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How I Made It: Maker Studios strategy chief Courtney Holt

How I Made It: Maker Studios strategy chief Courtney Holt
“I love solving problems and I think that’s what I get inspired by,” said Courtney Holt, chief strategy officer at Maker Studios.
(Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times)

The gig: Courtney Holt is chief strategy officer at Maker Studios, a Culver City media company that manages and develops major YouTube personalities such as PewDiePie and produces online programming such as “Epic Rap Battles of History.” Its 55,000 YouTube channels draw more than 9 billion monthly views, most of them from millennials. Founded in 2009, Maker was purchased by Walt Disney Co. this year in a deal worth up to $950 million.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in film from Boston University.

Personal: Lives in Silver Lake with his wife, Carrie, a film and TV costume supervisor; their 10-year-old daughter, Stella; and their 8-year-old son, Sam. A longtime Clippers fan, Holt named his son after former NBA star and current Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell.

“I grew up in New York and there’s something about being a New Yorker where you can’t be a Laker fan,” Holt said.

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First job: Hooking up stereos and other electronic equipment for family friends when he was a preteen.

“I understood how to technically put things together. I’m not the person who reads the manual, I usually just do it and have the instinct for it.”

Getting started: In his first year after college, Holt juggled several jobs. He worked at a 24-hour news network in the early morning, at a record store in the afternoons and at nightclubs at night.

“I could never figure out what I wanted to do with my life so I did a lot of different things,” he said. “I would do anything I could to be adjacent to the thing I wanted to do.”

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Welcome to L.A.: Holt was living in Boston as a 22-year-old when he decided to visit L.A. to interview for a music job. He was offered a marketing and public relations position at an emerging record label and impulsively decided to move across the country. Only problem: The job fell through and Holt was stuck in an unfamiliar city without work.

“After that, I wasn’t going to always bet on the handshake or the nod,” said Holt, who went on to land several temp jobs in Hollywood, usually working as a production assistant or coordinator on television shows. He transitioned into producing music videos, including the Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot” and Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl.”

Memorable moment: While visiting his then-girlfriend on the set of Weezer’s “Undone — The Sweater Song” music video, Holt and other onlookers were asked to hold on to a pack of dogs hired for the shoot and release them at the right moment. Halfway through the music video, you can see the dogs run through a scene of the band performing. “I say I was the dog wrangler on the first Weezer video,” he said.

Moving on up: Prior to joining Maker in 2011, Holt was an advisor to News Corp. Digital and president of Myspace Music. Before Myspace, he was executive vice president of digital media and music for the MTV Networks Music & Logo Group. He also held positions at Interscope Geffen A&M and Atlantic Records.

Secret to success: “I love solving problems and I think that’s what I get inspired by, trying to think about the solutions that it takes from point A to point B. And typically it’s not a straight line.”

On the job: At Maker, Holt, 46, oversees functions such as corporate strategy, business development, brand partnerships and commercial development. He also works with Maker talent and watches YouTube videos every day to stay up to date and to look for new content.

“People who make videos and are successful at it, this is their job. They think about it as their business. It’s very hard to have a video that goes viral and make it into a business,” he said. “It’s about video, and viral is sort of the byproduct.”

First big purchase: Holt thought it would be cool to own a piece of a nightclub, so in 2001 he invested in the Echo in Echo Park. After working in nightclubs and record stores in his early 20s, “I knew better than to invest in a record store.”

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Advice: “Relationships definitely matter. Meet as many people as you can,” he said. “When people say, ‘I want to work at a company like Maker,’ I’m like, ‘Who do you know in the community? Who do you know in the venture community? Who do you know in the incubator community?’ That’s what’s going to get you the opportunity.”

andrea.chang@latimes.com

Twitter: @byandreachang


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