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Ricky Lax and the Magic of the Creator Economy

When you meet Ricky Lax for the first time, you’ll expect a cape and a top hat. But he’s not that kind of magician. His parents will share that he did have doves, long ago, but a brief foray into the illusionist genre wasn’t for him.

Instead, he’s a new kind of casual conjuror, and he’s swapped the old-fashioned proscenium stage of lore for a new performance platform. Ricky performs on Facebook.

His public performances seem more improvised than planned. And he’s often most comfortable at a Starbucks, with impromptu gatherings of young audiences who are drawn to his low-key, authentic style.

“When I started making the Facebook videos I didn’t set out to do interactive magic I was doing videos like everyone else Street magic maybe we’ll call it straight to camera magic and then 20 videos in I did an interactive trick that I created and this is where I read the mind of the person watching the video and before then my videos were getting 20,000 views 30,000 views and then this one got 13 million and so all of a sudden I’m like I’m gonna be the interactive magic guy.” https://youtu.be/n976Q4AYP6g?t=222

Example:

https://www.tiktok.com/@networkmedia_ricklax

What began as a way to reach audiences evolved into extraordinary expertise of how audiences are attracted and retained on social networks. In 2020 the pandemic put lots of working magicians and singers without work. Lax jumped in — inviting theme to make videos for his growing network By late 2021, creators on Lax’s network were earning a total of more than $5m a month across Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. A sixty-million-dollar business that was all but invisible to the outside world.

Says Lax, “Lots of magicians hate me. They don’t know me from the tricks I’ve created, they know me from Facebook and they hate me because they think I’m doing stupid magic tricks. But I’m not performing for other magicians I’m performing for billions of people out there.” LINK

I should be clear about where I stand on this. As former magician, and a lifelong creator of disruptive content, I admire everything about Lax and what he’s accomplished. Magican’s want to capture the attention of the audience, and engage and amaze them. The way we reach audiences may change, but the passion to surprise and delight audiences never changes. And Lax has reached a massive audience with his work.

Lax’s collection of creators and performers is large, thought by some to be the second largest in the world. The largest network is Jellysmack. You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of them, but among the creator community — they’re well known. And in just three years, his Network Media creator community rocketed to a staggering 350 Billion Views.

For creators, their relationship to an agile and well-connected network is critical. At Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and others — the rules of how videos are promoted and paid for change rapidly, and without any public notification.

And Lax has been a student of how things work going back as long as he can remember. He’s written three books, Lawyer Boy: A Case Study on Growing Up, Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas, and I Get Paid for This: Kicking Ass and Taking Notes in Vegas. If you sense a theme in those titles you’d be right, he’s an insider that revels in being the ultimate outsider. He knows the secrets and kinda likes letting people behind the magic curtain.

On June 15th, Lax’s Network Media joined forces with Jellysmack, making the combined entity the largest creator network globally. “Jellysmack is the single most valuable multi-platform partner a digital creator can have,” said Lax in announcing the deal. And as a Senior Advisor at Oaklins DeSilva+Phillis, I am incredibly proud to have played a small part in this magical transaction.

“Jellysmack is on a mission to detect the world’s best creators and develop them into digital icons. Using data and technology, Jellysmack makes it easy for creators to reach their full potential and unlock new opportunities on every platform that matters,” said Jellysmack President Sean Atkins.

Oaklins DeSilva + Phillips represented Network Media and its founder and CEO, Rick Lax, in the transaction. “When we met Rick, we knew there was something extraordinary about Network Media,” said Jay Kirsch, who led the ODP team. “Beyond the financial results, which were fantastic, it was clear that Rick was building a company for the future, not the past.”

The Network Media-Jellysmack deal represents the leading edge of a creator economy that is just getting started. “We are excited to meet with founders who see the world differently,” Kirsch said. “You have to learn the new paradigm of media. Changing consumer behaviors and platforms are fueling extraordinary opportunities.”

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