The creator economy discussion has really picked up during the last 18 months. Underlined by the pandemic, creator tools and platforms have started to become more and more relevant, opening up new opportunities for those who have ‘created’ from their bedrooms, home studios, and backyards for years.
The challenge with this over-generalization of terms, between creators, influencers, creatives, passion economy, etc, is that depending on the work they are doing, some can be undervalued or understated, because of what their job description really is.
For instance, this article references that ‘half of the professional creators’ earn their money on YouTube. First off, how are they defining ‘professional’? Did they go to YouTube University? Are they all film makers and have lived for the past several professional years as YouTube creators? No. Their ‘professionalism’ is based on the vanity metric of how many followers or subscribers they have, converted into ad dollars. In fact, in a single paragraph, they use the word ‘professional’ 3 times in the context of those who have substantial followers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Twitch.
If you ask any random individual on the street how to define a person who earns money on YouTube and has 1 million followers, 9 out of 10 will say ‘influencer’. They will not say ‘professional creator’. They will not say ‘professional YouTuber’. No. They will say ‘influencer’. I’m not saying there aren’t professional creatives using the platform and making a living out of it.
What boggles me is that the next paragraph starts with the complete opposite of the word ‘professional’: “Many amateur creators still make some income thanks to their creativity, just it isn’t enough for them to give up their day job.” Let’s just take a moment to analyze this sentence. It basically says that if you don’t have X number of followers, patrons or ad revenue from YouTube, Instagram, Twitch or others, then you are considered an ‘amateur creator’. Consider the harsh implication this has on millions of professional independents who have spent their whole lives working to become professional pianists, producers, painters, designers, illustrators, writers, and the list goes on.
Consider a record producer, who has her own home studio, has worked for the past 10 years producing records for artists, bands, soundtracks and more. By definition, she has ‘created’ continually for all that time, earning a living because of this, and therefore, she is part of the ‘creator economy’. She doesn’t have more than 1,000 followers on her Instagram account, doesn’t even have a YouTube channel, and has barely used Twitch. She is still:
- A creator
- Earning a living out of her passion
What is the problem with the above? It understates how a creative professional defines success, under the generalized terminology that multiple VCs use (who by definition, are not creators), and understates the incredible skills that are needed to create the amazing work all of us consume on a day to day basis.
The other major problem is that incumbent ‘creator platforms’ focus primarily on serving the top 10% of creators. Think of Cameo, the app with personalized videos from stars and celebrities. I would argue that at least 80% of their revenue comes from the top 10-20% of celebrities and stars. Of course, that was the purpose it was built on. But the same principle applies to all other ‘creator platforms’. Which is why we have to think deeply on providing better tools for the remaining 90% of creators. What we call the creator middle class. We built Mavity precisely for this reason.
…98.6% of Spotify’s artists make just $36 per artist per quarter.
So no, not all influencers are creators. Not all creators are influencers. And not all creatives are creators. Creative professionals are highly skilled individuals that work in what they are most passionate about, they don’t necessarily define success by third party follower metrics, and just need the right tools for a more democratized and transparent workforce economy.
Let’s build a better, and more robust creator middle class economy.