Making More Full-Time Creators
We’re officially one month into pushing Clash live on iOS and creators are already using the app to not only earn more meaningfully, but they’re engaging on a deeper level with their fans. With that, I’m more excited than ever to share more about how and why Clash is dedicated to serving creators.
With the new app out there and having conversations with creators daily, I think it’s important to share the history of Clash, how it evolved from personal experience and a strong need, as well as our mission.
I started Clash with the sole purpose of helping creators keep creating more sustainably. My goal is for this platform to become everything I didn’t have as a creator that I wish I did — the tools to be successful. I want to solve the biggest issues facing creators and work with them to cultivate stronger communities with their audiences for more meaningful connections that have a lasting impact.
6 Seconds of Fame: Life as a Creator
I’ve been a creator my whole life. I’ve toured in punk bands, run improv groups, dipped my toes in live theater, and even had a brief stint in screenwriting. I’ve always needed an outlet for my weirdness, but these outlets have always been difficult to enter into, let alone make a living off of. Though I can appreciate the all-in dedication it takes to ‘make it’ in the performing arts, I welcome the role technology has played in making career-sustainability a thing for artists of all kinds.
My most ‘successful’ gig for creative expression happened by accident. In 2013, I started an account on Vine as a fun hobby — creating 6-second self-deprecating comedy videos on my iPhone was an exciting new form of self-expression, yet it turned out to be a window of opportunity for something I could have never imagined. What started as a weird outlet that my non-internet friends couldn’t understand quickly became the best part of my day. I think my genuine enjoyment of the process of taking my creativity as far as I could go was reflected in just how bizarre each Vine I posted was. People enjoyed it too! Hundreds of fans quickly became thousands, and thousands became hundreds of thousands. At the time, this level of attention on your phone was quite new — my head was spinning.
While I had found a creative outlet that allowed me to become audience rich, it was also a vehicle that made me cash poor. Vine far predated what we now know as the “creator economy” at a time when being a full time “influencer” was barely a concept. I struggled to make a living off the platform — despite growing an audience of nearly one million — and the platform provided me with no support in doing so (I still love you though Vine.) My first brand deal was for $75, and for all the excitement I felt at the time, it hardly kept the lights on. Even though I was barely scraping by, I was still excited to create, knowing that there were folks out there connecting with what I was posting.
Just as I was starting to put the pieces together, working not just as a Creator, but helping other creators create — Vine was shut down. The place where creators first shot videos and built an audience was gone.
From Creating on Platforms to Creating Platforms
After Vine shut down, most Viners had to find a new platform to call home — many chose YouTube, others went to Instagram — but like so many creators, I was burnt out. I decided to hop to the business side of the emerging creator economy to see how I could help creators better earn. Note: I still walk around the house trying out weird characters and voices — this part of me has not left.
I spent some time working with other platforms, offering opinions from a creator perspective, including Musical.ly and a number of other smaller apps, helping them identify how to best serve all types of content creators. I sat on panels at VidCon and Playlist Live alongside YouTube, Instagram and other major platforms to share creator perspectives.
Eventually, I found myself at NeoReach, one of the earliest influencer marketing agencies working on a whole new means of advertising — by way of creators. I became the Creative Director of the platform and helped pay literally thousands of creators through brand partnerships. Our largest project was onboarding hundreds of creators to TikTok for their US and select European markets.
Having been both a creator, and then working on the business side since the near inception of the terms “influencer” and “creator economy,” I’ve learned the critical shortcomings of the existing platforms and the missing pieces to the creator narrative. My four key takeaways are what influence why we do what we do at Clash and how we’re choosing to build the platform as creator-centric.
1. Big platforms and ad-based models will leave most mobile video creators underserved
After Vine, TikTok jumped in to solve the virality void that Vine set in motion. This meant creators like me could get back to creating and amassing audiences of millions. But even with now billions of users, creators have very quickly found themselves struggling to earn from the platform they were helping to build. This was largely by design.
TikTok has successfully become a virtual copy of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. They have billions of users and they are in command of most of the eyeballs on the internet. The only way to monetize that sustainably is to throw tons of ads at the viewers.
Speaking anecdotally, I have personally sat in meetings with giant mobile platforms that promised to offer something new to creators. It came in the form of Creator Funds. These funds do a great job of attracting an initial wave of creators, but once the flood gates open, the funds tend to go quickly or funnel to a certain tier of creators. As is the case with branded content; the same creators tend to see the majority of the budget, and most get left out.
The TikTok Creator Fund pays an average of three cents for every thousand views, meaning most of the value accrues to the top 1% of Creators, and forces emerging talent with smaller followings to play the algorithm game to amass enough views.
YouTube remains the most pro-creator platform through their ad share model, but the industry views revenue share as an early mistake rather than a core feature. Sharing such lucrative ad revenue with creators is seen as a compromise, not a strength. That is why no other platform is eager to replicate this model.
2. The existing brand deal system is inherently flawed
The brand deal model exacerbates the same problems with the ad share model — the big dollars go to the biggest creators. Smaller creators accept brand deals at lower rates because they come less frequently and these deals have a disproportionately larger negative impact on their audience in comparison. Having less of an audience creates a fragile environment that smaller creators can’t afford to disrupt. It is next to impossible, let alone sustainable, for creators to develop a career online while trying to lock in brand deals that are in-tune with their authentic persona. Not to mention, with the growing number of creators sprouting up on major discovery platforms, competition over making the roster for a brand campaign is hotter/harder than ever.
I’ve seen this worsen not only through the text messages from friends asking if I knew of any running campaigns, but from years of running these campaigns, hoping I was helping the right creators take a crucial next step in their careers. After nearly 8 years in the branded content space, both as a creator and a campaign director, the problems of scarcity, opportunity inequality, and unfair pay are continuing to grow.
3. Audiences are looking for deeper, authentic connections with Creators
It’s a simple progression if you understand the life of a creator. Creators know their fans, what they like to see, and how they like to be engaged with. They’ve been growing their audiences for years and work every day to keep them around.
Creators have also witnessed the buying power of these fans by selling merchandise, earning from affiliate links, and watching the friends of their fans purchase shoutouts on Cameo.
Throughout my career I’ve put the pieces together much in the same way that creators do now, but without some of the new and great resources at my disposal. Bottomline, I loved engaging with the folks supporting my content on Vine and other early platforms. For me, it was all about giving my followers a contribution and look into my life as a creator, and in response, they were happy to chip in and support.
I was able to get pretty creative in terms of engaging with the folks who supported me. Some of the ways I’d connect with them included: having my Patreon supporters pick episode topics for my podcast, go live on Instagram and take feedback on which Vine characters I should bring back, and even sending super-engaged Snapchat followers song releases early when I was still making music. Regardless of the platform or reason to connect, my followers loved connecting in a way that didn’t feel too transactional, but in a way that left them with experiences they definitely weren’t getting elsewhere.
4. Direct support from fans is the only sustainable path
Creators are turning to fans for support. It’s not just a move of desperation, it’s one that has been evolving in the background while creators have struggled to earn a living. Through platforms like Venmo, Cash App and PayPal, creators have been receiving direct support from fans, asking for them to help buy a cup of coffee, fund projects, and chase their goals. And creators of all sizes are making this happen. It’s a model that works for everyone — not just the top 1–3% of creators.
But, the inefficiencies of using these payment platforms as a creator are causing unnecessary friction in the creator-fan experience. There’s no platform for short-form video creators to move their top fans, engage directly with them, and receive monetary support. In addition, fans of creators have gone unnoticed for far too long. We think it’s time to change that.
Clash’s Mission: Make more full-time Creators
My dream is to normalize the creator career the same way we do with other dream jobs. We already normalize the way people go to college to learn the skills that will help them find a job that pays their bills. There’s no reason we can’t dignify a career as a creator in the same light. Creators download their platforms, make videos, and grow an audience to earn a living. There’s no right or wrong when choosing a path to fulfill your goals.
That’s why Clash exists. It’s the one place where everyone is a creator and everyone can earn. And it’s not by accident. I’ve dedicated years of my life to this because, quite literally, my friends need it. The creator world needs it.
We’re on a mission to make millions of full-time video creators.
It is my belief that direct support from fans is the only sustainable path forward to start helping the growing class of mobile video creators. Although no monetization tool can serve every creator, we have built the foundation of what will serve the vast majority of creators. We are servicing people who want to start earning as a creator right away; not just the ones who have the wherewithal to tough it out for a 10-year YouTube career. We’re making this easy for everyone.
We’re filling a massive gap in the market — earnings for the fastest growing and largest subset of people that are creating content on the internet. We will be their home for getting money directly from their fans. We’re providing the tools for creators to connect directly with their top fans and recognize the support they’re receiving to foster deeper connections.
In our first month with a live app, over 1,500 creators are already earning on the platform. Thanks to the tools provided by our incredible team at Clash, individual creators are earning thousands of dollars from their fans, outpacing income from brand deals on other platforms, paying their rent, enabling new creative projects, and more. I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful creators who come and start their careers on Clash.
Join us on the journey to connect creators to their fans and redefine the creator experience.
See you on Clash,