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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The celebrities of today's youth are the stars of social media sites

My daughter, Randi, at one of the meet and greets with YouTuber
Weston Koury at Playlist Live Orlando.
Recently I learned how the kids of today, including my own two girls Randi, 12, and Graci, 11, and their friends, are finding entertainment through social media. When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was the Monkees, a musical acting quartet. I watched it almost every day on television and just loved Davy Jones. I always dreamed of meeting Davy Jones and the rest of the Monkees, but that dream never became a reality.

Today, our kids are viewing their favorite stars through social media sites like YouTube, Musically, Twitter and Instagram.  I am not saying kids don't watch television anymore, but if you ask the youth of today who some of their favorite celebrities are, you may be surprised they are from social media. This is a whole new world to me and maybe to some of you, who are reading this article.

My daughter Randi  has been asking me for the past two years to go to a social media convention called Playlist Live. It's an annual three day conference  held twice a year for primarily YouTube content creators and their fans. It is held in Orlando and Washington D.C.  I had no idea what it was and at first said no. After finding out a little bit more about it from a friend who was taking her daughter, I decided to take Randi so I could share my experience with other parents.

Playlist Live Orlando, kids wait for hours
to see some of their favorite social media
creators.
I wanted to get the history of this event, so  I reached out to the co-founder and president of Playlist Live, Alex Tchekmeian. He told me Playlist Live has been going on for the past 10 years and for 7 years in Orlando. Every year it has sold out. The average demographic is ages 13-25 and about 80 percent are female. Since 2011, they have grown 2000 percent with 13,000 attendees this year and 500- plus creators. The event includes meet-and-greets along with stage performances and workshops. "You'll find people from all walks of life attending, from young fans to aspiring-up-and comers to established top-tier creators and industry pros," said Tchekmeian.

These statistics are amazing and as a parent, we need to be aware of what this means and how social media is growing.
These social media creators are celebrities especially to the attendees who paid at least $150 to come get a glimpse of their favorite YouTubers or Musical.ly stars. Some attendees were able to get up close and personal taking photos and talking at meet and greets arranged throughout the weekend. I saw kids who were so excited to see those they follow and like on social media. Some crying tears of joy and others screaming when their favorite YouTuber walked by.

Melissa Williams with granddaughter
Bailey from Lake City, FL
 and Kylie Fender attend
 one of the meet and greets.
I talked to several parents at the event about their experience.  Those with their kids had to pay $125 to follow their child around. As a parent, they felt it necessary to be near their kid and they could take the photos of their child with the social media stars. One parent I talked to, Maureen Sullivan,  traveled from Long Island, New York with her 15-year-old daughter Jillian Sullivan and her daughter's friend Kaitlin Cavanaugh. 
Jillian Sullivan and her friend
Kaitlin Cavanaugh travel from Long
Island, New York with
Jillian's mom Maureen to see
their favorite YouTubers.

She bought the tickets, airfare and the hotel for her daughter as a present for her upcoming 16th birthday. Sullivan said she thought the event was well run. Even though security was everywhere and she gave her daughter some freedom to roam, she still felt the need to be with her at the event.  "I was impressed. The whole message and agenda is positive for all ages. No bullying, no drugs.  Very clean entertainment, " she said.

Lily LaBrant, Tate LaBrant, Everleigh
Soutas, Ken LaBrant, Cole LaBrant and
Savannah Soutas all social media stars
who attended Playlist Live.
While there we ran into Seminole native Ken LaBrant, who has his whole family involved in creating videos. His son Cole LaBrant, 20, started a few years ago on the social media site Vine and acquired quite the following with more than six million followers. Now he's on other social media sites along with his fiancĂ© Savannah Soutas and her 4-year-old daughter Everleigh. 
Everleigh Soutas entertaining at
Playlist Live.

Together they do a variety of videos. Ken LaBrant told me it's not unusual for these social media kids to make a couple hundred grand  a month. "Want to go into acting. It doesn't pay unless you are an A-lister. This is very lucrative," said LaBrant. LaBrant's family just did a promotional video for Disney. His son Cole has companies all the time asking him to endorse products ranging from Coca Cola to Hewlett Packard just to name a few.
Cole LaBrant signs autographs at
Playlist Live.


Hunter Rowland takes a photo with
his fans!
My daughter, Randi loved it and her dreams came true after meeting some of her favorite social media celebrities like Weston Koury, Hunter Rowland, Cole LaBrant and the Daily Bumps.  She said she likes watching videos rather than television because "There's always something original on YouTube and you can always find something you like." She said was excited to meet and talk to the people she watches daily.


Randi with social media
creators of Daily Bumps,
Missy, Bryan, Oliver
and Finley.
What is fascinating to me is most of these YouTubers were so friendly and willing to take photos and give out autographs giving kids like my daughter and her friends, which is an experience most would never dream of, but times have changed and we are in the age of social media. 

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