Chris James, who has amassed 64,000 subscribers and more than two million views in his first 18 months on YouTube, doesn’t have a typical origin story. He didn’t start as a kid in his bedroom, and never recapped his day while pointing a camera in his face. Instead, the 22-year-old began to release magic videos on YouTube after feeling dissatisfaction with his 9-5 job. After hitting it big with a pair of viral videos, Chris is now looking to use YouTube to jump start his magic career, and in order to accomplish that goal, he has turned to Big Frame, the YouTube network and talent management company owned by AwesomenessTV.
Thanks to his partnership with Big Frame, James is working with Andrew Graham, a manager who moved to the company (along with colleagues Larry Shapiro and Rana Zand) from Fullscreen in October 2014. James is far from Graham’s only client, but he is a compelling case study for the ways Big Frame is using its YouTube experience to help out up-and-coming creators.
James first came on Graham’s radar after the young magician attended VidCon in 2014. There, James snuck into exclusive events, where he performed magic tricks for attendees. After that, he became a hot target for several of YouTube’s multi-channel networks, but he found this wave of offers “really overwhelming.”
Enter Big Frame. Graham got in touch with James through Twitter and the two decided to meet up. “I had lunch with him and it was an instant fit,” James told Tubefilter. “I told him what I want, my goals and aspirations, and how I view my career. He replied ‘Awesome, I love that, we’ll work toward that.'”
Graham began thinking about the best ways for James to grow his YouTube channel, and in order to come up with ideas, he turned to his work with YouTube’s biggest stars. Graham manages several top YouTubers, but for him, the most relevant comparison to James is Connor Franta, the likable vlogger who has more than 4.2 million subscribers. “We encourage all of our artists to really take their own trajectory,” Graham told Tubefilter, but added that he encourages emerging YouTubers to emulate “the artists who have come before that have been successful.”
According to Graham, James, like Franta, is “charismatic” and “has a star quality about him.” “It makes sense [for James] to follow Connor,” he said. “Follow that trajectory and start sprinkling in magic. Take the best parts of what Connor is doing and add in magic.”
For that reason, Graham encouraged James to create vlog-style videos, which have recently showed up in greater numbers on his channel. Graham also brought James to Playlist Live, where he performed magic for attendees.
While James’ work on his own channel involves magic, both Graham and James understand it is important for emerging YouTubers to work outside their respective comfort zones. “Chris wants to be a magician,” said Graham, “but we’re building YouTube first, building that core business…the way to build his magic career was to build a personality on YouTube. It’s not detrimental, it’s not going to set him back.”
This desire to explore areas outside of magic led to Strange But True News, a series on the AwesomenessTV-run DreamworksTV channel. The series, which provides just what it says in the title, features James in a hosting role. “Something like hosting is really interesting for me,” said James. “I’m very interested about in the scenario of being thrown into a hosting gig.” Graham agrees this step is important for James. He described Strange But True News as a “piece of content to give him the exposure that he needed to start building his resume.”
Graham is obviously rooting for James to hit it big, but he understands that YouTube success is far from guaranteed. With so much quality content on the site, it will take a lot of effort for James to stand out. Graham, though, has some ideas for overcoming these bumps in the road:
“You need to approach every artist career as an experiment. There is no formula that will guarantee work for every artist. You need to pivot in real time, analysing what happens. That happens at every single stage of a career, period, even for artists that have being very successful for a long time…Shane Dawson has reinvented himself innumerable times. That’s a manager’s job. I don’t expect all of my clients’ careers to just be skyrocketing growth. if they were, I would go down as most successful manager in entertainment.”
Even with the wealth of content on YouTube, Graham believes in his client. More importantly, James has big goals for himself. He wants to start working charity into his videos, with Tyler Oakley serving as inspiration. In particular, James is interested in organizations that assist disabled persons, since his own father suffers the effects of brain damage sustained during an accident when James was ten. “In a year from now, I will definitely start working with a charity or not-for-profit,” he says, “along with doing more hosting, acting, and making the best videos i can.”
Here at Tubefilter, we’re eager to see how James’ YouTube channel grows. Still, it’s important to remember he is just one of many clients for Big Frame. As Graham so succinctly puts it: “These are the stories we live in our office every day.”