Two years have passed since then Stripe wrote about the phenomenon of the so-called creator economy. At that time there was reason to believe that the peak might have been reached. The pandemic had sparked a surge in online creators monetizing their hobbies and passions with newfound time. To capitalize on this trend, new startup platforms had emerged, many of which were backed by prominent venture capital funds. Since then, Funding for creation platforms was cut and technologies like cryptography and AI took the spotlight. The creative industries’ hype cycle has reached its nadir of disillusionment.
Stripe’s data paints a different picture: a creator economy that has evolved but continues to thrive. The company has seen this evolution firsthand, as many of the largest creation platforms use Stripe Connect to onboard creators and disburse funds around the world.
In 2021, they collected data from 50 popular creator platforms on Stripe and found that they had onboarded 668,000 creators who had received $10 billion in payments. In 2023, they updated this data and concluded that The Creator Economy continues to grow at its fastest pace in 2021. Today, those same 50 creator platforms have onboarded over 1 million creators and paid out over $25 billion in revenue.
More and more international
The creative industries originated in the United States, but are now undoubtedly global. The rate of new creators coming online is slowing in the US (now down 25% compared to last year) but accelerating in the rest of the world. The fastest-growing creator countries on Stripe are Thailand (where Stripe launched last year), Brazil, and Romania. And Europe and the Middle East have doubled their share of creators: from 11% in our last analysis to 22% today.
“In 2012, Ko-fi started as a weekend project to allow developers to accept coffee donations.”said Simon Ellington, co-founder of Ko-fi, a UK-based connect platform. “Since then, creatives from six continents have registered. They take suggestions for PlayStation streams and sell jazz club memberships online. The creators now earn $100 million a year from Ko-fi. Last year it was less than half.”
In 2021, 85% of YouTubers lived in North America; that percentage is now 72%. Last month we saw the first creators start monetizing in Tanzania, Mozambique and El Salvador. This year, X started a new one Monetization program To share advertising revenue with creators, send Connect payments to creators in over 115 countries.
Creator teachers and subscriptions are becoming more and more popular
Many platforms tailor their tools for specific capabilities, such as Kajabi, Teachable, and Thinkific, which help developers sell online educational courses. Latrina Walden is a registered nurse who has helped 5,000 aspiring healthcare professionals pass nursing exams through Thinkific. These educational platforms have increased their revenue by 120% in the last two years and represent the largest category of YouTubers in terms of revenue.
Monthly subscriptions are also becoming increasingly popular for YouTubers to earn a reliable income. Instead of receiving a bi-weekly paycheck, they can plan for the future with a monthly recurring income (MRR). Based on our observations in 2021, YouTubers based in Asia Pacific appear to be attracted to this model and achieve some of the highest MRRs. Year over year, creators in Hong Kong and Japan saw the second and third fastest increases in MRR, behind only creators in the United States. Hong Kong creatives also had the highest average MRR at $6.6k, followed by the Netherlands ($3.2k) and the United Kingdom ($2.6k). However, for most creatives, income is a supplement to other jobs and not their only job. The percentage of American YouTubers earning a living wage in the U.S. is 2.8%, up from 4% in 2021.
As platforms add more monetization features and expand availability to all parts of the world, the creator economy has a lot of scope. Maybe the focus has shifted cryptography and AI, However, these industries are not mutually exclusive. Last week, Runway launched a program to equip creators with AI video tools. And yesterday, Braintrust expanded its capabilities to allow freelancers around the world to get paid in cryptocurrency.