Cameo, Celebrity Video-Sharing App, Grows In Popularity During Pandemic Cameo has become one of the fastest-growing tech startups by letting anyone pay for birthday wishes and other greetings recorded by celebrities and influencers. But will its Silicon Valley hype last?

Cameo Celebrity App: Will Birthday Wishes From Snoop Dogg Mean A Big Investor Payday?

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's now possible to have Snoop Dogg wish your parents a happy anniversary. The company Cameo lets users pay for personal video recordings from actors, folk heroes, Internet influencers and disgraced politicians. And as NPR's Bobby Allyn reports, Cameo is now one of the fastest-growing tech startups.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Remember 'NSync, the American boy band from the '90s? Wouldn't it be fun to have heartthrob Lance Bass wish a friend a happy 30th birthday? Well, someone did just that for $249.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LANCE BASS: He has sent me here to officially help you say bye, bye, bye to your 20s and welcome to the best decade of your life.

ALLYN: Actress Lindsay Lohan will record a selfie of herself from her home in Dubai. Just don't mind the sunlight washing out most of the frame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSAY LOHAN: Hey, Jill (ph). Lindsay Lohan here. I just want to let you know that I'm sorry to hear about your bachelorette party being postponed.

ALLYN: Or maybe you have a friend who's an avid cyclist, and you want to send a pep talk from someone who knows a thing or two about bicycles.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LANCE ARMSTRONG: Yo, Dale (ph). Lance Armstrong here. Greetings from Nantucket.

ALLYN: This is Cameo. The way it started is kind of random. Three years ago, CEO Steven Galanis was thinking about this fact - nearly 80% of retired NFL players go broke within two years of retirement.

STEVEN GALANIS: And this was really shocking to me. When you look at the people that have gone broke, it is bold-namers; it is hall of famers.

ALLYN: Galanis, a former Chicago stock trader, thought this is not just a sports thing. Fame is a weird concept in 2020, with more people than ever considered famous in one way or another. But many of them have trouble turning that fan base into income. To Galanis, that was an opportunity, especially now in the pandemic.

GALANIS: In a world where all live entertainment has shut down, suddenly the whole creative class finds themselves unemployed all at one time.

ALLYN: The business has grown sevenfold from last year. It's a treasure trove of people who've had their 15 minutes of fame or their 11 days in the spotlight. That's how long Anthony Scaramucci lasted as President Trump's White House communications director.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Dane (ph), turning 55 is nothing, OK? July 1, even. My God. Happy birthday to you, man.

ALLYN: Each celebrity sets their own price. The Mooch thinks his market value is $50 a video. CEO Galanis says some are making tons of money. He says Carole Baskin from the hit Netflix show "Tiger King" is cranking out hundreds of videos a day, pulling in $100,000 in just a single week, one $199 video at a time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROLE BASKIN: Hey, all you cool cats and kittens. It's Carole Baskin at Big Cat Rescue. Danny (ph), you are one cool cat.

ALLYN: With each video, Cameo takes a 25% cut. But who exactly is buying these videos? People like Tim Davis of Nashville. He found the site while searching for a gift for his wife. He noticed an actor from the sci-fi show "Outlander," and his wife is a huge fan. For $40, this actor was willing to record her a personal birthday wish.

TIM DAVIS: It was something that I thought would be a little bit different, and it was completely unexpected.

CORALIE LE COGUIC: What is happening? (Laughter) I was so confused.

ALLYN: That's Davis' wife Coralie Le Coguic. She was brought to tears she was so moved. Le Coguic finds the videos fun and entertaining. At the same time, she says, the very concept of the app is kind of strange. Silicon Valley investors? They're betting that celebrity Cameos are not just a passing fad but maybe the future of fame.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "BEACH DR.")

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