You could say that Gabbie Hanna has always had a knack for spotting opportunities. Or as she calls it: “That sort of blind confidence that I generally go through life with.”
Hanna is a singer-songwriter, YouTube content creator, MTV personality, author...the list goes on. But when she started uploading comedic skits to video-sharing platform Vine back in 2013, she didn’t do so with the intention of becoming the master multi-hyphenate she is today. It was just a fun pastime.
“It was only six months old when I started posting so there wasn’t any business model for Vine,” says Hanna. “There wasn’t any way to monetize it.”
She quickly made a name for herself on the fledgling site, amassing a fanbase of over four million followers in just a couple of years. But everything changed when she was fired from her day job at a marketing company.
“I told my boss off and said that the whole company was a sham and he was brainwashed,” says Hanna. “It was overdramatic, of course, but I knew that I wanted to not be at that job anymore and then everybody asked me afterward, ‘What are you gonna do?’ and I said, ‘Oh I’m gonna be a Viner.’”
Needless to say, not everyone was super supportive of this career move and Hanna also had a feeling that the app wouldn’t last that long. However, she had a strong feeling that it could lead to other things and that she could launch other things from it.
“From that app, I just knew that I had the potential to be an entertainer and decided at that moment that that’s what I was going to do,” says Hanna.
And she was right on all counts. Vine officially closed up shop in 2016 and Hanna’s career has since skyrocketed. She brought her Vine fans over to YouTube where she currently has a following of over 6.6 million subscribers. Her hilarious comedy videos have garnered over one billion views. Her first book of poems, Adultolescence, became a New York Times bestseller and her most recent EP, 2WAYMIRROR, hit #3 on the iTunes chart, #4 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart and #5 on the Billboard Emerging Artists chart.
Hanna has achieved incredible success in so many different aspects of her career, but keeping all of those different plates spinning hasn’t been easy. For instance, the recent success of her music, which she calls her “real passion,” has led her to take a different approach to the rest of her creative pursuits – YouTube in particular.
“YouTube has kind of taken a backseat to the rest of what I’m doing and my channel is basically me doing what I have to do anyway and filming it,” says Hanna. For example, she recently bought a house and turned her decorating process into a series of home makeover videos featuring other popular creators like Megan Batoon and The Sorry Girls.
“It’s just me having fun with my best friend, it’s getting my chores done, it’s bringing people along my journey of ‘Hey, I’m a grown-up now and I have to buy a house and decorate it, and I have to clean,’” says Hanna.
Still, while Hanna is ready to grow and evolve and focus on different things, not all of her subscribers have been so receptive to her new shift in content.
“I think I’m in a kind of transitional period where I’m losing a lot of my original core fanbase that followed me because I’m a loud dramatic storyteller and now I’m getting a new fanbase of people who’ve found me through my music,” says Hanna. “So it’s this trade-off and it’s sort of a slow and gradual climb but I feel very confident in the transition that’s happening,”
She’s also found a way to produce and share her music in a way that feels very true to form: by giving her biggest fan an all-access-pass to her creative process through her Patreon membership.
With membership tiers ranging from $3 to $10 a month, Hanna’s offering neat perks like early announcements on upcoming tours and new products, behind-the-scenes videos and photos from studio sessions and music videos, shout-outs at the end of her YouTube videos and Instagram and Snapchat stories and more.
“Patreon acts as my label,” says Hanna. “I knew I wanted to stay independent and didn’t want to sign to anybody else because then they have control over my songs, my singles, my performances.
"Labels kind of own you and I’m not somebody who can be told how to say what I want to say or when to say it.”
Working with Patreon allows her to maintain her freedom as an artist and work on her terms, while still generating the necessary funds to market her music and execute her creative vision to its fullest extent.
When we asked her about her favourite parts of being a creator, she responds with a laugh: “It’s 11 in the morning right now and I’m just chilling, having a coffee,” says Hanna. “I make my own schedule, I choose what I want to do and don’t want to do.”
She adds: “There’s that really corny saying, ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Ninety percent of the time, that’s how I feel. Obviously, I have to deal with the actual business stuff like doing a brand deal or showing up to a meeting and that feels a little work-y but for the most part, I love my job. I get to sing, and make music, and meet amazing creators and put stuff out there that I’m proud of.”
“There’s that really corny saying, ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Ninety percent of the time."
While a career like Hanna’s may not have been possible even a decade ago, as she says herself, we’re in the age of self-performance. If you want to write a book, you can publish it yourself. If you want to produce a clothing line, you can. Want to film yourself and post it? Go for it. Hanna’s proof that the right combination of talent and self-confidence can take you far.
“At the end of the day, what I believe is the main difference between a traditional celebrity and what people would call an internet celebrity is that traditional celebrities made it because somebody else believed in them and we made it because we believe in ourselves.”