The Creativity Provide Chain: Is the Creator Economic system Lifeless? by Michael Mignano

Title image for the essay, The Creativity Supply Chain, by Michael Mignano. Text overlaying a painting of an artist abandoning their art supplies for a computer.
Title: “Inventive Liberties” | Background made with DALL-E 2, immediate: “particular person engaged on a pc in an enormous artwork studio loft, artwork provides scattered on the ground, extremely intricate artwork dynamic composition dramatic lighting octane rendered, colourful”. Title textual content added with Canva. Complete time to create: ~9 minutes.

Creativity has grow to be the focus of our trendy Web economic system. What was as soon as only a technique of inventive expression now powers a lot of how all of us work together, work, and play on-line.

Persons are inherently inventive. Way back to the historical past books go, people have all the time expressed themselves creatively, whether or not for communication, storytelling, and even artwork. Because the instruments that we’ve used to precise ourselves have advanced and multiplied, so too have the manifestations of our creativity.

At the moment, not solely are the instruments straightforward to make use of, they’re additionally more and more highly effective. Plus, we now have quick entry to a limitless ocean of others’ inventive work by way of our highly effective smartphones and a world washed in excessive velocity web. This mixture of ease-of-use and instantaneous, ubiquitous entry to content material has unlocked the internal creativity in all of us, unleashing an enormous, humanity-sized addressable market of alternative.

However wait, isn’t the Creator Economic system dying? In line with The Data, as of October 2022, enterprise funding for Creator Economic system startups had fallen for the earlier 5 quarters. The class, just lately immortalized (and much more just lately betrayed) by enterprise capitalists, startup founders, and tech journalists, was the promise that creators on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok may now begin making a dwelling from their content material, en masse. The Creator Economic system promised to ship not solely instruments to assist creators earn a living, however in the end, the potential for true financial independence.

Pandemic about to take your job away? No downside; the Creator Economic system is right here to avoid wasting you from unemployment and fund your every day Instagram behavior. Proper?

Not a lot.

Because it seems, the constrained alternative of the Creator Economic system hasn’t lived as much as its sky-high expectations. As many creators rapidly discovered, discovering 1,000 true followers is one thing only a few individuals are really capable of do. Most creators can’t break by way of platforms’ algorithms. Most creators usually are not advertising and marketing consultants. Most creators don’t make content material that’s related to greater than a handful of individuals. And no, I’m sorry to say, however most creators aren’t going to profit from their content material being “ownable” on the blockchain. This isn’t a criticism of most creators; it’s a easy acknowledgement that the marketplace for creators’ work follows the identical energy legislation dynamic that the majority different markets face.

All of that is utterly OK; there may be nothing in any respect fallacious with creating for the sake of creativity.

A hand drawing of a chart showing a power law which illustrates that the majority of consumption of creator content comes from the top 10,000 creators. From the essay, The Creativity Supply Chain by Michael Mignano.
The Creator Energy Regulation

In reality, there’s a powerful case to be made that the mixture worth of all creator content material within the 99% (referenced within the “everybody else” class within the picture above) is definitely equal to or higher than the worth within the head (the “high 10,000 creators” referenced). The 99%, nevertheless, is far more durable to construct for, mixture, and monetize, which is probably going why it was so missed within the context of The Creator Economic system.

And for the few creators who can discover 1,000 followers, they’ll now not reliably depend on their financial assist in a market downturn. In spite of everything, when you lose your job and your paycheck, which expense will you select to eradicate first: groceries, or your month-to-month donation to your favourite YouTuber?

In hindsight, the explanations for the failed promise appear considerably apparent: the Creator Economic system was by no means actually meant to be an answer for 99% of the a whole lot of tens of millions (or fairly probably billions) of creators that exist at the moment; as a substitute, it was designed to operationalize the monetary infrastructure for the highest 1% — the creators who’ve already damaged by way of and located demand for his or her work. The Creator Economic system was by no means about democratization; it was about elitism.

However creativity is common. And the 99% matter. There’s arguably nothing extra democratic than everybody on the planet having the ability to create and share their work with the world.

What if the promise of the “Creator Economic system” failed as a result of we collectively (myself included) outlined the chance for creativity as far too small? What if we have been excited about one small piece of the marketplace for creativity? Certainly there may be way more to creativity than the instruments that allow the highest 1% of creators to earn a living. What if the chance for creativity is far greater than what we’ve all been calling the Creator Economic system? I imagine it’s. I name this chance, The Creativity Provide Chain.

You’ll be able to consider it like this:

  1. Provide: The those that create for all functions in at the moment’s trendy economic system, and the inventive media belongings which they then distribute to their audiences.
  2. Incentives: Market mechanisms that financially and socially incentivize the creation, distribution, and consumption of creativity.
  3. Demand: The those that devour creativity and the channels by which inventive media is distributed and consumed on the web.
  4. Superpowers: Merchandise, applied sciences, and providers which democratize all types of inventive media, and provides us unparalleled, quick, and ubiquitous entry to creativity. At the moment’s leading edge know-how each democratizes and turbo costs all the above elements, making them extra accessible, environment friendly, and highly effective. And the speed at which inventive superpowers are enhancing is accelerating every single day.
A chart illustrating the Creativity Supply Chain, by Michael Mignano. The Creativity Supply Chain is the supply, demand, incentives, and superpowers that make up our modern Internet economy.
The Creativity Provide Chain

The Creativity Provide Chain is the worldwide marketplace for creativity in at the moment’s trendy economic system. It’s made up of the availability, incentives, and demand that drive how and why folks create. And it rests on the technology-enabled superpowers which turbocharge all the above, producing huge market worth within the course of.

I’ve all the time believed that individuals are inherently inventive. I used to be raised by dad and mom who inspired me to pursue my many — and scattered — inventive pursuits. I grew up taking part in the drums, studying to code in highschool, finding out Pc Science in faculty, and dabbling with music, images, portray, and writing all alongside the way in which. As a profession, my curiosity in creativity led me to construct web sites for artists at Atlantic Information and ultimately construct merchandise which enabled a whole lot of tens of millions of individuals to take and edit pictures at Aviary and Adobe. The idea that individuals are inherently inventive was additionally one of many elements that led my former co-founder Nir Zicherman and me to construct Anchor, a platform which democratizes podcast creation, and was acquired by Spotify in 2019.

A photo of the co-founders of Anchor, the world’s largest podcasting platform. On the left is Michael Mignano, CEO of Anchor, and on the right is Nir Zicherman, CTO of Anchor. The photo was taken sometime around 2018 in the former Anchor office before the company was acquired by Spotify.
Nir Zicherman (proper) and me (left), circa 2018, within the outdated Anchor workplace, having enjoyable democratizing audio.

However in 2022, I imagine it ought to be apparent to just about everybody that we’re all inventive. We write, take pictures, edit movies, design shows. All of us create content material utilizing instruments like our telephone’s digital camera, Snapchat, Instagram, Fb, TikTok, BeReal, Twitter, and YouTube. We make podcasts, webinars, quick movies, and crafts. We share the issues we create with household, associates, our co-workers, and strangers everywhere in the world. We unfold information with colleagues, companions, and potential employers utilizing instruments like Google Docs, Coda, Photoshop, Ultimate Reduce Professional, Loom, and Descript, whereas sharing concepts, pictures, memes from Giphy, and weekend plans with our family and friends utilizing Pinterest, Google Photographs, and WhatsApp. We’re all being inventive on a regular basis. All of us create continuously, each single day.

Our incentives to be inventive are assorted. We create to speak. We create for cash. We create to precise ourselves artistically. We create as a result of our work requires us to take action. We create for consideration; we like the sensation we get when the view depend on our video begins capturing up. Generally we create merely to make our associates snigger.

Know-how has helped streamline these incentives. Notifications buzz our telephones and inboxes to tell us when others work together with our content material, giving us micro doses of pleasure and much-needed confidence. Our teammates rapidly present suggestions on work in actual time utilizing a mess of multi-player enabled inventive instruments. For these of us trying to monetize our work, we will simply promote our viewers’s consideration to the best bidder on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok, for we’re at the moment’s model of yesterday’s magazines, tv stations, and billboards. With sufficient distribution, a number of of us are even capable of get our viewers to pay us straight for our work by way of platforms like Patreon, Substack, OnlyFans, OpenSea, Fanfic, Pietra, and extra.

No matter our personal distinctive incentives, all of us create as a result of there may be one common incentive which all creators share in 2022: there may be overwhelming demand for creativity.

You’re a good instance of this demand. Give it some thought: how do you spend your time? You watch movies on YouTube, have a look at tales and pictures and Reels on Instagram, get sucked into TikTok for hours at a time, work together with designs by your colleagues on Figma, snigger at memes your folks ship you on Telegram, binge watch reveals on Netflix, have a look at associates’ child pictures on Fb, learn considerate essays on Substack, take heed to podcasts on Spotify, scroll by way of lovely web sites on Chrome, learn books on Kindle, scan your native information, get dinner recipes on Pinterest… the listing goes on and on and on. You’re the final vacation spot for a protracted listing of content material that when started as a spark of creativity within the thoughts of one other particular person some place else on the planet. This essay, which you might be studying proper now, and the hand drawn graphics referenced all through are all expressions of my creativity.

By this time subsequent yr, you’ll in all probability be consuming much more creativity as extra services launch and your units grow to be extra highly effective. And whereas your demand for creativity continues to develop, so too does that demand for practically everybody else on this planet; particularly people who find themselves simply coming on-line for the primary time of their lives, equivalent to in rising nations that are simply getting access to excessive velocity web.

For each area which is nearing saturation of creativity provide and demand, there may be one other one simply getting began on the underside of the S-curve. We’re not on the finish of one thing; we’re at first of world inventive ubiquity.

The entire above is going on in higher quantity and velocity than ever earlier than by way of what I like to think about as inventive superpowers. Know-how has made us all extra inventive by way of higher instruments. It has given us the flexibility to extra simply obtain our inventive targets (whether or not they be monetary, social, or in any other case). And it has made it potential for us to search out an viewers for our work, regardless of the place on the planet we’re, bodily. As we devour, we grow to be extra impressed to create ourselves, fueling a virtuous cycle of creativity that spins quicker and quicker as know-how improves.

Inventive instruments

The historical past of computing has confirmed time and time once more that every one types of creativity ultimately grow to be democratized by know-how. The prices of making content material are all the time being lowered by know-how, and the skills of individuals to create compelling content material by way of know-how are all the time rising.

This pattern started way back (Printing press? Invention of the pencil? Rock, blood, and berry juice used to scribble on partitions of caves?), however maybe grew to become most obvious on the web by way of textual content and publishing of the written phrase. It was beforehand difficult for non-journalists to publish written textual content. However ultimately, Blogger, WordPress, and in the end Medium made it vastly simpler by way of easy-to-use instruments and one-tap publishing capabilities. Platforms like Fb and Twitter took it a step additional by simplifying the format and enabling distribution of textual content to folks inside our social networks. Now practically everybody writes and publishes some type of content material.

The identical occurred for pictures. It was beforehand extraordinarily difficult for anybody apart from skilled photographers to take, edit, and share images at scale. Then, Instagram made it potential for anybody to take and share lovely pictures with the faucet of a button. Now, everybody takes and shares pictures.

YouTube and TikTok did the identical for movies. Anchor did the identical for audio and podcasts. And the identical might be mentioned about quite a lot of different classes. No-code web site improvement merchandise, platforms that allow the straightforward creation of video video games, and even software program that democratizes the creation of companies/merchandise are a number of examples of the pattern taking part in out in different classes. Many others will undoubtedly observe.

Synthetic intelligence

Know-how-enabled inventive instruments have democratized creation to the purpose the place any of us can create with the fitting instruments, abilities, and funding of time. However synthetic intelligence (AI) is taking issues many steps additional. AI has just lately reached a brand new tipping level, enabling any of us to attain unimaginable feats of creativity by typing a number of phrases right into a textual content field. Innovative AI fashions equivalent to Steady Diffusion, OpenAI’s DALL-E, and Midjourney make it potential to create visible photos of limitless potentialities, making it potential for any of us to create issues we beforehand may solely think about inside seconds.

And whereas at the moment’s mainstream AI fashions are centered totally on imaging, it’s solely a matter of time earlier than audio, music, video, textual content, and numerous different inventive mediums are quickly disrupted by AI. Even writing code itself is within the strategy of being disrupted by AI.This previous weekend, Nathan Baschez and the Each crew launched a product referred to as Lex that helps writers through the use of AI to offer automatically-generated ideas for what to say subsequent. Inside hours, Lex had hundreds of individuals signed as much as its ready listing. It’s not arduous to think about a world during which the price of creativity plummets because of the rise of AI-enabled generative media. Ten years from now, will main film studios be investing a whole lot of tens of millions in blockbuster movies? Or will a state-of-the-art AI mannequin do all of the work as a substitute for orders of magnitude much less?

Ubiquitous entry to extremely quick web

As of 2022, a 83% of the world’s inhabitants has entry to a smartphone. That signifies that the overwhelming majority of us on this planet are carrying round pocket-sized supercomputers just about all over the place we go. And right here within the US, many people now have entry to 5G web always. With 5G, we’re capable of obtain or stream huge quantities of inventive media to our units just about instantaneously. Simply take into consideration the whole lot you are actually capable of do out of your cell gadget. You’re capable of watch full size films with the faucet of a button, entry the world’s full catalog of music, and even edit 4K video collaboratively, together with your teammates, within the cloud. Ubiquitous, extremely quick web makes the Creativity Provide Chain hum.

And there are main tailwinds behind this superpower. 5G market penetration is barely at 13% globally and it’s anticipated to achieve 64% by 2030. As extra folks acquire entry to 5G within the coming years, it’s solely going to get simpler to immediately carry out inventive duties and devour inventive media. And 6G, which might be much more highly effective than 5G and make inventive mediums like AR and VR extra accessible, is anticipated to start rolling out within the yr 2030.

Machine studying

One of many largest breakthroughs for creativity over the previous few many years has been the rise of media platforms equivalent to Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, Twitter, Outschool, MasterClass, LinkedIn, and numerous others throughout a wide range of classes. Whereas media platforms have historically relied on curated buddy and curiosity graphs to match supply-side media with demand, platforms have just lately discovered that leveraging machine studying can drive far higher effectivity in distribution. Because of this, media platforms throughout practically each class — together with social networks — are abandoning curation in change for advice media, which I just lately wrote about extensively in a latest essay. Additional developments in machine studying and advice media could have huge implications on each the availability and demand sides of creativity.

For creators, discovering an viewers in your creativity will occur routinely upon platform distribution. We’ll add our content material, and the platform’s ML algorithms will discover the right viewers on the good time for our work. And on the demand facet, we’ll immediately and simply entry the precise content material we need to devour with far much less friction. The availability and demand flywheel of creativity will spin far quicker because of machine studying.

Given how rapidly all sides of creativity have gotten propelled by know-how, it’s clear that every considered one of us will make up the entire addressable market of the Creativity Provide Chain. However make no mistake; the Creativity Provide Chain isn’t some theoretical idea from the long run; it’s occurring proper now.

As of this writing, public corporations with core companies within the Creativity Provide Chain — equivalent to Spotify, Shopify, Squarespace, Adobe, and Snap — signify greater than $370B of market capitalization. And firms with massive stakes within the Creativity Provide Chain — like Meta, Apple, Alphabet, and Netflix — signify greater than $7T of market capitalization.

A hand drawn illustration showing that publicly traded companies are investing heavily in the Creativity Supply Chain. From the essay, The Creativity Supply Chain by Michael Mignano.
Public corporations constructing for the Creativity Provide Chain

In personal markets, look no additional than the newest main know-how acquisition — Adobe’s $20 billion acquisition of Figma, the most important ever acquisition of a venture-backed firm — for proof that there’s huge demand for corporations contributing to the Creativity Provide Chain.

And Canva, an organization that makes it straightforward for anybody to create lovely photos and graphics for each skilled and private use instances just lately topped 100M monthly active users and is reported to be producing greater than $1B in annual revenue.

The demand for Creativity Provide Chain companies will solely improve. As all of us spend extra of our time creating and consuming, and extra of our private {and professional} lives grow to be reworked by know-how, creativity might be much more entrenched in practically the whole lot we do every day.

You’ll be able to’t include or restrict the potential of creativity to particular incentives, such because the monetization of 1’s high 1,000 followers. Sure, there’ll all the time be monetary markets constructed round monetizing the work of high creators. However the the explanation why folks create are much more common and elementary to our frequent humanity, and these causes end in an incredible quantity of mixture worth. And that is why the chance for creativity will proceed to develop and flourish in lock step with know-how. I prefer to think about that at the moment’s inventive instruments are those Steve Jobs was dreaming of when he first referred to as computing a bicycle for the thoughts.

Everyone seems to be inventive. Know-how more and more fuels our collective means to create, the incentives that inspire us to create, and our insatiable demand for the issues others create. And thru latest technological breakthroughs in synthetic intelligence, machine studying, and excessive velocity web entry, the marketplace for creativity is destined to achieve new heights within the coming years and many years.

What do you suppose? Is creativity changing into the central driving pressure behind our trendy Web economic system? And what’s subsequent for the know-how that powers the Creativity Provide Chain? For those who’re working on this house or have suggestions on this essay, shoot me an e mail or attain out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn.