of TikTok's most popular creators Addison Easterling and a TikTok star himself. The pair hit it off, and Lopez took on a role as an informal advisor for the house.
"He kind of guides us with things," Young said. "He gives me his input and his opinion on what I should do, or any kind of business moves. He's definitely that parent in our back corner that's rooting us on."
Lopez introduced Young to the social-media talent manager Ariadna Jacob who runs the talent firm Influences. Jacob now manages the Drip Crib brand in addition to another up-and-coming TikTok house, "Girls in the Valley."
"I'm going to be having Ari and her team helping with the day-to-day management of everyone under the brand," Young said. "Helping with the emails, helping with the invoicing, helping on the selling of deals and closing them, and really just being an advisory board and a good backbone for us in the house to lean on when it comes to the business side of the influencer world."
The house rules
While Drip Crib doesn't have strict house rules (yet), its creators do have social-media posting goals that are similar to the content quotas that residents of Sway LA have in place.
"We've been vlogging every day," Young said. "We definitely push three times a day for TikTok, so that's kind of three solid videos on everyone's personal pages."
"This is the first time everyone's lived in a house like this, so it's just kind of transitioning everyone into changing the mindset of you know, we're about to do something great, we're about to do something big, and to kind of teach everyone that we have to learn how to evolve and start adapting to this new life that we're entering," he added.
How Young plans to recoup his initial investment
As with any TikTok mansion, finding opportunities to earn revenue from brand sponsorships is a must for Drip Crib to remain sustainable.
Young said he's still paying for a lot of the Drip Crib's initial expenses out-of-pocket, but that he hopes to cover the house's costs (and ideally turn a profit) through brand deals down the road.
"What we're working towards is getting a few big brands to sponsor the house as a whole," Young said. "And then pretty much we would use that for all expenses and rent. It helps cover our legal fees and helps with cleaning and the maid or food and utilities. We run a lot of lights here, so it covers all that stuff."
In Drip Crib's pitch deck for brands, the house describes itself as a "creator collective focused on supporting brotherhood and racial diversity across the world with the goal of developing strong role models for the next generation."
Some of its residents already have brand deals in place for their own individual TikTok accounts (twins Dedrick and Dedrick Spence recently promoted Bang Energy to their 1.2 million followers). But Young said he is pitching the house's various social-media accounts to brands as a bundle.
What it's like to start a collab house during a time of social distancing
On its surface, the timing is completely wrong to launch a social-media collab house.
Much of the world (including Los Angeles) is in the middle of an extended period of social distancing that is particularly unsuitable to a business model built on collaboration. And the number of sponsored content deals — a staple of the influencer industry — has dropped in recent weeks as brands look to save on costs and avoid appearing tone-deaf during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Quarantine has definitely affected us a lot," Young said. "It destroyed kind of our whole entire launch calendar. We had a few events planned. We had something at Coachella planned. It just really made me work 10 times harder and just improvising and really thinking outside the box as to ways we could start to launch the brand and launch the house as a whole."
While brand opportunities may be hard to come by right now, there are other factors at play that suggest creators should be leaning into their social accounts more than ever.
Interest in social media has spiked in the last few months as at-home consumers look for a distraction from coronavirus news. Instagram influencers have recently seen a large bump in user engagement on the app's Stories and Live features, and Google reported a large year-over-year jump in YouTube viewership during its first-quarter earnings call last month.
"Our watch time has increased across the board," Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told investors. "Viewership on YouTube has increased significantly compared to last year too."
TikTok in particular is having a moment, as the app recently passed two billion downloads globally and just broke a record for the most app installs in a single quarter.
Like many creators in the influencer industry, Young is looking outside of advertising for alternative sources of revenue for Drip Crib.
"We're going to have house merch as a collective and then everyone in the house is going to design their own line," Young said, noting that he's currently working with lawyers to secure a trademark for the Drip Crib name. He recently teased a Drip Crib face mask in a TikTok video.
Once social distancing measures are eased, he also hopes to earn money by hosting events at the house, setting up meet and greets, touring, and music collaborations (Young and several of the house's residents are musicians).
"That's kind of how I'm hoping to recoup, and hopefully it comes out on the positive side," he said.
In the meantime, while touring is on hold indefinitely, the group is focusing on building rapport and defining what the Drip Crib brand means while sheltered in place.
"We're just kind of nurturing the other elements of the house," Young said. "Our personal relationships with each other. The music. And just really strategizing and setting up a lot of stuff on the back end so when quarantine slows down and levels out a little bit, we can be ready to launch fully."
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