Sherwin Rosen also wrote about the Economics of Superstars in 1981, defining a world “wherein relatively small numbers of people earn enormous amounts of money and dominate the activities in which they engage”. Which is exactly what we’re describing.
In today’s world, the problem of discovery seems to be even more difficult. To get to a meaningful size of audience seems incredibly difficult.
On Twitter, the graphs are heavily skewed. For instance people with over 10,000 followers are in the 99.9th percentile of all users or the top 0.1%. Over a 1000 is at the 97th percentile. I’m not saying that’s the cut-off necessarily, but it’s a massively skewed ecosystem if a Twitter presence is what is supposed to get you to launch a “creator economy” career.
In theory, this is a bit of an indictment of the creator economy. If creators who are better aren’t necessarily the creators who are getting most of the benefits, then what’s the point? And also, if most creators aren’t able to do well, but only a few get to be superstars, is that a functional economy that one would want to be a part of?
No, in my case. It wasn’t.
Relatedly, I was talking to someone recently who didn’t believe in public funding of the arts.1 His rationale being that “people are prepared to pay for the art they want,” probably without actually realizing he was talking to someone with a failed creative career. I don’t think I quite outright laughed in his face, but it was close . . .
- He has a maths degree. Nuff said. [↩]