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Why do we hate content creators?
There is nothing more unromantic than saying ”I create content for a living”. If you have the slightest respect and pride for your work, you won’t call it content.
I saw this post by designer Tobias van Schneider on LinkedIn, and it opened an old conversation in my mind:
If he doesn't define his work as "content", should he describe it as "art?" Why is ART a romantic way of creating, but content creation is an unrespected way of creativity?
Tobias is a successful web designer and a digital entrepreneur. To me, he falls into the category of "Digital Creators" when he is selling products on his online studio or producing CONTENT on his blog!
Another example: look at this article on Medium that says Bob Dylan might never call himself a content creator because it’s worthless.
You might say the amount of bad or “salesy” content around us that’s created by mediocre marketers and salespeople is the reason why artists want to avoid being positioned as content creators.
In my opinion, tensions are more in-depth than an argument about some fake marketing content or foolish viral videos. It is lying in an old and unseen battle between artists and creators. As a filmmaker and producer, I've been in both worlds, and I will try my best here to define this gap.
I'm an artist, not you!
First, let's see what the difference is between art and content.
We all know what fine arts are along with design and entertainment. The painting, musical, guy-with-guitar-in-hand who wears loose flannels and doesn't shave often is the stereotypical artist. He is a dreamer.
But there are also beautiful church murals, glass blowing, embroidery, and bag-pipes. You know, the ARTS that stem back to the beginning of time. I’m going to call them all artists in this article.
But what is CONTENT?
This one is not easy to define. Due to the complex nature of social platforms, most of the STUFF we consume is not remotely close to the traditional forms or concepts of art.
An example: Imagine a collection of short-form videos on a social media project that only publishes random and unedited interviews featuring everyday people. What do you even call this?
It's not a short film or news reportage. You could also say it's "New Media," but I believe that CONTENT is a more appropriate term or umbrella. Also, you will find founders like Sam Parr, who calls his successful newsletter, The Hustle, “a content startup” (recently acquired by HubSpot).
On the other side, the internet people agreed to call those who create and produce content as "creators." There should be some modern declaration of independence that begins with: "We the creators of the internet… will be called whatever we please."
Ranging from Youtubers, online course teachers, and fashion bloggers to yoga celebrities, they are all content creators.
How do traditional artists make money?
From Renaissance masterpieces to Steven Spielberg’ movies, art and entertainment have something in common. Whether King, Church, or Hollywood studios they all hired artists and commissioned what they wanted. There are some exceptions but even the most romantic painter in the whole history of art, Van Gogh, couldn’t create his work without the generous support of his brother.
The commissioning and support system of art is something that is changing drastically as the production and distribution is getting more and more accessible.
What is Creator Economy
Creators use the internet as their primary platform. Ironically, unlike us, they don't care to define their work. They mix many types of media to create stories/content for their followers/audience. Most importantly, what they create is a BUSINESS for them before a form of expression. They invent and build their careers by experimenting in a jungle of lost people and information that never existed even 30 years ago!
Here is the difference between artists and creators:
The new generation of creatives and makers use the internet to monetize their work and become independent, while artists are still struggling with making money online. All at the same time, they are witnessing that the world of traditional art is getting smaller, more competitive, and less profitable.
Creators think like producers and publishers, while artists only have satisfaction from active creation. They're not aware of the other essential parts of their business, such as audience building, marketing, and skills of online selling.
Old ways, new ways
Most artists still rely on traditional ways of distribution: galleries, festivals, TV networks, labels, etc. A lot of us are still hoping to find the right agent, but it's a totally different era now. Even agents, publishers, and labels are now looking for artists and talents with a fanbase.
The new generation of creators doesn't care about old markets. They all have their own direct distribution platforms and their own niche audience. Take a look at the rise of paid newsletters and premium content that is helping both journalists and writers to make money, all by writing about what they specialize in.
A Gateless world
Creators belong to a permission less world where GATES don't exist or are too weak to hold this generation down. This is another reason that makes artists very confused. No one cares about the game of STATUS in this new world. You don't need any awards to run a successful career anymore. Creators don't waste time to be picked by someone or an organization; they instead build their communities. In the digital realm, credentials are not coming from outside. You are the designer of your own story.
Ask Issa Rae, the actress who flipped the game and turned a cover celebrity. She is an excellent example of creatives that didn’t wait to be seen. She started producing and acting in a very low budget series on YouTube, and ended it with a famous HBO series. She fearlessly built her career totally on the net.
There is no Punch line here.
I cannot tell you what to do with your career, but I know the decade ahead is full of global competition and greedy companies that want it all. You either create your own game or you will find yourself working in a toxic cycle that you can’t escape.
We, artists, need to look at the practices creators are figuring out to invent their freedom and learn from them. We need to understand that the romantic part of creation is only one part of a BIZ. We need to figure out how to build and leverage intimate communities.
On the other hand, the world of the internet needs our craziness and romanticism. We can help and make digital media way more affluent and more profound.
Go hybrid, combine the attitude of digital creators with the raw talent of artists, and you'll become unstoppable.
Stay safe, stay creative.
NXT ANIMAL is a weekly newsletter for creators, founders, leaders, and professionals who want to follow the latest trends in digital media, the creator economy, and art startups.