Great read, Li. I appreciate your awareness and identification of the major constraints being placed on the creator economy -- much as parallels to the past gig economy. Too often I've seen many entrepreneurial thought pieces that presumed ipso facto creator economy abundance when the reality is greatly restrained by power laws, content oversupply, attention scarcity, and generally a lack of real demand other than as a proxy of modest convenience.

The key driving force behind any creator economy is still an industrial transition from mass production to mass customization, which requires leverage of the long tails in the long tail/aggregator/infrastructures layer hierarchy (as per Simone Cicero, etc.). And so there is a definite role the gig/creators can provide. The challenge is still in the what, IMO.

There is definite demand for gigs and gig work. As dehumanizing as it might seem to some, we still need drivers, delivery people, data classifiers for AI. But is there an equivalent demand for content? Or more precisely: MORE content? I need a ride to the airport. But do I really need someone's ice fishing TikToks? Maybe. Maybe not. I struggle with this presumed demand for content, more thought leadership, or even curatorship. Thus I see the long part of the long tail continually getting financially crushed.

Mass customization seems to have stronger demand for services than content, as non-passive as that income becomes. Everyone handing out NFTs doesn't solve the problem if only 0.1% can feed themselves off the audience demand that allows them to profit sufficiently from them.

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Thanks for putting your thoughts out but I think you're missing the first principles of why creators are burning out and not earning enough. The vast majority of 'Creator Economy' work is useless and not productive. The world needs more food producers, engineers, fixers, not pixel-pushers and meme artists.

Just as DAWs brought down barrier to entry for music, and hence returns to nearly all musicians apart from the 0.1% so too will 'creator economy' tools. The creator eco is the new Rat Race

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Li, agree with the need to shift the balance to enable the creators (digital,physical, services/gig) to take back monetization & maintain the sanctity of craft!

Would love to bat ideas around when you have time.

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Wonderful article! I think the problem is that most emerging tools are just taking advantage of creators' monetization and losing-control anxiety, instead of focusing on helping them create better work.

Eventually, as creators, the only way to survive long-term is the quality of the work. Would have another channel on Patreon/Substack help creators create better work?

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This is a great piece of analysis and writing. I've been a freelance writer for more than four decades. The steady erosion of creators' -- writers, artists, musicians, and others -- ability to earn an income they can live on has been going on for a long time. However, the decline has been particularly steep over the past 15 years and as noted in this article, will continue if creators don't fight back.

I teaching writing and transmedia storytelling at a university, and I am increasingly concerned about the future of my students. I've had many students who have enormous potential as creators and have important things to say, but their ability to develop that potential and earn a living from doing creative work is being strangled by the forces Li identifies.

Individually we need to take action, but that will not be enough unless there is a way to organize collective action. A creator "strike" against Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and other media platforms would likely have an impact. They depend on the flow of new content. If a million creators just stopped submitting to a platform for a couple of weeks, there will be an impact.

However, organizing such an action would be enormously difficult. I think the creators' organizations that currently exist need to band together and employ a common strategy. If the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), Writers Guild of America, Authors Guild, PEN, and others across the United States and their counterparts in other countries can work together, there might be a way to turn this around.

Part of the problem with these organizations is they tend to be exclusive (i.e. you must have written something, acted in something, etc.) in order to join. And fees for joining can be quite expensive for freelance creators or those who are just beginning to work as creators.

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The signalfire article linked to says 50 million creators globally. not 50m 'micro-entrepreneurs' in the US. This should be corrected.

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Great article, thank you! Totally agree with you and Fred Wilson. That is why we are disrupting the market and providing solutions when creators can accept payments on their own website, set prices, communicate with their customers and fans directly, etc. I think it's very crucial to the industry. Thanks again for the great reading.

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