Early internet star turned celebrity Andy Milonakis revolutionized live streaming and virality, but he still has regrets

andy milonakis
Andy Milonakis.

  • Andy Milonakis is 45 now but shows no signs of slowing down.
  • Since creating his own television show in 2003, he’s been a rapper, actor, performer, and live streamer.
  • A pioneer of the internet age, Milonakis feels he gets “judged” for his appearance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Andy Milonakis has spent the past two months in the mountains on the island of Crete, Greece at his grandparent’s house. Almost every day, he livestreams the gorgeous landscape to thousands of viewers on Twitch.

The 45-year-old television star, content creator, rapper, influencer, and comedian has managed to keep his career alive for nearly two decades after he went viral pre-YouTube. Listing his accomplishments sounds a bit like you created a career with a random generator: he achieved mainstream success on MTV with “The Andy Milonakis Show,” voiced a microwave in a children’s television show, started a rap group with actor Simon Rex, and pioneered real-world live-streaming on Twitch.

Insider spoke to Milonakis about his career, how he got his start live streaming on Twitch and what he hopes he can achieve in this next phase of his career.

Milonakis was the first viral star to get his own television show

Milonakis was born in 1976 in Katonah, New York with a congenital growth hormone deficiency that gives him the appearance and voice of an adolescent.

After high school he moved to Queens in the late 90s and dabbled in the world of comedy, taking improv and writing classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater while working in tech support at an accounting firm as a day job.

In the late 90s, he was an early participant in internet comedy with his “child actor” website, where he posted photos of himself “making really weird faces” and wrote with “really bad grammar that’s misspelled on purpose to just make me seem totally out of my mind.”

“Back then, nobody succeeded making comedy on the internet, it wasn’t even a thing,” Milonakis said.

Brian Lynch, the future screenwriter of “Minions” and “Hop” invited him to be a part of his website AngryNakedPat.com in “1999 or 2000” Milonakis recalls. By the early 2000s, before YouTube was founded, Milonakis had posted over 100 videos on the site. In 2003, he was debating giving up on the videos because they weren’t getting many views] but he felt the sudden urge to purchase a plastic ukulele from a lady selling them from a shopping cart.

“My friends invited me to a Superbowl game and I just, I didn’t really like sports. So I was like, I’m going to make a video about it,” Milonakis recalls.

Filmed on a grainy webcam, Milonakis changed his life trajectory after he posted his breakout viral hit, “The Superbowl is Gay.” The three-minute clip of Milonakis calling everything from DVDs to McDonald’s “gay,” outdated and somewhat offensive humor by today’s standards, went viral at the time. Radio stations across the country contacted Milonakis for interviews.

One of those original viewers was Jimmy Kimmel, who had started hosting his Jimmy Kimmel Live show and found an affinity for the comedic actor. Over the next couple of years, Milonakis would make guest appearances on the talk show, with Kimmel saying in a 2005 Washington Post article that “his comedy is something that probably would have been around a long time ago if kids had access to video cameras and editing machines and the Internet.”

Kimmel’s endorsement led directly to MTV, according to Milonakis. An executive had been badgering Kimmel for a television show to pitch, which started as scrounged together clips from the web and Jimmy Kimmel Live. With the talk show host spearheading the pitching process, it led to a pilot, which was one of 20 vying for a spot to be made into a television show. Milonakis’ show eventually won out.

The Andy Milonakis Show premiered on MTV in 2005 and ran for three seasons. The show was an absurdist, surrealist nightmare that used random people as actors. Man on the street segments where he plays up his childish persona are intertwined with celebrity appearances from early aught icons like Hillary Duff and Lil Jon.

The show was a massive success and turned Milonakis into a traditional celebrity. Over the next two decades he made appearances or lent his voice to shows like Adventure Time, The Kroll Show, and Crank Yankers. But ultimately the world of TV wouldn’t be where he made his biggest and longest impact.

He appeared on Snoop Dogg’s internet news show, hosted his own YouTube cooking show called “Andy’s Hungry Voyage,” and had a fairly successful rap career.

Milonakis’ YouTube channel has half a million subscribers and has pulled in over 100 million views since it was created in 2006. “G L O G A N G,” his 2015 music video featuring Chief Keef has over five million views and his group Three Loco with Riff Raff and actor Simon Rex has over 10 million views across their dozen or so videos from 2012.

Andy joined Twitch and pioneered the world of IRL streaming

In 2016, Milonakis started to gain renewed attention with his Twitch streams. After initially streaming PS4 and PC games, Milonakis turned to “Pokemon Go,” the highly successful mobile game where users capture Pokemon by exploring the real world.

On that first stream, Milonakis recalls, he went from “a couple hundred viewers to 1,200.” Over the next year, he’d gain 200,000 followers, who watched him order tacos, walk around Los Angeles, and hang out with other streamers.

Milonakis quickly fell into a crew of influencers who streamed on Twitch’s “IRL” section, who frequently did outrageous stunts for clicks.

“I would walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard with like the craziest people, the weirdest drunks,” Milonakis said. “I would be drunk, like making out with chicks and like just doing stupid sh–.”

Several members of Milonakis’ crew found themselves in hot water. One was banned from Twitch after police were called on him without cause while he was on an airplane. Another was arrested live on stream in 2019.

“At the time, it seemed fine I guess, but looking back it sounds like hell,” Milonakis said. “And then once I wizened up, I was like, ‘Oh, man. Why do I just have to be here? I can be traveling.'”

In June of 2017, Milonakis met up with streamer EXBC in South Korea and fell in love with the idea of IRL streaming while traveling, which led him to Japan and Greece. Until the pandemic hit in 2020, Milonakis was traveling as much as he could, streaming to thousands in the process.

“I really do love the ability to be my own boss and fly all over the world and stream it live,” Milonakis said.

Milonakis says he regrets a lot

Milonakis has been making videos online for 20 years and regrets a large amount of time where he said he worked at “10% capacity,” he said.

“I don’t want to live my life where I just constantly am a workaholic and I don’t enjoy life, but I feel like I could’ve given it a lot more,” Milonakis said. “I’m not beating myself up over it, but it could have been pretty dope to work harder during those years.”

Milonakis has no plans of slowing down. His idol is Anthony Bourdain and hopes to one day create a show with his unique brand of humor, spitballing the idea of going to the best “sushi place in Japan and taking the food very seriously” but then dress up “as a ball of rice doing a rap video.”

“I think a lot of people write me off as that stupid, weird kid, which I am in a lot of ways, but I feel like I have more to offer,” Milonakis said. “I feel like when people kind of judge me and look at me in a weird way, I feel like I have my head on my shoulders and I feel like I’m very socially aware. I know how to talk to people and know how to treat people. And when I do really weird, crazy shit, I feel like people don’t expect that of me.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

How Instagram nano influencers make money with under 10,000 followers

Jen Lauren
Jen Lauren is a “nano” influencer on Instagram and YouTube.

  • “Nano” influencers are generally defined as having fewer than 10,000 followers on Instagram.
  • And some have turned their social-media hobbies into part-time jobs or side hustles.
  • Here’s how several creators earn money as nano influencers on Instagram.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nano” influencers may only have a few thousand followers, but that’s not keeping them from turning a social-media hobby into a paying side hustle.

Take Jen Lauren as an example.

Lauren is a part-time lifestyle influencer who now has 3,600 Instagram followers and about 4,000 YouTube subscribers (a few hundred more than when she was interviewed by Insider). She makes money as a creator on Instagram and YouTube through brand sponsorships, affiliate links, and YouTube’s Partner Program.

For one sponsored Instagram post, Lauren will charge about $350, she told Insider in November when she had just under 3,000 followers.

A recent report from HypeAuditor that surveyed 1,865 influencers outlined just how much nano influencers like Lauren charge per Instagram post and earn, on average, each month.

Nano influencers have become increasingly important to brands and influencer-marketing agencies because of their niche content and highly engaged audiences. They also typically have lower rates than influencers with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers.

And platforms specialized in helping nano influencers connect with brands, like Heartbeat, have emerged.

While reaching 10,000 followers on Instagram is a major milestone for aspiring influencers – getting on more brands’ radars, building a bigger audience, and having access to Instagram’s swipe-up feature in Stories – some nano influencers are making money in spite of their smaller follower counts.

So how much money are nano influencers actually earning?

Here’s a comprehensive list of Insider’s coverage of how nano influencers are building businesses:

How much money 4 nano influencers charge for brand deals on Instagram:

Examples of real media kits that 3 nano influencers use to pitch brands:

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to make money on Instagram as a nano influencer with under 10,000 followers

Jen Lauren
Jen Lauren is a “nano” influencer on Instagram and YouTube.

  • “Nano” influencers are generally defined as having fewer than 10,000 followers on Instagram.
  • And some have turned their social-media hobbies into part-time jobs or side hustles.
  • Here’s how several creators earn money as nano influencers on Instagram.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nano” influencers may only have a few thousand followers, but that’s not keeping them from turning a social-media hobby into a paying side hustle.

Take Jen Lauren as an example.

Lauren is a part-time lifestyle influencer who now has 3,600 Instagram followers and about 4,000 YouTube subscribers (a few hundred more than when she was interviewed by Insider). She makes money as a creator on Instagram and YouTube through brand sponsorships, affiliate links, and YouTube’s Partner Program.

For one sponsored Instagram post, Lauren will charge about $350, she told Insider in November when she had just under 3,000 followers.

A recent report from HypeAuditor that surveyed 1,865 influencers outlined just how much nano influencers like Lauren charge per Instagram post and earn, on average, each month.

Nano influencers have become increasingly important to brands and influencer-marketing agencies because of their niche content and highly engaged audiences. They also typically have lower rates than influencers with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers.

And platforms specialized in helping nano influencers connect with brands, like Heartbeat, have emerged.

While reaching 10,000 followers on Instagram is a major milestone for aspiring influencers – getting on more brands’ radars, building a bigger audience, and having access to Instagram’s swipe-up feature in Stories – some nano influencers are making money in spite of their smaller follower counts.

So how much money are nano influencers actually earning?

Here’s a comprehensive list of Insider’s coverage of how nano influencers are building businesses:

How much money 4 nano influencers charge for brand deals on Instagram:

Examples of real media kits that 3 nano influencers use to pitch brands:

Read the original article on Business Insider

How the Black tech community is leveraging business models that made hip-hop become a massive cultural and business phenomenon

Josh Otis Miller
Josh Otis Miller is a filmmaker and director of the upcoming documentary “Fund Black Tech.”

  • Lauren deLisa Coleman is a trend analyst and author at the intersection of pop culture and emerging tech.
  • Coleman says business patterns in Black tech are reminiscent of the hip hop industry in the 90s.
  • For Black founders “it’s about moving strategically and blowing up,” says Coleman.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Forget the former tech mantra of move fast and break things. For Black tech entrepreneurs and founders, who receive less than 1% of venture-capital funding, it’s about moving strategically and blowing up.

Lauren deLisa Coleman
The author.

As an AI entrepreneur with a background in the hip-hop music industry, I’ve started noticing business patterns in Black tech that look a lot like what I saw during the golden era of hip hop in the 90s.

Strong business models coupled with sheer talent enabled hip hop to become a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Hip-hop artists’ unparalleled, multi-pronged approach to the business grind almost never slept. Many recording artists were also CEOs of independent labels. They may have also had a promotional company or graphic design firm, as well as a clothing label or accessories line in partnership with streetwear designers.

They were veritable factories of business and selling. And then this was all amplified by “the crew” – or in mainstream speak, a collective.

The unmatched Wu-Tang Clan was and continues to be its own kind of crew from that era; the Dogg Pound Gangstaz went beyond duo Daz and Kurupt to include artists Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Nate Dogg, and the D.O.C. You get the idea.

But these legendary crews weren’t just about creativity and recognition – they were also about sales. Hockey-stick earnings growth followed, coming from a self-supported, self-directed business approach that made many in the hip-hop industry very successful.

Read more: A Black founder raised millions from VCs. He shares his best tips on how to overcome investing bias and succeed in Silicon Valley.

Now, we’re beginning to see various ‘crews’ and collaborations emanate from the Black tech space.

A perfect example of this is the Black NFT “crew” Crypto for Black Economic Empowerment (CBEE) led by finance whiz Erikan Obotetukudo who partnered with Cuy Sheffield, a CryptoArt collector and acting head of crypto at VISA.

Obotetukudo launched the CBEE as a place for Black crypto entrepreneurs to connect and share tips. Through Sheffield, it also provides introductions and collaborations to amplify projects deemed worthy for certain entrepreneurs outside of the group.

Recently this crew banded together by pooling resources and leveraging notable names like rapper Pusha T and model Tyra Banks to support the drop of ex-Dodger MLB player-turned-artist Micah Johnson’s NFT art debut, which ended up selling out at $1.4 million in seven minutes.

And then, there’s Trillicon, a collective of technologists, photographers, and designers known as the Wu-Tang of tech.

“‘Trillicon’ is a play on the phrase ‘Trill’ or true and real,” Trillicon CEO Jason Mayden told Insider. “In 2014, as a faculty member at Stanford, I began to connect with other like-minded individuals. We formed a collective as an extension of my private design and business strategy practice.”

Trillicon CEO Jason Mayden
Trillicon CEO Jason Mayden.

“We all ran in adjacent circles; some of us went to college together and others were friends of friends. It was our faith, personal ethos, and collective aspiration to be servant leaders to advance tech and entrepreneurship,” said Mayden.

“For founders of color, our challenges and emotional and mental toils have varying degrees of complexity and nuance that result from generations of disenfranchisement. As an outsider, it was important to define my unique perspective to ideating and problem-solving.”

As much as hip hop is beloved now, initially it was very much considered persona non grata in both the major music industry and culture at large.

Kino Childrey, a manager in the music industry who’s worked artists like 2021 Grammy rap nominee Royce da 5’9, told Insider, “Hip hop was considered outside the typical recording industry parameters. We were kept out for a long time, (as) outcasts. People didn’t get it.”

Childrey says many in hip hop realized that collaboration was the key to success. By working together, artists could motivate major record labels to get on board, with the liquor and fashion industries following.

Josh Otis Miller, a filmmaker and director of an upcoming documentary entitled “Fund Black Tech” echoed these sentiments.

Josh Otis Miller
Josh Otis Miller is a filmmaker and director of the upcoming documentary “Fund Black Tech.”

“Hip hop emerged out of Black voices being suppressed,” he said, “and what is happening in the tech scene is Black voices, Black ideas, being suppressed. Today, hip hop is the biggest income generator in the music industry, the biggest culture-setter in the entire world. Imagine a world where Black ideas and Black tech businesses get a voice.”

When even the National Science Foundation SBIR grants for tech founders holds over years at an average of only 8% of award for all others than Caucasian males, you’ve gotta get creative to find your way as a founder of color.

“Tech is about reimagining,” added Childrey, “so this hip hop approach is demonstrative of that. It’s about taking the path of least resistance in order to survive and overcome those trying to hold you back.”

Lauren deLisa Coleman is a digi-cultural trend analyst, author, and speaker within the intersection of popular culture, emerging tech, and the impact of such trends on business and governance.

Read the original article on Business Insider

E3 2021 couldn’t live up to the hype, but people tuned in anyway

halo infinite
The next chapter in the “Halo” video-game franchise, “Halo: Infinite.”

  • E3 2021 is finally over and fans are still processing the week.
  • Major titles for Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, and more debuted at the conference.
  • But gamers expect more than can be delivered from the video game convention.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When I was in middle school, I looked forward to E3 more than any other holiday or birthday combined. The weeklong video-game industry convention featuring reveals and press conferences from gaming’s top studios offered a constant source of whimsy and potential in my adolescent mind.

Ahead of the annual conference, I’d prepare lists of the games expected to debut and scream gleefully at my standard definition television when executives or G4TV hosts confirmed my predictions with actual release dates.

In 2018 and 2019, I got to attend the convention for the first time, attending those same press conferences that used to be the highlight of my summers as a kid.

So when it was announced that the convention would return after a year-long pandemic hiatus, I was thrilled.

This year, while attending the virtual conference, I believed that one good, solid game announcement could return the light from my childhood to the dark apartment inhabited by my now nearly-30-year-old self.

While I was watching the return of “Master Chief,” “Wario,” and so many other games, the hype did feel real, but it didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations.

E3 2021 came with a lot of anticipation

Fan expectations for E3 2021 had to be tempered due to it being remote. Some new games were announced before the convention, like “Hollow Knight: Silk Song” and the latest “Call of Duty,” meaning those titles wouldn’t make an appearance. Still, gamers were left with a near-infinite amount of possibilities. Naturally, many were let down.

“Everyone is looking towards one big date in the gaming calendar, but we already know E3 can’t possibly provide everything we’re hoping to see,” gaming writer Melindy Hetfeld said in PC Gamer.

Still, there is no hype like gamer hype, and the week started off strong with the Summer Games Fest on June 10. There, fans got a better look at the “Left 4 Dead” successor “Back 4 Blood,” as well as “Elden Ring,” the highly anticipated fantasy role-playing game (RPG) written by George R. R. Martin.

Over the next week, at their own official E3 conferences, game studios showed off their best content coming in the next few years.

Xbox and Bethesda aired cinematics for the space explorer game “Star Citizen” and the legacies shooter game “Halo Infinite.”

Ubisoft introduced us to shooter “Rainbow Six: Extraction” and the second installment of the plumber’s RPG “Mario + Rabids: Sparks of Hope.”

Gearbox had cheeky reveals for the shooter games “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” and “The Outer Worlds 2.”

Square Enix gave us a confusing string of new games, like “Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin” and an in-depth gameplay trailer for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” game.

Not all studios lived up to the convention’s hype

While those studios brought just enough hype, others fell short.

“I expected it to look and feel kinda messy, and that’s what we got,” VentureBeat video games reporter Jeff Grub told Insider. “Gaming fans always expect the moon, but if you talk to them long enough, they’ll admit that they really just want an exciting presentation from big companies.”

Studios Capcom and Bandai barely had enough content to fill their conference slots, and even Nintendo fell victim to the hype when rumors about a reveal of a pro version of its Switch failed to materialize. Though the company showed off the minigame collection “Warioware: Get It Together,” the latest character from “Tekken” coming to “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” and the first gameplay footage of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2,” it just wasn’t enough to keep their stock from falling five percent.

Despite the existence of social media, which gives companies the capability of talking directly to their fans, E3 still has mystical clout in the gaming world.

“It’s a single event that gets a massive audience to willingly tune in to watch a series of commercials,” Grubb said. “People take time off work to watch. Hundreds of content creators that normally do one video a week are creating multiple videos per day. Mainstream media outlets watch and listen. And everyone buys into that because of the E3 branding.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elf Cosmetics apologized 3 weeks after an attempted pivot to Twitch that featured no Black creators

The first stream on Elf's Twitch channel was heavily criticized for only featuring non-Black creators.
The first stream on Elf’s Twitch channel was heavily criticized for featuring only non-Black creators.

  • Elf Cosmetics apologized three weeks after a controversial Twitch stream.
  • The cosmetics brand attempted to pivot to streaming but didn’t include Black creators.
  • One Black creator said she was snubbed despite getting the most community support on Twitter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elf Cosmetics is the first major makeup brand to launch a Twitch channel, but the creator-marketing pivot to streaming didn’t go as planned. The popular drugstore line, an acronym for “Eyes, Lips, Face,” issued an apology on Twitter for not including Black creators and other underrepresented demographics among the influencers featured in its launch.

“At e.l.f., we firmly embrace diversity and inclusion and we commit that our talent and partners will reflect our commitment in future streams,” the brand said. It also solicited suggestions and feedback.

The apology, posted more than three weeks after the launch, was met with continued fallout. The first event on the channel on May 9 featured multiple guests and segments to promote the brand’s products, and Elf has since streamed additional conversations between creators, including one with a Black creator.

Elf Cosmetics did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Black creator who received community support said she was ‘snubbed’ by the brand

Before the launch of the “twitch.tv/elfyou” channel, the brand asked its Twitter following to volunteer their “favorite beauty influencers who game.” A Black Twitch streamer who goes by Milady Confetti posted four of her looks underneath the tweet and received the most engagement by far, with 1,000 likes.

But when Elf launched its stream, commentators were quick to point out there were no Black creators. Confetti wrote that she was “snubbed” despite getting the most fan support.

“That was so hurtful, then only working with white women in my field, heck in the same gaming category as me. Why be so cruel,” she wrote in response to the brand’s apology tweet. Her response got more likes than the apology tweet.

Confetti did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

A creator of color who isn’t known for beauty was invited

A former Twitch streamer posted that Elf reached out to her and invited her onto the stream following the backlash against the launch. But according to Sleepy Mia, she no longer streams and has “never been known” for doing makeup looks, identifying another area where viewers said the brand could have done more research.

“I’m so confused why @elfcosmetics reached out to me to stream with them instead of working with the slew of Black women and POC who called them out,” Mia wrote.

A drag performer criticized Elf’s stream

Elf was also criticized by Twitch streamers like It’s Lucille, a drag performer who posted a Twitter thread outlining what she said were other issues with the launch stream. She pointed out that Elf’s launch stream kept using the word “females” to describe makeup consumers, despite there being men and nonbinary makeup wearers.

“For over three hours, you’ve only used the term ‘females’ when talking about your consumers and audience,” Lucille said. “When you finally mention non-binary people, you don’t even use the right tense. We aren’t ‘a non-binary.’ Non-binary is an adjective, not a noun.”

Lucille also noted that Elf still worked with the makeup influencer Jeffree Star. Insider’s Amanda Krause said in an analysis that makeup customers judged brands based on more than just the product itself.

“Now, beauty fans say they’re heartbroken watching their favorite companies seemingly choose sales and publicity over allyship,” Krause wrote. “And experts argue that brands should cut ties with problematic influencers – regardless of their fame – to back up their words with action.”

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Writers for Valorant fan website THESPIKE.GG allege their CEO spent thousands on ‘strippers and cocaine,’ and owes them $40,000 in back pay

thespike.gg valorant fan site gamingt
The logo of the THESPIKE.GG

  • Writers of THESPIKE.GG, a fan site for the video game Valorant, announced they are leaving the site.
  • Two writers and a developer said they’re owed over $40,000 by owner Artur Minacov.
  • Minacov has been accused of spending thousands on other expenses like “strippers and cocaine.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two former writers of the news site THESPIKE.GG, which is known for covering a video game called Valorant, have come forward on Twitter in the past week claiming they and others who worked on the site are owed over $40,000 in total back pay from owner Artur Minacov.

Valorant is a shooter video game developed by Riot Games, where players take control of agents with unique abilities, inspired heavily by Valve’s Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), a game released in 2012.

Since the site launched in mid-2020, THESPIKE has become a central hub for fans who want to learn about the stats, matches, and breakdowns of Valorant esports. Though the scene is small, it is growing and the site has amassed nearly 15,000 Twitter followers and a devoted readership. Though the site is still running, it currently has no writers after they departed amid the payment controversy and an interim CEO says that he is still waiting to get paid.

Insider spoke to 3 current and former workers for the company who told their stories.

THESPIKE.GG started off as a promising Valorant fan website despite Minacov’s previous professional issues

Prior to THESPIKE.GG, Minacov had a history of supposed payment issues.

In 2014, Minacov founded OPSkins, a popular skin trading platform for “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” that closed dramatically in 2018. In 2017, Minacov left the company to found EnVision esports, a professional Overwatch team that lasted for one year. The following year, he admitted to Dot Esports to not paying the EnVision esports team thousands of dollars in late payments, though in April 2021, former EnVision player William Hernandez told Dot Esports that “he believes players were ‘eventually’ paid by Minacov.” Hernandez didn’t return Insider’s request for comment.

But any previous allegations didn’t stop the creation of THESPIKE.GG in April 2020 by Minacov and a group of developers and writers passionate about esports. The site, Minacov said on a May 14 Twitter Spaces, where users can host Clubhouse-like discussion rooms, was inspired by HLTV, a decades-old website cataloging the stats, games, and stories of the CSGO esports scene. CSGO esports has evolved into a massive industry, with worldwide competitions watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers and a collective prize pool of tournaments of nearly $22 million in 2019.

According to Minacov in Twitter Spaces, he thought Valorant had similar esports potential and there was a niche in the market. Minacov said he invested $400,000 of his own money on the site with no investors and spent $20,000 a month on servers. When asked for documentation of this, Minacov did not return a request for comment.

Josef Orland, who goes by hex4MT online and is the current interim CEO of THESPIKE.GG, told Insider that he had left his previous job as a “Dev Team Lead in an IT company” after Minacov had promised him a six-month contract to work on the site. He added that he started “coding the site from scratch” and took care of a lot of the day-to-day maintenance, like taking care of servers and checking to see when writers are posting stories.

Soon, others started to join the team. Esports writer Mostafa Hossam said he joined in June 2020 and Shawn “Germanicus” Heerema said he joined in May. Hossam told Insider he was tasked with writing roster moves, match recaps, and “anything to do with Valorant esports” and agreed to a rate of $500 a month without a contract. Heerema received a contract seen by Insider, promising him around $200 per month. Both have work still published on the site.

Things took a turn when Minacov was said to have paid to fly some of the site’s employees to Malta where he reportedly procured ‘cocaine and strippers’

In September of 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Minacov paid to fly a select group of the site’s employees to Malta, according to an employee that asked to remain anonymous, whose identity Insider confirmed. They said that Minacov had procured “cocaine and strippers” and that their “phone and Snapchat were checked at the end of the trip.”

Esports website Upcomer reported that several staff members speaking under the condition of anonymity said that “two strippers were brought into the villa for the first two nights,” Minacov had “passed out half the time from too much drugs and alcohol,” and one former contributor said “cocaine was everywhere.”

Minacov wasn’t just spending money on lavish trips for his employees. He told Dot Esports that he had spent “‘over $400,000 of his own money, different than the money invested in the site, in subscriptions and donations to ‘small streamers in the community.'” He also tweeted in January that he had spent $12,000 on a PC that didn’t work with his games.

In the Upcomer article, sources reportedly raised issues with Minacov’s workplace behavior as well. Upcomer reported that Minacov said over Slack, in messages the publications says it reviewed, that “a contractor of Afghani and Indian descent looked ‘like a terrorist'” and he “called a former staff member a “b—- after he did not create a graphic to the CEO’s liking.”

As 2021 continued, Minacov’s funds for his website dwindled and payments weren’t going out, according to Orland, who said he was owed a low five-figure sum, telling Insider that two months into his six-month contract, Minacov said he was “broke” which he believes was “a big lie.”

Hossam told Insider that he hasn’t been paid for his work since November of 2020 and is owed $3,500. Heerema said he is owed a little over $2,000 since he was last paid on January 11, 2021, according to invoices seen by Insider.

Writers of THESPIKE.GG sent an ultimatum to Minacov asking for the money they say they’re owed

On May 12, 2021, Orland sent a group message on Slack, which was viewed by Insider, to Minacov and the rest of the writers.

“Artur M. pay the people what you promised them,” Orland wrote. “Some people are ready to go public with this if there is no action from your end about the matter (and by action I mean actual money transfers and not more promises).”

After no contact or response from Minacov, Hossam and Heerema posted long messages to Twitter on May 14 about the money they say they were owed.

Minacov responded on Twitter with expletives and vitriol, calling those that questioned him “ignorant” and “hypocrites.” He released a statement that night confirming that he did owe money to the workers and that he “will leave this community that I love.” In an edited version of the statement, he wrote that “dues will be taking care off as soon as I can” and that he was “no longer involved at THESPIKE.GG on any capacity.”

On the May 14 Twitter Spaces, Minacov said he hadn’t paid the writers because the company “ran out of f—ing money” and “financially wise I’ve always been s— at it.”

“I didn’t have my phone for a few weeks and when I got a new phone in a new city I didn’t put Slack on it,” he said.

“We ran out of money, did we do it on purpose not to pay them? No,” Minacov said in the Twitter Space. “But I’m trying to do everything in my power to give them what they are owed.”

It’s unclear where THESPIKE.GG goes from here

Orland announced on Twitter on May 15 that he is taking over as “interim” CEO of the website and that “the ultimate goal is to keep going with the project but the future is not defined yet.” Orland told Insider Minacov’s equity is in the process of being “bought off” and that “the deal will have in place that all the ex/current workers are paid.”

As of publication, Minacov has not paid THESPIKE.GG contributors, according to those interviewed awaiting payment.

Minacov did not return a request for comment.

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YouTube has demonetized James Charles temporarily amid allegations that he sexted minors

James Charles
  • James Charles has been demonetized, YouTube confirmed.
  • YouTube told Insider that Charles has been “temporarily removed” from the Partner Program.
  • The move follows more than 15 sexual misconduct accusations from men and boys.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

YouTube has temporarily removed one of its most popular creators from its Partner Program, restricting makeup YouTuber James Charles’ ability to make money from the platform. In a statement to Insider, YouTube said it has applied its “creator responsibility policy” to Charles’ channel with more than 25.5 million subscribers. The platform did not say how long Charles will be demonetized for.

The creator responsibility policy states that “If we see that a creator’s on- and/or off-platform behavior harms our users, community, employees or ecosystem, we may take action to protect the community.” It goes on to say that YouTube may take action against creators who intend to cause “malicious harm to others” or who cause “real world harm” via abuse or violence, cruelty, or participating in fraudulent or deceptive behavior.

Got a tip? Email Kat Tenbarge at ktenbarge@insider.com.

James Charles posing
James Charles poses with fans at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. Charles was ranked number ten in YouTube’s 2020 list of the platforms top creators.

YouTube’s action against Charles follows a major sexting scandal he’s involved in. More than 15 men and boys have accused Charles of sexual misconduct since 2019, ranging from anonymous underage sexting accusations on TikTok to men who say Charles attempted to manipulate them into romantic and sexual reciprocation.

In an April 1 video on his YouTube channel called “holding myself accountable,” Charles addressed two sexting accusations he said were made by 16-year-olds, saying that the interactions with the boys “should have never happened.” He also claimed that the accusers lied about their ages.

One 16-year-old who accused Charles of sending him nudes photos and soliciting nude photos from him told Insider that Charles “lied” in his statement. The same 16-year-old provided Insider with screenshots that showed his age could be seen on Instagram his Instagram profile, where Charles and him exchanged direct messages.

Most recently, following more than a dozen allegations made on TikTok, Charles’ primary beauty sponsor Morphe announced it would cut ties with him. The cosmetics company previously faced a boycott from angry consumers.

In a statement responding to Morphe, Charles wrote “Since posting that video, many other people have come forward with a series of misleading stories and false allegations which have been reported on by many people, creators, and news outlets.”

YouTube’s creator responsibility policy has previously been applied to Shane Dawson in 2020 and David Dobrik in 2021 following critical mainstream media attention in both cases. Dawson was criticized by Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith after a video resurfaced of him pretending to masturbate to a poster of then-11-year-old Willow Smith. Dobrik was demonetized for one month following Insider’s investigation into rape allegations against a former member of his Vlog Squad group.

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Makeup lovers are boycotting Morphe as the brand stays silent on James Charles sexting allegations

James Charles attends his Morphe Meet & Greet at Roosevelt Field Mall on December 1, 2018 in Garden City, New York.
James Charles attends his Morphe Meet & Greet at Roosevelt Field Mall on December 1, 2018 in Garden City, New York.

  • Makeup brand Morphe is being bombarded by the “#BoycottMorphe” hashtag on social media.
  • The company is being criticized for its longtime sponsorship and collaboration with James Charles.
  • Charles has been accused by more than 15 men and boys of sexual harassment and sexting with minors.

Makeup brand Morphe may be facing a boycott over its continued association with James Charles, who has been accused by more than 15 men and boys of sexual harassment and sexting minors. He released a video addressing some of the allegations on April 1 and said “these conversations should have never happened.”

The makeup company, which is also known as Morphe Cosmetics and Morphe Brushes, has not responded to Insider’s inquiries about its longtime partnership with Charles, who appears in Morphe marketing campaigns, has cut ribbons at multiple Morphe store openings, and who is the face of the best-selling Morphe x James Charles Artistry Palette.

But a podcast host said on Twitter that they received an email from a Morphe representative saying that the brand “does not condone inappropriate online behavior of any form.” The purported email, which was screenshotted and shared widely online, continued: “We have been actively looking into the recent allegations against James Charles, and have suspended marketing of the Morphe X James Charles collaboration while we continue to evaluate and monitor the situation.”

The purported email circulated in the online beauty-drama community and led to Morphe’s social-media posts being overrun with negative comments. The hashtag “#BoycottMorphe” appeared in over 200 tweets and in dozens of Instagram comments on Morphe’s account since Charles’ video was posted on April 1.

One comment on a recent Morphe Instagram post asking the company to “remove” the palette from their store reached over 400 likes. “How about actually listening to fans and maybe you wouldn’t be losing money right now,” said another comment with over 300 likes.

The recent accusations against Charles include more than a dozen so-called “exposé” TikToks made by individuals who claim Charles used Snapchat to send or solicit sexually suggestive or explicit messages and photos. Several of these individuals say they were minors at the time. Insider was unable to independently corroborate all of the allegations.

Charles’ partnership with Morphe has been an integral part of his own online brand for years. He even previously sold a hoodie that said “Use code ‘JAMES’ for 10 percent off,” referencing his famous affiliate discount code for the website.

Morphe’s discount code ‘JAMES’ still works on its website

Morphe launched in 2008 as a beauty brand intended for collaborative partnerships with influencers and creators in the makeup and beauty space online, according to the company’s website. Those creators have included Manny Gutierrez (Manny MUA), Nikita Dragun, Jaclyn Hill, Bretman Rock, and Charles, among others. Collaborations typically include a signature Morphe X eyeshadow palette.

Charles’ rainbow-themed Artistry Palette is still listed on Morphe’s website under the “Best Sellers” tab, along with the miniature palette and Charles’ branded makeup-brush set.

James Charles

While Morphe hasn’t posted on Instagram about Charles’ products since March 25, Insider confirmed that his affiliate code still works on the website. Customers can use code “JAMES” for 10% off their purchase.

Morphe has separated from controversial creators in the past year

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for the company to part ways with one of its major featured creators.

In June 2020, Morphe stopped working with YouTubers Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star as the creators were embroiled in controversy. It “ceased all commercial activity” with Jeffree Star Cosmetics, Star’s brand that had previously been sold in brick-and-mortar Morphe stores. Morphe also stopped selling the popular Conspiracy makeup collection marketed by Star and Dawson.

The move came after YouTuber Tati Westbrook released a video accusing Star and Dawson of having “manipulated” her into accusing Charles of sexual misconduct with boys in 2019. Westbrook also claimed that Star had ownership in Morphe, which the company denied to Insider. At the same time, Dawson was being widely condemned by mainstream celebrities and online critics alike for his past offensive content.

Jeffree Star, Manny Gutierrez and James Charles celebrate The Launch Of KKW Beauty on June 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Jeffree Star, Manny Gutierrez and James Charles celebrate The Launch Of KKW Beauty on June 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

When customers asked about Morphe’s ties to Star and Dawson at the end of June 2020, the company initially wrote in similar purported emails to customers that it did not “condone or agree with the actions and behavior of Shane Dawson.” Before officially separating from Star, the company also wrote that “Jeffree Star has acknowledged mistakes made in the past and has apologized, taken accountability, and worked hard to make amends within the community.”

Facing mounting pressure from customers, it’s unclear whether Charles’ future with Morphe will follow a similar trajectory to Star and Dawson.

Neither Charles nor Morphe have responded to Insider’s multiple requests for comment.

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3 creators and a lawyer share how social media bans work, and the best way to safeguard your account

fitness influencer
Accidentally playing copyrighted music in the background of your video can put your account at risk.

  • When influencers or creators are banned for known or unknown reasons, it can impact their income.
  • Three creators and a lawyer shared their experiences with social media bans.
  • They advised avoiding using third-party content and being cautious while livestreaming.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Getting banned on social media isn’t just a nuisance for influencers and creators. Oftentimes these platforms are a huge part of their livelihood – and the longer they’re unable to create content and share it with their audience, the more money they lose out on.

Bans are often instituted by a platform for reasons including harassment, bullying, or copyright or policy violations, but they can also happen for unknown reasons or by accident.

They’re also surprisingly common: Twitter suspended roughly 925,000 accounts during the first half of 2020 alone, and, in June 2019, Instagram conducted a “meme page purge,” removing accounts with a combined reach of 30 million followers. Those pages’ creators lost out on tens of thousands of dollars in placements, sponsorships, and advertising income.

Three creators and a lawyer shared how to avoid getting removed from a platform.

Know the risks of using third-party materials

A 30-year-old influencer who goes by the name Produced By Blanco has been making music professionally since 2018. He’s worked with artists signed to major labels including Atlantic, Roc Nation, Sony, Columbia, Republic, and Universal, has 12,500 followers on Instagram, and has driven millions of views on YouTube.

© Produced By Blanco
Produced By Blanco.

Blanco told Insider he avoids terms-of-use violations, like sharing unauthorized content, by only sharing his own content or content made by artists he’s worked with.

“It’s the safest route,” Eric Lauritsen, a Los Angeles-based music industry attorney who’s represented clients who’ve been banned from platforms like Twitch and TikTok, told Insider. But creators don’t have to follow Blanco’s all-or-nothing approach as long as they understand the risks.

“To be safe, make it a policy not to use material owned by third parties,” he said. “But, if you intend to use third-party material anyway, you may be OK doing it, but at a minimum, accept the fact that a third-party will claim the revenue or your content is at risk of removal. Some parties may go further though and may want to pursue a claim against you for statutory damages,” he added, citing the landmark Napster case in 2000, where Metallica sued for $100,000 in damages per song illegally downloaded on the site.

Most social media platforms treat the use of copyrighted material the same, whether it’s by accident (for example, someone else’s song playing in the background of your livestream) or on purpose (like blatantly stealing it). And saying “no copyright infringement” won’t protect you, either.

Control as much of your content as possible

Matthew Pettito, 18, has 3.8 million followers on TikTok, 192,000 followers on Instagram, 26,000 followers on Twitch, and is sponsored by energy-drink company Bang Energy. He first downloaded TikTok in July 2019 and said he had one million followers by June 2020.

© Matthew Petitto
Matthew Petitto.

He began livestreaming on TikTok to start making money through the TikTok Creator Program (per the Creator terms, you need at least 1,000 followers to be eligible to monetize your livestream). While hosting a TikTok livestream one night, Pettito was also on Omegle, a free app that facilitates chats with strangers online.

“There are no community guidelines, so it’s not uncommon for people on the website to be saying or doing vulgar things,” Pettito told Insider. “I was on track to make $1,000 that night, and all of a sudden, I was removed from the app and banned for 48 hours.” He lost the $1,000 due to the vulgar comment being picked up on his livestream.

Pettito recommended other influencers use caution while streaming live “because you can’t edit or take back anything,” he said. Some users even record livestream content and upload it to other platforms, so whatever you say or do can take on a life of its own – for better or worse.

Consider hiring an attorney if you have a significant amount of money at stake

Dakota Elder, 27, had his YouTube account banned in 2019 and his TikTok account banned in 2020. At the time, he said he had 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and 500,000 followers on TikTok.

© Dakota Elder
Dakota Elder.

He told Insider he still doesn’t know why either account was banned and didn’t hear back from either platform when he asked why. Elder was on track to make about $2,500 in revenue the following month from both accounts.

“There’s going to be a lot of variation depending on the terms of use of the site and the user’s activity before the ban,” Lauritsen said about why platforms may not reveal the reason behind the ban. “The site may not even be obligated to provide a reason.”

Elder now has over 4.4 million followers on his new TikTok profile but chose not to recreate his YouTube channel. Despite being permanently banned from both, he created the new TikTok account by just signing up again.

“Making the new account was smooth as butter,” he said. “I had no problems, and I haven’t had an issue since the first video on the new account.” It was easy to sign back up again, he said, although he couldn’t access the old account, followers, or content.

Taking the revenue hit was likely the most cost-effective option for Elder, but for creators with a significant amount of money at stake, consulting an attorney could be worth it.

“I have seen scenarios where clients had music taken down from streaming services, reached out, did not receive a response, then hired me to follow up and I was able to get information,” Lauritsen said. “There is an extra air of legitimacy using an attorney to at least help get you more information.

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