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OML Entertainment’s Gunjan Arya on evolving with the changing future of creator economy

As OML Entertainment celebrates its 22nd anniversary, CEO Gunjan Arya looks back at the agency’s journey, how it has explored the creative landscape, how it envisions a digital creator economy, and more.

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Harshal Thakur
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Gunjan Arya

In the dynamic digital landscape where content creators reign supreme, Only Much Louder (OML) has been a steady presence for over two decades. It began as a hub for independent music artists, but it has since adapted to the changing landscape of creators, artists, and talent management. 

As it completes 22 years, in conversation with Gunjan Arya, CEO, OML Entertainment, Social Samosa deciphers what it takes to build an agency, evolve with the changing landscape, and grow in multiple areas across the entertainment sphere. 

Keeping artists at the centre

Having been around for more than two decades, OML started by managing independent music artists. Over time, its roster has evolved from music to comedy to creators of all genres. It manages digital celebrities, including streamers, vloggers, travel influencers, creators, mentalists, chefs, writers, directors and more. Today, OML manages about 100 artists across the board. 

Arya says that it initially built out its live events team that not only managed the tours for musicians but also built some of the largest festivals in the country; YouTube FanFest being a standout.

At its core, OML’s DNA will always be artist management keeping artists’ interests at the centre, Arya explains.

Sharing an example from the agency’s initial steps towards YouTube, Arya mentions how it involved figuring out how to get sponsored deals on the video-sharing platform. 

“Our first branded deal was for the AIB channel with Snapdeal where we didn't even know how to charge for a video. I remember that conversation where we didn't know the charge rates and asked them, ‘How much do you spend on YouTube per view?’ They said, ‘Rs.2/- per view.’ And we agreed. The video did really well and they called us midway saying that, ‘we don't have endless pockets, we have to put a stop to this running meter but let's talk about the next four or five videos,’” recalls Arya.

What helped the agency figure out how to program better shows and help artists with selling more tickets for their shows, was their ticketing platform called Insider.in. While the agency started it, it has since sold both businesses.

“What remains at OML is our long-form content Originals Content Studio as well as our branded content teams,” Arya remarks.

As creators were getting reach and engagement, there was a need to let them have control over their data. This is why OML has built its influencer marketing tech platform known as “Hypothesis”.

She states, “We want to be able to arm creators with the same level of detail so that they can make better-informed decisions about their content journeys online. They need to know what are the data points that brand managers have to make decisions.”

Building a satisfying creator-brand partnership

Speaking about how creators and brands can effectively work together to create mutually beneficial partnerships, Arya explains that brands and creators are inherently at loggerheads when it comes to having the same goals. 

For a brand, she highlights that it's about more screen time, more reach and frequency while for a creator, it’s the freedom to create the content they want and the content their fans want to see. And when your incentives are not aligned, friction starts taking place. 

“The goal should always be to figure out how brands support creators in their creative journey, which then ends up reaching more fans. Because it is always the content that fans see, like and share with other fans,” she elaborates.

When brands give support to creators, they in turn benefit from the reach the creators provide. 

“Now it's not just about rolling a product and saying, this is the product I think you should buy. Creators are expected to put in a lot more creative efforts. And brands should give them the freedom to create because this is their audience which they've built from scratch,” shares Arya.

However, recently, many health and financial influencers came under the scanner of ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India). This led to the independent body to release new guidelines for the influencers, mandating them to display their qualifications along with their registration numbers while creating content. 

Talking about the impact these guidelines and the ethical considerations creators should have in mind when collaborating with brands, Arya expounds, “These guidelines have been a long time coming. Whenever you have industry guidelines, it's actually the sign of the industry getting formal recognition. And a self-regulatory body is the way to go. Also, we've been behaving like a cottage industry for long enough that this needs to get formalized. But when it comes to specifically things like health, finance, etc., where there is fear of misinformation, guidelines are almost always welcome.”

The future of the creative landscape

As per Arya, OML is just scratching the surface when it comes to exploring what’s possible in the creator landscape.

“We are seeing a trajectory where it’s not about just one option or the other. There are multiple opportunities for artists and it's just not restricted to entertainment. From Zakir Khan launching biryani to Samay Raina building his chess league, the world is their oyster when it comes to what they can do next.” she shares. 

Going forward, she predicts that the phrase creator economy will not exist because it will subsume all other economies. All businesses will need a creator strategy, they will need a content arm.

Arya expounds, “Being online and being relevant, is going to be par for the course for anyone who's trying to operate in any business. On the flip side, what that also means is that everyone who is a creator today could possibly run any business going forward.”

What started as a way to give a platform to independent musicians has since evolved into a space for creators across categories and genres, be it comedy, cooking, writing, travel and more. The creator economy has seen an evolution in the way brands collaborate with creators while giving the latter control.

Arya believes, “The minute you're able to build communities around the things you care about, you can come together to then build services, platforms, and brands in those spaces as well.”

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