A little more than a decade ago, a few large media companies, music labels, and publishers owned the creator-to-fan pipeline, deciding who and what audiences see, and wielding total financial power over those creators and their content. Then came the resistance.
A new, digitally native playing field allowed creators to become their own publishers. Monetization tools soon followed, and the audience-first business was born. The top tier of these personas-cum-moguls now carry massive influence, with platforms wooing them with funding, brands clamoring for partnerships, and devotees gobbling up any product they promote.
The easel to this canvas is yet another group of entrepreneurs—the tech founders building the tools that scaffold this economy. Platforms like Twitch, Patreon, and TikTok emerged to democratize distribution and allow creators to reach audiences directly.
On the surface, this evolution is a net positive for creators, as they can reach legions of fans at the push of a button. But it’s come at a price. While creators now have countless tools to build and access audiences, for the most part, they don’t own them.
So, how do creators retain what they’ve built? Ownership. Anchoring their brand to owned channels allows creators to build communities that are platform agnostic. And with lines between the creator economy and entrepreneurship blurring, these independent creators are having a moment.
Samir predicts that the next phase of the creator economy will focus on developing deep relationships with audiences. “As a creator, you have to make sure that you are building a community,” he says. “Because if you’re building a community, they will come with you.” True fans often clamor for ways to support their favorite creators beyond “hitting like.” Branded products and owned communities are a gateway for audiences to spot and connect with fellow fans, all while strengthening relationships with their favorite creators.
Creator influence should not be underestimated—or undervalued. In one survey, 45% of buyers reported that they are eager to purchase products promoted on social media by creators, and 73% said that a creator’s in-depth knowledge about a product increased trust. The takeaway? The best brand for creators to endorse is their own.