Inspired by this iconic Kanye interview, I’ve been thinking about the career progression for creatives in a world where the internet has enabled free distribution but managers / platforms still claim hefty rent. Kanye rightly asserts that “Artists are businesses” although the current dynamic puts artists in a position more similar to an employee of the manager / platform rather than an executive of the brand they’ve built around themselves. He raises an important question of what the goal state looks like in an evolving internet empowered creator economy — how does an artist IPO like a tech company?
While publishing platforms (eg: Youtube) have allowed creators to bypass traditional gatekeepers and identify their own niche fanbases, it appears the top creators are starting to experience the bounds of “renting” their distribution on a platform that wasn’t designed for their upward financial trajectory. When majority of your revenue comes from publishing platforms that you don’t control you become susceptible to platform risk — where platform can pull plug on you overnight and use that leverage to push more oppressive policies
Alex Saunders@AlexSaundersAUHi @TeamYouTube with over 100 videos removed & 2 strikes in 24 hours I have still not even received an email from you. This is really scary. We've hired new staff. I have a wife & baby to support. I can't fix the problem if I don't know what I've done or who to communicate with!?
Smartest creators have realized this and figured out that true salvation from platforms lies in branching off and owning your own distribution. They know that the real way to reliably make money is by focusing on the minority of hardcore fans that buy products to signal their fan status (think Kanye’s Yeezy line, Joe Rogan’s merch, David Dobrik’s camera app). The strategy then is for the creator to function as a media company and establish a portfolio of diverse income streams by directly selling products that appeal to different segments of that fanbase (merchandise, tickets to live appearances, online courses, etc). In some cases, creators have managed to use their audience to fuel organic growth for their own startup (such as Michelle Phan’s makeup subscription startup or Casey Neitstat’s Beme). Here the platforms merely function as cheap top of funnel acquisition while the real monetization is in converting passive audiences from the platform into loyal spending fans that you own
While I do think content platforms will always be valuable for aggregating audiences and facilitating discovery, I think their authoritarian rent-sharing model will be disrupted by new models that are designed around the individual progression of the creator. These are platforms that value creators as the businesses that they are and grow with them by offering ways to scale and directly monetize their fanbases (we’ve already started to see this with Twitch for gamers)
What I’ve been consuming
Glad this thing is still chugging along. Small change — I expect to start sending these out on Sundays (sometime in the evening prob) now instead. Otherwise I’ve been chillin…