Creativity is integral to the human experience. Yet for the first time in decades, we can harness the collective creativity of the masses to benefit the many, not the few.
In the 2020s, creativity is flourishing and platforms that support independent creative expressions are popping up more than ever.
The digital age has given birth to the “creator economy”, where people can work on a project they love and make money from it. Independent creators are flourishing in this new era of creativity.
Social platforms like YouTube have allowed those with talent for art or music to pursue their passions without having an agent or label backing them up every step of the way.
What is particularly fascinating about all these developments is that there's been no centralized authority responsible for creating opportunities for independent artists.
In this article we will talk about how the creator economy has emerged, why is the 2020s the decade of creatoris, what’s next in the creator economy, and more.
Let’s dig in.
How did the Creator Economy emerge?
For years, a small number of companies controlled what we read, viewed, and listened to. We lived in a world where the only way to be heard was by being employed with one of these conglomerates. We mostly watched scheduled TV, listened to radio slots and read books from large publishers.
Over the last few years, things have changed - thanks to decentralization by the Internet. It was a slow, almost insidious process. But over time, we found many different types of content not owned by traditional media companies.
In the era of the creator economy, ordinary people are making their own content and distributing it without relying on traditional media houses or advertisements. This has given us new found confidence in our abilities as a result which is reflected by how positively they receive what we make from other users with ease.
Why is this decade the perfect time for content creators?
The 2020s is arguably the best decade for content creators. Technology is empowering creators to do what they love. Platforms are springing up and more people have the ability to share their creativity, this time through technology. Better cameras on phones, larger screens, faster mobile networks, and creator-focused social networks have spurred an inflection point for the industry.
Here are some of the structural forces that make 2020s the best decade for creators -
The Internet has democratized creative expression. It's easier than ever for creators to get their work out there. Various Internet platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud allow creators to share their work with millions of people around the world.
Critical Mass of Audience
For creators to be successful, they need the right audience for their content. The audience today is ready to consume a wide variety of content. Creators in every niche can find their perfect audience and build a community for their content.
Umpteen Ways to Express
Today, content creation is not restricted to writing a blog or creating a video. With the rise of platforms like TikTok & Spotify, content creation has taken a new meaning. From podcasts to reels, blogs to live streams - there are umpteen ways for creators to express themselves.
Opportunities for Monetization
Creator-economy businesses have devised various revenue models as alternatives to advertising. Audiences are increasingly showing an interest in investing in creators directly. And the pandemic has accelerated monetization for content creators.
The Rise & Sustenance of the Creator Economy
For any form of business to sustain, it is important for the members to be able to make a living out of it. Creator platforms today are providing many ways for creators to monetize their work.
This is because creators are valuable to businesses today. Online platforms compete for creators. And creators are subject to the demands of their community.
Once creators build an established audience who trust what they have to say, brands start to recognize the return on investment of paying creators to harness their on-platform reach to advertise products and services.
Broadly, there are 5 ways for creators to monetize their work -
Ads work when creators cross a particular threshold of followers, depending on the platform. For example, YouTube takes 55% of ad revenue and distributes 45% back to creators.
Consumers subscribe for creator’s work, typically exclusive. For example, Substack, which is a content hosting platform, has built-in subscription features.
Consumers make one-off payments to creators. This can also take the form of one-off paid comments (e.g. YouTube superfans can pay to have comments highlighted during a livestream. YouTube keeps 30% of comment revenue).
Brand Sponsorships & Influencer Marketing
Influencers partner directly with brands and are paid to post products on their behalf. Influencers are paid upfront (vs affiliate marketing, where they’re paid based on commission).
Brands provide creators with an affiliate link for products. When a product sells, creators earn a commission for the sale.
Creators have to balance the distribution potential of certain platforms with the risk of becoming dependent on them. And monetize by either earning a little off of each fan from mainstream content for a big audience or earn more per follower through niche content.
How to become a successful creator?
According to a report by Signal Fire, there are over 50 million active participants in the creator economy - with that figure likely to grow larger due to the low barrier to entry.
But it takes a lot of effort to become a creator who can make a living out of their work. And with low barriers to entry, the competition is tough.
Here are some helpful tips that a successful creator has shared on Reddit -
- Consistency is the key to growth.
- The 80:20 rule applies to both creators and fans.
- The community is just as important as the content.
- Creator collaboration helps all creators grow.
- Unbundling will lead to rebundling.
- Different monetization for different willingness to pay.
- Come for the tool, stay for the network.
- Small creators want discovery. Large creators want revenue.
Peter Yang elaborates on these on this Twitter thread.
In addition to that, it helps to understand the platforms available to you and which ones you should care about.
Depending on your area of expertise, here are some that you can consider :
- Substack : Substack is an online newsletter subscription platform that provides publishing, payment, analytics, and design infrastructure to support creators.
- Gumroad : Gumroad is an online marketplace that facilitates the sale of products by creators directly to consumers.
- Shopify : Shopify is a subscription-based e-commerce platform that allows you to easily set up an online store and sell your products.
- Teachable : Teachable is an online platform that allows you to transform your knowledge into online courses and coaching services.
- NFTs : NFTs are non-fungible tokens, it is a digital certificate of ownership on the blockchain — It allows creators to authentically own their craft.
Here’s an interesting read by Forbes that talks further about the bumps and opportunities in the creator economy.
What’s next in the creator economy?
It’s safe to say that what we see is just the beginning of the creator economy. It’s booming and the future looks bright.
The future of entertainment is a technology-driven landscape, where filmmakers and TikTok stars will no longer have to rely on studios or businesses for their monetary gain.
Today's technological society has allowed anyone with the right tools at their disposal to thrive in this new system. And that’s only going to get better.
Furthermore, we see investors and corporates alike are taking note given the rising investment in the space.
Media giants are certain to roll out more monetization tools in an effort to keep creators and their respective fanbases engaged on their platforms. But creators are likely going to favor becoming platform-agnostic and becoming independent brands to ensure less dependence on any one platform.
Investors have poured at least $2 billion into US-based creator economy startups so far this year, according to data compiled by The Information.
Another prediction for the creator economy is that it is going to be block-chain driven - with the audience directly investing in the creators. We’re seeing the early days of this transformation with NFTs, Patreon, Kickstarter, and even Twitch gaining popularity. These platforms show that audiences are increasingly interested in investing in creators through subscriptions, one-off donations, and more.
The rise of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that enable people to purchase shares in physical goods is also interesting to the creator economy from a monetization perspective.
It has renewed the chatter on developing a new media ownership model to make it more creator-centric. By permanently tying their content to a financial transaction, creators can continue generating revenue every time their work is consumed or invested.
With all these expected changes, how do you stay relevant in the creator economy?
The core mechanics of being a successful creator will always be the same - building an audience and creating content that they like.
However, the creator economy will demand that creators become more tech- and business-savvy.
Platforms and the corresponding language you can adapt your message to will become a key strength.
Ricky Ray Butler from Forbes remarks -
“The content ecosystem is exploding with different platforms, and to even scrape the surface of comprehending available options, creators have to rely on AI and machine learning to grasp how to optimize these platforms. From there, they can make the most informed decisions about which additional revenue streams work best.”
Now is the Best Time to Be a Creator
The 2020s is the best time for you to kickstart your own business as a digital creator. Today, there is demand for a whole new kind of creativity.
Everything on the Internet and beyond is content. And we already know how important that is.
The creative platforms on the Internet have changed our society, changed the way brands interact with their customers, and how customers interact with brands.
Brands are constantly vying for the attention of the audience. And creators help them do that with the content they create.
Above all, there are more platforms than ever to help you monetize the content you create. And with the investment in the creator ecosystem, we can only expect more to come.