Tokens, Ownership, and Protecting The Creator Economy

The creator economy has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade, but creators themselves are at risk of losing ownership of their brand to the platforms that control their distribution and wealth opportunities.

Tokens, Ownership, and Protecting The Creator Economy
Photo by ConvertKit / Unsplash

The creator economy has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade. It’s now worth well north of $104bn globally, but creators themselves are at risk of losing ownership of their brand to the platforms that control their distribution and wealth opportunities.

While easy-to-use tools and platforms have made it easier than ever to create high-quality content and access audiences, creators are at the mercy of sudden policy changes, algorithm updates, shifting payment processor rules and being de-platformed. What you’ve built can vanish in an instant. How can creators protect their independence?

Ownership. If creators are allowed to define and own their own platform – from content to distribution and monetisation – they can build a business and a community that is platform agnostic and wholly their own.

Some platforms have already seen which way the wind is blowing. Writers on Substack, for example, own their email list, so they can take their audience with them wherever they go. And Hivebrite gives creators full autonomy in building and managing their own online communities.

Web3 promises to take this a step further. While, in Web2, creators have to fund their work through subscription or advertising models, in Web3 creators can monetise by issuing NFTs or social tokens directly to their fans, baking community ownership into their brand. We are only in the foothills of these monetisation opportunities, but it’s already starting to reveal novel revenue streams for creators.

After minting and selling NFTs, for instance, creators can continue to earn a percentage from secondary sales anytime their work is resold. Other creators are starting to let their fans put their NFTs to work. Cogent Crypto, a Solana validator – someone who verifies transactions on the Solana blockchain, earning SOL in return – with whom we’ve been building some new staking infrastructure, lets its users stake their NFTs in return for a share of Cogent’s profits. Cogent uses this staking as a way to monetise the applications they build, without a need to have paid-for services, while also giving its community access to rewards that were previously only available to miners and validators.

Similarly, social tokens – exchangeable assets tied to a community affiliated with a creator – allow creators to both build and reward their community while compensating themselves for their work, acting as the backbone of a creator’s ecosystem. Fans become not just financial supporters, but investors in the creator’s business; the value of the token should rise with your success, so the community has a vested interest in continuing to support you.

And if these monetisation mechanisms are combined with crypto credentials – something like an on-chain CV, or badges in a video game – we could start to see new models for membership tiers and partnerships. It would provide a way for creators to engage at a more exclusive level with their biggest fans and fluidly form partnerships with those who might have skills that add to their creative firepower.

The key behind all these things is ownership. The creator is the platform, master of their content, distribution and economy. But to help more creators spin up their own platforms and benefit from these features, we need tools that lower the barrier to entry and make making more intuitive.

This is still a young industry in uncharted space, with continued risks of volatility and theft, and little to no protection for users. Moreover, it requires even the average user to have a high level of technical know-how just to get started. There are no widely accepted standards for what makes a social token, let alone what sort of incentive structure is best to keep your community alive, and little established infrastructure for creators to integrate these assets into their product offerings.

As Shopify has done for online merchants, we need low-code and no-code applications that allow creators to build and own their own platforms; tools that can help creators stitch together Web3 applications and give them direct control over the experience and how they want the economics to work.

Building a new monetisation model for creators from the ground up was never going to be easy, but with more intuitive tools that allow more people to experiment with creator ownership, platform-agnostic communities and token rewards we can get there faster.

We don’t have all the answers, but we look forward to partnering with those that are working towards them.