Gustaf Lundberg Toresson — All Rise: The Ascent of the 2021 Creator

2020 was the official year of the side hustle (admittedly, among other things). As a result of national lockdowns, an abundance of spare time, and — sadly — the rise of unemployment, side hustles were transformed into money-makers by many.

With the help of digital platforms that match creators with relevant communities (like Substack, Twitch, and Patreon) the rise of creators has been meteoric. Creatives are now able to grow their profiles and scale their businesses like never before.

An example of such lightning speed growth is the YouTuber Airrack. In 14 months the 23 year old’s YouTube fanbase has increased from fewer than 100 followers to 1.15 million. With over 50 million views to date, it’s estimated that Airrack (real name Eric Decker) generates revenue of $300,000 a year from YouTube adverts alone.

Youtuber Airrack grew from 0 to 1m followers in less than a year — generating over $300k per year

But it’s not only booming follower counts and exponential reach that are fanning the flames of soaring creators. Take for example, the whirlwind traction of NFTs.

Jack Dorsey made headlines in March for selling his first ever tweet, ‘just setting up my twtter’, for $2.9mil. While everyone tried to wrap their heads around the significance of NFTs, many digital creators rejoiced. The rise of non-fungible tokens, which allow buyers to confirm their official ownership over a digital collectible, represents another advancement for passion economy creators. It signifies another means to turn creativity into (potentially serious) cash.

Kevin Abosch is an Irish artist and pioneer of cryptoart. After many of his in-person exhibitions were cancelled due to the pandemic, Abosch decided to try selling his series ‘111’ — that explores themes of digital currency and value — as NFTs. Only a few months later, Abosch’s work had sold for over $2.1mil on Opensea, the Ebay of digital collectibles. And with no gallery owners or auctioneers to pay, Abosche’s earnings went straight into his pocket, highlighting the potentially positive and progressive force of NFT trading.

The idea that art is something that can be hung on a wall, or held with your hands, is fast becoming defunct. This is the latest evolution in fine art collecting and it’s partly thanks to the ‘creator’ (or sometimes called ‘passion’) economy, and its ever-growing number of digital marketplaces. It is these marketplaces which are returning power to the creators while also facilitating their seismic growth.

With the increasing pursuit of side hustles as livelihoods — as well as a mental shift from ‘time = money’ to ‘talent = money’ — it’s likely that the next cluster of Fortune 500 companies will be founded by creators and, to quote the CEO of streaming service “we’re soon about to witness the first Creator IPO”. And these organisations — whose foundations will be rooted in creativity, individuality and talent — will have the essence of the passion economy sewn into the very fabric of their businesses.

We must change the perception that ‘creators’ denote sellers of handmade chess boards on Etsy, or hosts of woodwork classes online. The passion economy is paving the way for creators to monetise both quickly and significantly, and in time this next generation of creatives will shape the future of business in more ways than one. It’s never been easier to join this digital revolution. And by the looks of things, it’s certainly time to.