Which Is Better: A Tiny Number Of Creators Hitting The Jackpot… Or Many Making A Living Wage?
from the take-your-pick dept
When we point to examples of musicians or other content creators embracing new business models to make a living, one of the complaints sometimes is that the amount of money they’re making is not huge. They’re making a living, but they’re not living the rockstar lifestyle. We sometimes get snide comments like “get back to us when so-and-so doesn’t have to share an apartment any more.” But, of course, the people who complaint these creators aren’t making a huge amount of money are comparing the wrong things. They’re comparing these independent creators to the massive success stories. What they should be comparing these artists to is where they’d be under the old system. That’s because the old system had an extreme bimodal distribution. A tiny, tiny, tiny percentage became superstars, and everyone else went home and did something else. That is, the old system was akin to a lottery ticket. Most people end up with nothing, and a very very few end up with a ton.
However, what the changing marketplace and lowering barriers now allows is for people who almost certainly never would have won that lottery ticket in the past to make a decent living doing what they love: creating content. In the past, that would have been relegated to a hobby, rather than a career. Today, it has a much higher likelihood of being a career. No, this doesn’t mean “anyone” can be a musician, but it does mean that those who want to be a professional creator have many more opportunities to make it happen today. Peter Friedman points this out in a post about how artists today learn to “cobble together successful careers,” which is built off of a post by Laure Parsons at QuestionCopyright referring to “the cobbler” model for content creators.
In that post, Parsons calls the old model — the one we described as the lottery ticket — as the “gambler model,” where you’re basically rolling the dice on whether or not your career will be a success or will plummet. And notes that the “cobbler model,” may not be as sexy, but you have a higher likelihood of success. The risk is lower, and the payoff is likely lower, but you can actually build a predictable career around it — and for many content creators, that’s certainly good enough. This isn’t to suggest it’s the only model. In fact, it’s not. There’s still room for rock stars and lottery tickets. But, when we’re looking at some of these content creators who are making a good living as professional musicians, the proper comparison is not to Mick Jagger, but to what they’d be doing if they were living in the world a few decades ago: and the answer is they probably wouldn’t be making music at all.