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The creator economy is driving innovation across industries, shifting definitions of work and providing revolutionary avenues for income. This software-enabled economy allows people to make money by producing content via photos, videos or music.
The creator economy is a booming industry, which only skyrocketed further during the pandemic: tech innovation of the past decade has amplified the industry’s possibilities. On the front-end, different platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Cameo have billions of users the world over, and have provided content creators with impressive revenue streams. On the back-end of the creator economy, supporting tools like Patreon and Kajabi enable creators to produce better content more easily.
Within the past few months, there’s been an emergence of industry-specific social platforms, even in traditional sectors. For example, Playhouse launched “TikTok for real estate” where users can browse videos of real estate listings; Hammr enables construction workers to showcase their own construction projects on their app.
The creator economy is shifting definitions of work, but it, too, will undergo transformation with the rise of Web3.
Shifting definitions of work
The increasing ability of creators to monetize their content has forced fundamental changes in what “work” looks like. The creator economy, as we know it today, has gone through three phases of evolution:
Phase 1: Traditional economy
In its purest form, work as it is unilaterally understood as working for a larger organization. In this depiction, employees retain little autonomy over the type of work they do and how they execute it. Historically, this is how most people approach work.
Phase 2: Gig economy
The gig economy emerged and skyrocketed in recent years. In this economy, employees are able to complete smaller, more manageable tasks on an ad-hoc basis – like working as a food delivery worker. While this model of work improved flexibility and employee autonomy, most workers are still heavily dependent on their employers.
Phase 3: Creator economy
The creator economy represents a secular shift. In a creator economy, creators do not require a parent company to act as an employer; they are able to work when they want, produce whatever content they please, and have full autonomy over how they monetize their content. This new ownership structure is symbolic of a greater power shift in the employer-employee dynamic. Within the first two economic phases, power resided almost entirely in the hands of the employer. The creator economy, meanwhile, enables individuals creating content to hold onto the power to own and govern their work.
Creator economy in a Web3 world
The creator economy principles – ownership of work, decentralization, and flexibility – run in parallel with the emergence of Web3. As the world moves closer to the next generation of the internet over the next few years, expect to see increasing overlap between the creator economy and Web3. Here’s what that might look like:
Creator-owned content and platforms
Creator-owned content is the first iteration of the Web3 creator economy. On current social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, the company behind the platform owns the content that creators produce. Web3 will enable creators to not only own their content on existing social platforms, but also own a part of the platform they produce and distribute content on. Content can begin to be creator-owned and platform-agnostic through the use of NFTs, which act as proof of ownership and validate the content’s authenticity.
In the future, creators could own and govern the platforms they engage with based on factors like their following and content quality. This could be made possible through DAOs, member-owned organizations without centralized leadership or governing power. “Ownership” of the social platform would be represented by tokens distributed to creators according to their relevance and impact on the platform.
Creator-made metaverse platforms
Creators will also play a key role in the metaverse. In addition to participating in it, creators can develop parts of the metaverse with either no-code tools or technical background. This has already started to take shape in existing gaming metaverses, most notably Roblox. On Roblox, anyone can create video games and monetize them directly on the platform. In 2020 alone, creators earned $329 million through Roblox alone. “Metaverse creators” will likely grow to become an active and profitable vertical of the creator economy in the years to come.
While the intersection of the creator economy and Web3 is still nascent and its future is uncertain, if executed well, the Web3 ethos and emerging technologies could have massive implications – not just for creators but the future of work as a whole.
The best-case scenario: Web3 will enable a world where people can make a living by producing work that they have direct ownership over without the dependency on centralized third-party organizations that exists today.
Nobu Iguchi is a cofounder and managing partner at Agya Ventures.
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