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How the creator economy was covered in 2022

After attending VidCon, the largest creative conference, this summer, I enrolled in a Sidney Hillman Foundation labour journalism programme. While one day I was discussing the financial worries of popular TikTokers (what if they are banned from TikTok tomorrow by mistake?) with them, the next I was reading about the evolution of labour movements in the United States.

These are not separate issues; rather, reporting on the creative economy is fundamentally the same as reporting on the labour market. It’s a work beat, and it’s called the creator beat.

Artists are rejecting the established methods of generating money in their fields and are seizing financial independence from large media corporations. Take, for example, Brian David Gilbert, who became widely recognised as a result of his work as a chaotically amusing video producer for Polygon, Vox Media’s video game newspaper. Probably realising he could generate far more money independently with his following than his media job paid him, Gilbert left to work full-time on other creative endeavours. In addition, there are Defunctland- and Swell Entertainment-style channels on YouTube that are essentially independent video producers doing their own investigations. Other chefs have found success by going popular on TikTok, while some educators have found a way to supplement their income by posting instructional videos on Instagram. YouTubers, Instagrammers, and newsletter writers alike are showing that creativity is a monetizable ability, and that they deserve to make more than a livable wage doing it, in creative sectors that are renowned for underpaying for the competence that its employees give.

This theory has informed my reporting on the sector all year: the creative economy is a labour beat. I’ve compiled a selection of top articles we’ve published recently that discuss the freelancer market.

Chris McCarty had a serious question, but they spent a lot of time on YouTube like most teenagers. When they are too young to realise the gravity of their parents’ position as internet celebrities, how can influencers’ offspring safeguard themselves? McCarty and Washington State Representative Emily Wicks collaborated on a measure to safeguard and pay children who feature in family vlogs as part of McCarty’s Girl Scouts Gold Award initiative.

As early as 2010, amateur YouTubers realized that “cute kid does stuff” is a genre prone to virality. David DeVore, then 7, became an internet sensation when his father posted a YouTube video of his reaction to anesthesia called “David After Dentist.” David’s father turned the public’s interest in his son into a small business, earning around $150,000 within five months through ad revenue, merch sales and a licensing deal with Vizio. He told The Wall Street Journal at the time that he would save the money for his children’s college costs, as well as charitable donations. Meanwhile, the family behind the “Charlie bit my finger” video made enough money to buy a new house.

Over a decade later, some of YouTube’s biggest stars are children who are too young to understand the life-changing responsibility of being an internet celebrity with millions of subscribers. Seven-year-old Nastya, whose parents run her YouTube channel, was the sixth-highest-earning YouTube creator in 2022, earning $28 millionRyan Kaji, a 10-year-old who has been playing with toys on YouTube since he was 4, earned $27 million from a variety of licensing and brand deals.

In the same way that watching a vehicle crash may be fascinating, so can MrBeast. MrBeast is still driving along the highway without incident, but I’m concerned about him. I mean. He’s holding his own) Despite his enormous wealth and unrivalled success, I don’t think his business model can last. We’ll find out if he can keep ramping up his exploits without turning into another David Dobrik as he tries to raise a unicorn-sized VC round.

Is going bigger always better? MrBeast’s business model is like a snake eating its own tail — no one is making money like he is, but no one is spending it like him either. He described his margins as “razor-thin” in a conversation with Logan Paul, since he reinvests most of his profits back into his content. His viewers expect that each video will be more impressive than the last, and from the outside looking in, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before MrBeast can no longer up the ante (and for other creators, this has led to disaster). So, if MrBeast’s business really is a unicorn — I’d wager it is — then he has two choices. Will he use the cushion of $150 million to make his business more sustainable, so he doesn’t have to keep burying himself alive? Or will he keep pushing for more until nothing is left?

For those interested in learning more about David Dobrik, veteran YouTuber Casey Neistat premiered a documentary about the 26-year-old at SXSW this year. After seeing the success of Dobrik and his Vlog Squad, who had become YouTube celebrities, Neistat decided to make a documentary on them. After claims of sexual assault on Dobrik’s film set were revealed by Insider, the documentary took a turn, and Dobrik nearly murdered his buddy Jeff Wittek in a disastrous stunt. The absence of controls on YouTube film sets, especially when creators are pushed to undertake crazier and crazier stunts to be popular, is a recipe for catastrophe, and Neistat does a fantastic job of portraying both the creator’s fall from grace and this.

Despite the fact that shows like “Hype House” and “The D’Amelio Show” have devoted whole seasons to artists’ fears of being “cancelled,” Dobrik is still financially stable, raising the question of how far a creative must go to lose his audience. Dobrik has recently launched a pizzeria in Los Angeles and is the star of his own show on Discovery. In the wake of his injury on Dobrik’s set, Wittek has undergone no fewer than nine operations.

“I think that there’s always a pursuit. It’s relevant for a musician – how do you keep your music interesting?” Neistat said. “But what makes individuals like David Dobrik different is that their pursuit is not coming out with the next song or making the next movie. Their pursuit is, how can I be more sensationalist? And that is a very, very, very dangerous pursuit, because the minute you achieve something that was crazier than the last, you then have to go past that.”

The most widely known fact about making money in short-form video is that even the most popular producers don’t make much money directly from TikTok. Despite TikTok’s lengthy reign atop the short form landscape, 2019 may prove to be a pivotal year for the industry as YouTube Shorts becomes the first platform to split ad income with short form producers. Ad income may not sound all that exciting, but I can’t wait until 2023 to watch how this initiative affects the short form industry.