(Note: the following is an excerpt from Wanderer Above a Sea of FUD: Cultural workforce, crypto-anarchism, intellectual rights, and blockchain-based funding — if you wish to read the whole report, click here)
“Culture is not everything, but without culture, all is nothing” — from askhelmut instagram
Lately, the topic of the creator economy began to populate cryptotwitter and more and more creators are joining the blockchain ecosystem as a means to monetize their work, connect and expand their audience. This concept has been gaining more traction through 2019 and 2020, to describe the overarching phenomenon behind influencers and YouTubers monetizing the creation of their own content, often resulting in lucrative businesses.
However, the resurgence of the creator economy concept brings with it a reshuffling of the meaning of this concept, now directed towards the cultural workforce. The first mentions of the creator economy can be traced back to Paul Saffo, professor at Stanford University.:
“I like the term “creator,” as this new kind of actor is doing something more fundamental than the mere sum of their simultaneous production and consumption. Creators are ordinary people whose everyday actions create value.”
“But the most successful companies will be the ones that harness creator instincts, and the biggest winners will be the companies who harness the smallest creative acts. More people watch YouTube than post videos because creating a video is work. More people read blogs than write them because long-form writing is a hassle.”
“We’ve done the shift from mass media to personal media. Immersion and participation is the new normal […] In the consumer economy we watched and we bought. In this creator economy we participate and we create. […] the pattern of the creator economy is a rebalancing .”
In 2020, we are seeing the term adopted by a community of artists, creatives, cryptocurrency aficionados and venture capitalists to push forward several causes, including that behind the growing popularity of NFTs.
“The big picture is that emerging “tokenization” models, including non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are creating new ways for collectors and investors to buy, sell, and trade digital art. More broadly, these innovations open the door to the tokenization of any products or collectibles that can be captured and owned digitally, and many new business models for creators.
Marketplaces powered by NFTs open up new revenue streams for creators, because anytime digital work is resold or their tokens traded on these platforms, the creator automatically gets a percentage of those secondary sales. It’s all transparent and governed by code on the blockchain, and it’s a big shift in creator economies.”
Dee Goens on Creative Composibility — ourZora blog:
“We have a long way to go. Creators are just now buying BTC. Wait until they start minting their content through our protocols. Wait until the reclaim ownership like we did of the financial system. Gonna be happy days.”
As mentioned in the introduction of this report, the authors would like to express their caution on the matter of the surge of the creator economy. The main argument being that the creative workforce and the precariousness of their working conditions can be further worsened. Just as Uber and other gig economy platforms were presented as a new form of “being your own boss” there is no guarantee the creator economy will continue further to introduce more precarious and unsustainably competitive working conditions. 2020 in the blockchain industry has been a year of staggering growth and revenue surge, but the years preceding this past one have not had the same luck. The creative workforce does not have “runway funds” in their treasuries, so come a new “crypto winter” where NFT aficionados can’t purchase digital goods, the consequences for Creatives could end up being extremely unfavorable and the illusion of progress shattered.
Creating a sustainable creators economy can only happen when all stakeholders become interdependent. So far, the current ideas and musings of the proponents are directed towards this interdependence, but at the present moment, the chances of it surviving a black swan event seem very slim.
As we mentioned in our first report in 2019 and at the beginning of this report, we should strive to find a balance between the work of the crypto community, nascent technology, and the groups with which we work with. Collaboration is key for the development of a sustainable system, which allows for wider adoption and long term vision and growth.
Some useful suggestions can be implemented by the proponent of the creators economy, Paul Saffo, in order to prepare for adversity and build sustainable structures and platforms:
“Consider these rules for revolutionaries (…):
Rule 1: there are always winners and losers
Rule 2: in a revolution do not confuse the early results with the long term outcome
Rule 3: successful insurgents tend to become overpowerful incumbents
Rule 4: technologies of freedom inevitably become technologies of control
(…) negative outcomes are not inevitable provided we become vigilant”
Read other interesting topics in the Wanderer Above a Sea of FUD report.
Pak, Signe Pierce and Zoran Basich, Crypto for Creators: From Art Galleries to ‘Tokenized’ Collectibles, a16z Podcast https://a16z.com/2020/11/22/crypto-for-creators-tokenized-collectibles-nfts/
Li Jin, The Creator Economy Needs a Middle Class, Harvard Business Review, December 2020 https://hbr-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/hbr.org/amp/2020/12/the-creator-economy-needs-a-middle-class
Paul Saffo, Get Ready for a New Economic Era, What Matters, McKinsey, 2009 http://www.saffo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/McKinsey-Creator.pdf