Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepson, Shawn Mendes and The Weekend have one thing in common besides a successful music career: they are social media discoveries. And they are examples of the role content creation has played in the last decade or so, helped of course, by platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, Vine, Periscope, Dubsmash, to name a few.
As of May 2021, over 50 million people consider themselves creators, worldwide, amateur or professional. With that kind of population, it is no wonder that the creation economy has evolved into an ecosystem of its own. What does it entail? How does it get monetised? What trends can we expect?
We explore it here…
Understanding the creator economy
It begins with customers who are involved in the process of creation to generate some kind of monetary value: that means your influencers, vloggers, bloggers and other independent artists who are dependent almost entirely on social media for the spotlight. But that is not all. Add in the software requirements and the financial tools, you have covered the core of the creation economy.
It is a humongous sector. Sponsored influencers alone are worth close to $8 billion, but the distribution is fairly uneven.
In 2019, to honour 50 years of moon landing, LEGO group conducted a poll to inspire the next generation towards space exploration. Ironically, the survey revealed the 29% of the kids wanted to be YouTubers, followed by the 11% who wanted to be astronauts.
Social media and content creation are no longer hobbies or, as the older generations would call it, ‘a waste of time’. But why and when did it become an acceptable career plan or, at the very least, a side hustle?
When? Sometime since the late 2000s.
Why? Because people have been willing to pay for content. Relatable content, made by familiar faces, aimed at a specific demographic gets huge fan followings compared to generic productions made by large media houses. Many brands are now capitalising on this, to increase their reach.
Revenue for a content creator can come from any/ some of the following sources:
Share of advertising revenue
Paid subscriptions from the consumers of the content
(This can happen one of two ways: either project based––through Kickstarter or GoFundMe or creator-based––Patreon being one of the most used financial applications for content creators. They take a small percentage as fees and almost 90% goes to the artist in Patreon. Of late, the tipping trend has also spread to content creation wherein the consumers can tip an artist/ creator at their own convenience.)
Merchandising, making their own brand
Chronicling the growth of creation economy
We now live with Internet 2.0, wherein creative and artistic skills are being marketed. We don’t turn to the internet just for information anymore; we collaborate, contribute and make our presence felt. In a way, the rise of the creative economy democratises mass media, evening out the field for more players to join.
In an article that maps out the development of the creator economy, Yuanling Yuan and Josh Constine study the evolution of this market in three phases:
It began with the foundational media platforms. From a creator standpoint, opportunities were opening up. From the other end, huge investments were made in distribution algorithms and editing tools.
The second phase was focussed on monetising influencer reach. If you are an influencer, you know it is not just about the number of followers. From an economic standpoint, he/she/they has the power to affect purchasing decisions. In this stage, the content creator either splits the advertisement revenue with the company or produces sponsored content or finds ways to monetise. There was a huge gap in this chain and soon resulted in agencies for influencer marketing, that brought manufacturers/ service providers and content makers together, Viral Nation, Upfluence, CloutBoost, HypeAuditor being some of them.
Where we are today, is the third phase where creators have built enough of a fan base that they can become full businesses themselves. This opens up multiple revenue streams beyond advertising and sponsored content, to include merchandise, books, fan interactions and such.
Why does it work?
The most appealing facet of creation economy is that it is fuelled by passion. Increasing awareness of mental health and heightened emphasis on job satisfaction are pushing more people to pursue avenues that make them happy.
For instance, Tucker Budzyn has 3 million followers on Instagram alone. He also has a sizeable presence on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. He has his own website that sells his merchandise. His entire content is built out his experiences with his mum and friends, presented to the world in adorable ways. In the process, sometimes, he suggests brands that he likes. For those of you living under the metaphorical rock, Tucker Budzyn is a golden retriever. His pages are run by his hu-mom ‘Linda’ who, with a little bit of technical expertise and a lot of patience, is successfully navigating the creator ecosystem.
In addition to passion, it works because there is a sense of connection between the creators and the consumers. The consumer gets to claim ownership over an experience or a purchase, due to the relatability of the content. It also works because technology is being made extremely simple at the user end. It democratises media spaces and distributes control, rather than it being concentrated in the hands of a powerful few. Psychologically, the attention works.
It is not all likes and hearts
It is certainly not easy to “make it”, especially considering how fickle public perception can be. Earning as a creator can be simple, but challenging. Li Jin, in an article published in the Harvard Business Review writes: “On Patreon, only 2% of creators made the federal minimum wage of $1,160 per month in 2017. On Spotify, artists need 3.5 million streams per year to achieve the annual earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker of $15,080, a fact that drives most musicians to supplement their earnings with touring and merchandise.”
This ecosystem is fairly new and the common person is acclimated to free content online. Progress can be slow; it is challenging to build an audience base, especially at the beginning.
The behaviour of your followers also counts to a large extent. YouTube, for instance, pays you for the number of people who watch the advertisement on your video with out clicking “Skip Ads”.
Copyright can also be a major issue, especially if you are using popular artists as your background music/ inspiration.
Over dependency on a platform can also result in troubles for the creator, when the platform changes features, user policy or algorithms. Which is why you notice a lot of content creators either make their presence felt on multiple platforms or eventually move to their own websites.
The future of creation
The rise of fin-tech companies that provide services almost exclusively to influencers (#Paid or Mavrck, for instance) shows increased interest in creation economy. Right now, platforms that provide exposure and opportunities to monetise are discrete from one another. It is logical to predict that these two would begin to merge soon, providing end-to-end solutions.
Another trend expected is the rise of the creator middle-class that will balance out the insanely popular with those who are struggling for exposure. It is this middle class that will sustain the growth of this sector. All we can say is that this sector will grow and evolve for the considerable future. And it is going to be exciting.
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To notify you about any changes to the Site;
To enable TC Global to comply with its legal and regolatory obligations;
For the purpose of sending administrative notices, service-related alerts and other similar communication with a view to optimizing the efficiency of the Site;
Doing market research, troubleshooting, protection against error, project planning, fraud and other criminal activity; and
Marketing activities: We use your information for marketing activities. These activities include:
Using your contact info to send you regolar news about relevant products and services. You can unsubscribe from email marketing communications quickly, easily, and anytime. All you need to do is click the "Unsubscribe" link included in each newsletter or other communication.
Based on your info, individualized offers might be shown to you on the Site, on mobile apps, or on third-party websites/apps (including social media sites), and the content of the site displayed to you might be personalized. These coold be offers that you can book directly on the Site, on co-branded sites, or other third-party offers or products we think you might find interesting.
When you participate in other promotional activities (e.g. sweepstakes, referral programs, or competitions), relevant info will be used to administer these promotions.
Administrative and Legal Reasons:
We cooperate with government and law enforcement officials and private parties to enforce and comply with the law. Thus, we may access, use, store, transfer and disclose your information (including Personal Information), including disclosure to third parties such as government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we reasonably determine is necessary and appropriate: (i) to satisfy any applicable law, regolation, governmental requests or legal process; (ii) to protect the safety, rights, property or security of TC Global, our services, the Site or any third party; (iii) to protect the safety of the public for any reason; (iv) to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues; and /or (v) to prevent or stop any activity we consider to be, or to pose a risk of being, an illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity. Such disclosures may be carried out without notice to you.
THIRD PARTY CONTENT AND LINKS TO THIRD PARTY SERVICES
We do not include or offer third party products or services on our Site.
Your information will be retained with TC Global as long as it is needed by TC Global to provide services to you. If you wish to cancel your account or request that TC Global no longer uses your information to provide services, you may contact TC Global at firstname.lastname@example.org.. TC Global will promptly delete the information as requested. TC Global will retain and use your information as necessary to comply with its legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce its agreements or for other business purposes. When TC Global has no ongoing legitimate business need to process your information, we will either delete or anonymize it.
CONTACT & POLICY UPDATES
CHANGE OF INFORMATION AND CANCELLATION OF ACCOUNT
You are responsible for maintaining the accuracy of the information you submit to us, such as your contact information provided as part of account registration. If your Personal Information changes, or if you no longer desire to access the Site, you may correct, delete inaccuracies, or amend information by contacting us through email@example.com and we will respond within 72 hours of receipt of communication.
You have the right to request that we rectify or delete the personal data or restrict the processing of your personal data, if you think they are inaccurate. Furthermore, you have the right to object against the processing based on our legitimate interests as a legal basis. We are required to assess and act on your request. Additionally, you also have the right to data portability if it shoold become relevant. You have a right to lodge a complaint with your local supervisory authority.
[You may also cancel or modify your communications that you have elected to receive from the Site by logging into your user account and changing your communication preferences.
If you wish to cancel your account or request that we no longer use your information to provide you details with respect to our services and the Site, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to opt out of receiving non-essential communications such as promotional and marketing-related information regarding the Site and our services, please send TC Global an email at email@example.com.
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event of any grievances, user can contact the grievance officer at email@example.com or write to us at the following address:
The Chopras Global Holdings PTE Ltd
No. 3 Shenton Way
#10-05/06, Shenton House