Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where in partnership with Collab, we feature up-and-coming creators whose content is beginning to flourish. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about why they started making content, what caused their recent explosion of growth, and how they intend to keep that momentum going as they continue to build their audience, their channel, and their careers.
A smartphone changed Daniella Perkins’ life.
The 19-year-old — who now has starring roles in multiple series from top studios like Nickelodeon and Brat — didn’t grow up with much, but all that changed when she flipped open the camera on her phone and started producing digital content. Okay, so it didn’t change immediately; like many creators, her earliest efforts (a YouTube channel created when she was 11 and shared with her younger sister) weren’t very long-lasting. When she found shortform lip-syncing app Musical.ly, though, Perkins knew she was on to something. The app launched in 2014 and became enormously popular with teens in 2016 — and Perkins, already a budding actor who’d taken to making Musical.ly content during her downtime on set, became enormously popular along with it.
While YouTube was the first creative medium Perkins pursued, she wasn’t only determined to make content for computer and smartphone screens, but for small and big screens, too. As a young teen, she joined improv classes and threw herself into auditioning for ambitious roles — and that’s how she nabbed her first part, a recurring role as Sophia in all six episodes of Nickelodeon’s comedy miniseries Legendary Dudas.
Her next few roles were bit parts, and in between being shoots, Perkins, along with all other Musical.ly creators, had to ride out the app’s $800 million acquisition by Bytedance, and its subsequent merge with Bytedance’s TikTok (where Perkins’ account now greets her 442.2K followers with a cheeky, “Welcome to my Musical.ly…..I mean TikTok.”)
Then, in 2018, she got the news she’d been waiting for: Nickelodeon wanted her to have one of two starring roles in its new fantasy live-action series, Knight Squad. Perkins became hero Ciara, a headstrong princess who adopts a new identity to attend knight school against her father’s wishes. Playing Ciara swiftly led to Perkins snagging another lead role with Nickelodeon, this time for its animated series Middle School Moguls, which just premiered in September. Good things are happening outside of Nickelodeon, too; Perkins is also starring as the titular character in Gen Z-focused digital studio Brat’s supernatural series Red Ruby.
These roles have obviously made her a star on TV, but they’ve also been pushing her toward digital rising stardom as well. While on Knight Squad, Perkins took another stab (er, no pun intended?) at YouTube, and now has a thriving channel with 614K subscribers. That channel saw its biggest jump in monthly viewcount in May of this year, when it shot up to more than 1.8 million (compared to 845K in April).
Why the jump? All signs point to Brat releasing the first season of Ruby Red on April 29. Perkins’ previous view count jumps (in December 2018, and January and February 2019) are likely because of the hype and promo around Knight Squad’s second and final season, which began airing in February.
As Perkins continues to grow as an actor and digital star, she sat down with us to chat about how she came into herself and her career — and why she thinks the digital content space is a crucial tool for today’s teen creatives.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What else do you get up to in your daily life, aside from YouTube?
Daniella Perkins: I’m Daniella (with an A!), but most people call me Dani. I’m a California girl. I spend my days filming–all day, every day. When I’m not on set filming something, I’m at home creating my own content. It’s really an everyday thing for me.
We live in an awesome time where we have the luxury to create our own businesses with the click of a button. Most people who watch my videos know I didn’t grow up with much at all, so it’s really a blessing to do the thing I love most and have it also give me a great life. Little Dani would be so proud, lol.
Tubefilter: When did you start your YouTube channel? Why did you pick YouTube as the place to share your content?
DP: I had a channel with my sister when I was 11, but we ended up stopping and just continuing on with our normal lives. In 2015, we started posting vids on Musical.ly (now TikTok), and the vids were getting a lot of traction, so we launched another YouTube channel together. Like with the first one, we ended up stopping, but I decided to make my own channel, because I felt it was a way to show people my personality and create videos to make people laugh.
I love YouTube because there’s a place for everyone, no matter what your interest is. There’s something for you, and someone you can connect with.
My sister and I actually started filming videos together again recently; we’re just waiting for the right time to launch our channel.
Tubefilter: What got you interested in becoming a content creator?
DP:What really interested me in pushing content out was the way I saw it affect people. Like, when I first started getting traction to my channel, I would get comments and DMs about how they felt like they knew me, and like we were family, which is what you wnat. You want people to feel like they know you, not just a random person on YouTube. Showing my real life and feelings really made a huge different. I’m actually close with a lot of my supporters, and it really has become like a family. They know that when they’re in L.A., they can hit me up, because I’ve taken a lot of my supporters to lunch. I don’t really think of them as supporters so much as they’re my friends who watch my videos.
Tubefilter: Did you come into YouTube with a content strategy and an intended audience, or have you figured it out along the way?
DP: I definitely figured things out along the way. But, like I said, that’s why I love YouTube: because you have room to try hundreds of things and find what works. I look at the OGs of YouTube; they went through so many different transitions, and as long as they stayed true to themselves, they didn’t lose their audience.
Tubefilter: Your views and subscribers have skyrocketed over the past few months. What caused that? Did you have something (like a viral video) that caused a big boom in terms of audience growth, or has your growth been more gradual?
DP: My growth has been 100% gradual, but I feel that’s best for your channel. Sometimes when people blow up out of nowhere, the views and subscribers come like crazy. And that’s amazing, but I personally think when you grow at a steady rate, it keeps people interested longer.
My videos started getting more views about six months after I made my “return” to YouTube. I just started being more real, and people were able to connect to what I was going through — just teenager things. I try not to pay attention to views too much. I don’t do the whole “subscribe to my channel, click the like button” speech. I just think that if a person genuinely likes what they’re watching, they’re going to do that on their own.
YouTube is definitely something you have to be passionate about, not something you do strictly for the views. I put so much time and effort into each video, and sometimes it doesn’t get as many views as my peers’, or my notifications didn’t go out, etc. If you’re creating for the pressure of having every video be a viral video, you’ll drive yourself crazy. When I let all that stuff go and just continued to create for the fun and love of it, the views came rolling in.
Tubefilter: What else are you doing to keep that growth trend going?
DP: Doing the types of videos that are trending on YouTube helps a lot, but I also put my own twist on things. My videos are comedy with the undertone of sarcasm. A lot more people understand my humor than I thought. I really, really have the best supporters and audience. I get random DMs all the time, and that just makes my day so happy. They’re there with me, and they want to see me grow as much as I want to grow.
Tubefilter: What do you hope people take away from your content? Why do you think your videos stand out in a sea of billions?
DP: I hope people see that it’s okay to be as weird as you want, and it doesn’t matter what the outside world thinks. I also want teens like me, who grew up with absolutely nothing and very underprivileged, to know they can take their pesonality and make some money with it. What you were born into doesn’t define where you need to be in life! Picking up a camera or a phone and filming your day can literally change your life and your financial status. That’s absolutely amazing. Whenever supporters write me and tell me, “I grew up like you, I have nothing,” I always tell them to pick up a camera and make a video on it, because chances are, somebody out there is going to connect with you, and that’s going to create an audience, and that’s going to create a business.
Tubefilter: Are there any creators who inspire you? Any creators you’d like to be as big as?
DP: There is so much content on YouTube, it’s hard to say who inspires me most. I literally find my new “favorite person” every day because of how much content people are pushing out, which is amazing. I have a lot of friends who are YouTubers a lot bigger than me. (A lot bigger, lol.) Just watching them inspires me. I find motivation in other people’s success.
Tubefilter: What plans do you have for the future? Where do you hope you and your channel will be a year from now?
DP: I just want to star in a rom com, man!! lol
I plan to keep posting consistently. I want to see my channel grow. I think if I keep working hard, it’ll pay off. I put a lot of thought into each video. I strive to make even my branded videos entertaining. I just want to be a successfull YouTuber/actress and make videos that are fun to film and watch.
I think consistency on YouTube is the key to growth. Even when I’m filming on set, I find a way to post. When I was filming Knight Squad, there were many times where I’d be editing and uploading between takes. I find that YouTube helps me stay creative between jobs. YouTube also provides jobs; the entertainment industry has changed so much, to a point where having YouTube is helping my acting career.
Collab is an independent digital entertainment studio dedicated to helping creators build careers doing what they love. Launched in 2012, Collab has amassed one of the largest cross-platform content networks in the world, working with and supporting the top talent across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitch. In September 2018, Comscore began tracking Collab and immediately recognized it as a top 10 YouTube partner in the U.S. Collab content currently generates over eight billion views per month.
As one of the global leaders in Digital Rights Management (DRM) and a pioneer in short-form video DRM, Collab works with top content companies like Vin Di Bona Productions, as well as independent content creators and rightsholders, to maximize content owner revenue and protect content rights.
In 2019, Collab announced the launch of their ad sales group, expanding their ability to increase creators’ revenue and partner with brands. At Collab, weirdos are welcome, creators come first, and “funemployment” is promoted.