The creative economy creates mini media empires

„These businesses are increasingly sophisticated content ecosystems with multiple online and offline revenue streams,” says a white paper sponsored by AFR Intelligence – YouTube. report, Culture Disrupted: Growth in Australia’s Digital Creative IndustriesHe spoke to academics, the Productivity Commission’s commissioner and industry groups to discover Australia’s growth commitment to the creator economy risks falling short without greater investment and understanding.

„Technology has democratized the creative professions and removed traditional barriers to entry – anyone can become a digital creator, regardless of age, income, language or location,” it says.

„Policymakers, investors, philanthropists and academics intuitively understand and support the creative economy (’theatre, dance, music, film, visual arts and heritage sector’). Despite its profound potential to reshape, expand and commercialize Australia’s creative industries, its online relative is creative for decision-makers. Know very little about economics.

Kate Pounder, CEO of the Tech Council of Australia, says the creative economy and the digital economy are „closely intertwined”. „Sometimes we have a traditional view of the creative industries, but the more modern part of that industry is becoming a bigger part of our technology sector in Australia.”

Digital exports — software, books, music, movies and games — are forecast to be worth $16 billion by 2030, a 400 percent growth over the previous decade, the Export Council of Australia estimates.

According to an Adobe report last year, 48 per cent of Australian creators monetize their content, and 58 per cent of these earn more than half of their income from the industry. Paid Australian creators are more likely than their global counterparts to sell their products directly to an audience – 74 per cent, compared to 67 per cent.

Of the $76 billion the tech sector adds to the Australian economy each year, $9 billion comes from e-commerce and media platforms, according to the Tech Council of Australia. The 2022 Oxford Economic Report estimates that YouTube alone contributes $890 million to Australia’s GDP.

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Jackson and Westcott met as motor racing girls in Townsville, where they moved to the „big smoke”, as they described it – from their distant hometowns. As marketing students and then Red Bull ad girls, they toured music festivals and worked in advertising and fashion. In 2014, they looked at sending free clothes or money to others to promote the brands, and Jackson told Westcott: „I think we can do that.”

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„Instagram was pretty cool at the time,” Jackson says. „You don’t show anything about your real life, it’s about the perfect photo.” They started with We The Wild Ones, which showed a more wild side of their festival life, and used it as a side hustle. They were paid $300 once to post pictures on their account.

„We got ready, we got a photo, and we were loose. At the time, no one had that kind of energy,” Jackson says. The long hours, pitching and going to festivals brought the cost up to $3,000. „It was crazy,” Westcott recalls. „But We don’t work on other jobs either.”

They earned money and worked day jobs when a penny dropped. They can use the growing platform to promote their own products instead of other people’s products. They had over 100,000 viewers, mostly women at the time. Sitting on an Airbnb while on vacation in Mexico in 2018, they decided to design a clothing brand to fit a gap in the market. Jogger & Stone launched it in 2019 and its first range sold out almost immediately.

Lucy Jackson and Nicky Westcott.

“I remember our first $100,000 with We the Wild Ones, which was in 2019,” Jackson says. Westcott chimes in: „We’ve worked hard over the years.”

Even a trademark dispute with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger – the pair renamed their label JGR on paper & As a result STN – did not stop their development. They now have warehouses, a deal with online marketplace The Iconic and seven employees who work primarily on the label.

“We want to be thought of as young, budding entrepreneurs rather than influencers right now,” Jackson says. „We are not young anymore, we are very old.” Says Westcott: „We’re over 30.”

The pair has now scaled back a bit, hired a general manager and wants to focus more on the media side. Their podcast, Happy Hour with Lucy and Nikki, has 15 million downloads and is looking to invest more in the next one.

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„With this change we are moving into a new chapter. We are content creators, influencers. Then we step into actually running the Jogger business. & Stone Age Now we turn to the media,” says Jackson.

Income generation

Every creator’s story is different, and Stephen Travers’ art is no exception. While she was traveling in Paris with her family in 2018, she sat down with an artist with her daughter to paint the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Her daughter insisted she posted it on her then-Blue Mountains-themed Instagram account.

„I said, 'This is a drawing,'” Travers says. “Dad, drawing is an art,” she said. I posted it and I don’t know, by the next day it had 500 likes.

Over the next few years, his daily paintings grew his @stephentraversart Instagram followers to over 170,000. He often painted stunning buildings in Paris, tapping into the world of urban paintings and architecture. A former high school teacher, creating 'how to draw’ videos for YouTube seemed like a natural progression. 'Stephen Travers Art’ now has over 124,000 subscribers.

„A lot of people have creativity, but they can’t express it, or it’s been painfully suppressed in their past. There can be a lot of personal anger,” says Travers.

„When you help people channel their creativity through that, it can have such an amazing impact. I never expected positive, complimentary feedback.

Travers’ 450-odd YouTube videos, to his surprise, have brought in enough income that the 66-year-old has avoided sinking into his retirement. His most successful video has over a million views.

Australians punch way above their weight in the creator economy globally. An estimated 90 percent of their YouTubers’ content is viewed outside of Australia.

Some of the nation’s content creators do it as a hobby, but a growing number — like Travers — are professional or semi-professional.

Being a creator is not without risks. For every one who earns enough to live on, there are dozens who earn just a few dollars. Likewise, there are increasingly complex regulatory safeguards that may be specific to creative industries.

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Advertising Standards, an independent advertising industry regulator, rules when ads violate agreed norms — and influencers are increasingly in its sights. Not clearly disclosing commercial arrangements can get creators into trouble, and the powerful Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also started looking into the sector.

Personal finance influencers, who once told audiences what to do with their money, have been warned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that they could face million-dollar fines or jail time for giving unlicensed financial advice.

The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AiMCO), a relatively new industry body aimed at promoting the standards and reputation of the growing creator economy, was formed in 2019. Its first code of practice was published in 2020.

„The industry has changed significantly since 2013, when we first started running influencer programs for clients,” says Detch Singh, founder of influencer marketing agency Hypetap and founding president of AiMCO.

Singh, who is now AiMCO vice-chairman, said, “There has been increased regulatory clarity from ASIC, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian Taxation Office and other government agencies. There is a marked increase in the sophistication of the category and consequently greater trust and accountability.

A fifth, or one million people, say they are owners or founders of a content-related business. Culture is disrupted The report states, „This number is predicted to grow rapidly as over a third (37 per cent) of content creators in Australia aim to build a revenue-generating business”.

„These platforms have completely changed our lives. Now our lives are richer,” says Stephen King of the Productivity Commission in the report. „They are simpler in many ways.”

Creative industries, including the creative economy and sectors including design, film and television, publishing and the visual arts, now „employ almost 6 per cent of Australia’s workforce”, the report says.

As the industry grows, so does the individual understanding of value among creators. As Travers says: „I realized I was a teacher as much as I was an artist. Now, if someone asks me what I do, I say I’m a YouTuber. It seems to combine the two parts very well.

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