Hello from the burgeoning creative middle class! It has been over a decade since the terms influencer and creator economy entered our vocabulary. The internet, and social media in particular, democratized the means of production for media and created new types of delightful media that had not existed before. Youtube, Tik Tok, Twitter, and Vine (remember Vine?) allowed talented people to expose their talent to the world. We wouldn’t know who Justin Bieber is without Youtube. Jake Paul would just be some guy, and Mr. Beast would be working somewhere in an office park. The Cameron Journal wouldn’t even exist! However, while our new digital world has created some billion dollar brands, there is one thing that has yet to emerge from this new environment: a middle class.
Obviously, not everyone can be Mr. Beast or Jake Paul. For every musician that strikes it big on YouTube, there are 10 who don’t really get that far and either move on or just play to a small group of fans. But it would seem that after all these years, there would be a great middle, creators who are known, but not terribly well-known but can make a nice living from their art. Indeed, this was true for many artists in the pre-internet world. There were people who made a living writing short stories for magazines and doing some articles. Some writers never finished a book or never wrote one at all. Gigging musicians are the back bone of the music industry and have been providing live music for modest pay for decades. Social media land has yet to produce this, at least not in any meaningful way. Why is that?
You Can Make It…or Not
This was partially sparked by this article. John Bardos maintains that we don’t really need a creative middle class because it’s just not possible in the modern environment. Essentially, his premise is that the cream will rise to the top and that is just fine. But what about those who are good, but not great, or can’t spend the time and money to become the next big creator? Don’t they matter too? According to Li Jin at Harvard Business Review, the answer is yes. He maintains that for any of this to be sustainable, a thriving middl class of creators is essential. This is already evident in some verticals.
I see this in the drag queen scene. The ladies that have been on drag race are the most famous and…