READ MORE: The Creator Manifesto (Substack)
The Renaissance was the zenith of human creative output. Are we really entering a second Renaissance where innovations are once again profoundly reshaping society and culture?
That’s what VC firm Index Ventures thinks, at least in its marketing for the “Index Creator Summit,” a day-long conference to which it has invited a number of entrepreneurs from start-ups that Index has invested in.
To be fair, the list is pretty extraordinary and includes the CEOs of Discord, Patreon, Figma and OpenSea.
So, let’s hear the Index argument that we are now in a digital Renaissance. In essence, software is making it easy for anyone to create; internet platforms are opening the floodgates of distribution; and cultural and generational shifts are reworking the economic relationship between creator and patron.
“What’s striking about the creator phenomenon is that it isn’t a vertical trend; rather, it’s a through-line that cuts across social, gaming, crypto, media, commerce,” blogs Rex Woodbury, a principal at the VC firm.
“It is both the future of work, with creators forming a new class of digitally-native entrepreneurs, and the future of leisure. And while the creator phenomenon is often thought of as a consumer trend, it encompasses both enterprise and consumer.”
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He explains that Index we think of the creator economy in three parts: creation tools; distribution; and monetization. In other words: how creators make stuff, how creators reach an audience, and how creators get paid.
“The first piece of the puzzle is democratizing creation itself,” he says. “The best tools broaden the scope of who can be a creator… unlock new levels of self-expression.”
Examples include: Figma and Canva for design; Kapwing and Veed for video; Descript and Splice for audio; and Unity and Unreal Engine for gaming. Elegant, design-first tools
READ MORE: The Creator Manifesto (Substack)
The internet unlocks distribution. “Traditionally, gatekeepers dictated who had influence: record labels, newspaper editors, studio executives. Now anyone can build an online community. On the internet, nothing is too niche; there are communities for everything and everyone.”
The cultural impact a creator has is already surpassing that of traditional media, but there’s still a stark imbalance of power between proprietary platforms and the creators who use them. Discover what it takes to stay ahead of the game with these fresh insights hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives:
- The Developer’s Role in Building the Creator Economy Is More Important Than You Think
- How Social Platforms Are Attempting to Co-Opt the Creator Economy
- Now There’s a Creator Economy for Enterprise
- The Creator Economy Is in Crisis. Now Let’s Fix It. | Source: Li Jin
- Is the Creator Economy Really a Democratic Utopia Realized?
The final and most recent piece of the creator economy identified by Woodbury is monetization. It’s not easy being a creator. One study found that reaching the top 3.5% of YouTube channels — which means about 1 million views each month — only nets you $12,000 to $16,000 a year, around the federal poverty line.
Woodbury, however, points to creators who have innovated a way around this situation. A headline speaker at the Summit is Jack Conte, one-time musician and founder of Patreon, an online site billed as making it easier for creators to get paid (though it still charges a commission of five to 12 percent of creators’ monthly income, in addition to payment processing fees).
The rise of crypto means that a creator can sell digital goods on OpenSea, or display them on Showtime, Woodbury thinks. Innovations like non-fungible tokens, social tokens, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) will further push forward the monetization layer of this new economy.
“The creator economy is accelerating, propelled by both the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming-of-age of Gen Z. Being a creator is about flexibility, self-expression, and financial upside. It’s about side-stepping the gatekeepers who have historically captured value and moved culture. It’s a new form of entrepreneurship, one built for the digital species we are becoming.”
Whether what it creates and what it influences is on the scale of that of Da Vinci and Michelangelo 15th and 16th century perhaps only time will tell.