There is a fair amount of hype around the notion of the Passion Economy. It is a modal to how pleasant the future of work could be. One could have the dream-like opportunity to make money from the pursuit of their passions. The logic follows that if one is able to enjoy what they do, be good at what they do and be paid for it then they have realised this 'future of work' and their place in the passion economy.
In the Passion Economy, an individual has the freedom to work when they want, from where they want. The individual is able to achieve passive income, pursue their passions and positively change the world.
Whilst it is certainly possible for an individual to realise the opportunity within the Passion Economy, there is still more to be defined for how the vast majority of people could exist within this space. 2021 could be a special year. It could signify post-pandemic recovery as well as the paradigm shift that happened due to the pandemic in 2020.
A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. 2020 is without a doubt, a year that has marked several paradigm shifts in how we think and behave in society. If not the most significant year, it is likely to be one of the most significant years for this century. The year has seen a doubling if not tripling in the acceleration of certain tech trends, it has delineated a clear victory for alternative assets as a hedge against Government inflation and revealed the power which an Internet swarm could hold.
Without ignoring the tremendous losses and suffering that have happened due to the pandemic, it is also because of the nature of the pandemic that there have been several positive second order effects. One such example is the increased interest by a wider population in becoming a ‘creator’. Most prominently for 2020 as a paradigm shift is the mass realisation of the credos that "on the Internet, everyone is a creator".
The realisation of the Internet Creator Economy due to the pandemic is reflected in the increased numbers of digital content creators. Whilst this increase could be seen as a ‘win’ for the Passion Economy, it could also be interpreted a bit more ambivalently as to whether it is a positive or negative. The pandemic has benefited platforms such as Substack who has seen a doubling in the number of active writers on Substack. With some colinerality to this is also the reality that over 37,000 media workers in the U.S. are facing either pay cuts, layoffs or furloughs. On other creator-driven platforms such as OnlyFans, there have been 75% month on month “model sign ups. Whilst some creators feel empowered by these platforms, others still struggle on the platform and have only become creators due to income loss from unemployment.
Whilst technically anyone could be a Creator, to be a Creator within the Passion Economy one needs to find and excel in a particular niche. Given that at any one time, there are often several people who share a particular excellence within a niche - there is currently a ranking system for who is shown on any particular platform. The 'best', most 'relevant' or most 'popular' creator is ranked more prominently. To compete in this algorithmic incentivised platform, a creator needs to look into the long tail.
In pursuing the long tail, a creator could still operate but be less dependent on the big content distribution platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram etc. In this long tail, a creator could realise a meaningful income through their '100 True Fans'. In this definition of meaningful income, it of course depends on the value which the True Fans would be willing to pay and highly dependent on price stickiness as per the theories of pricing.
It is possible for a creator to pursue their passions and exist within the passion economy but creators deserve better. In Li Jin's follow up essay to her True Fans article, she writes on the need for a Creator Middle Class. In any emerging platform whether it be TikTok or Clubhouse, the ideals often start with a notion for a better and more equitable opportunity to succeed in. It is such ideals which often play a role in the platform's subsequent virality but is buried once the platform reaches some form of critical mass.
A creator deserves better than being subject to the whims of algorithmic platforms. In the current content environment, a lot of remixing occurs. Content creators deserve some income from such remixing. Whilst in today's platforms and media outlets, the content distributors with the widest reach gain the most monetary value in the form of payment for attention, to attain a wider middle class, creators deserve platforms which encourage a fairer income distribution.