Are We Members of the Creative Middle Class or the Creative Lower Class?
Everyone wants to be the former
There is a great mythology being created right now, right here. It made it to the august pub, The New Yorker, with an article about the creative middle class.
The article cycles back to 2008 and tech pundit Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans hypothesis, which says we can make a decent living with 1000 fans willing to shell out $100/year each to read, watch, or listen to our work.
An idea I, like a lot of people, latched onto that with enthusiasm. As with many forward looking ideas, Kelly was a little ahead of the reality. The tools weren’t quite there back then.
Fast forward 16 years and you have an entire shared dream of doing the work we love, on our own terms, and doing well enough. The emphasis here is on ‘well enough’.
I’m not dreaming of numbers in the millions, whether we are measuring dollars, followers, or likes (remember them?). Closer to Kelly’s convenient round number of 1k, though the real number seems to be around 10,000 people spending some time with our content and a fraction of them paying something for the privilege.
That fraction appears to be somewhere between 10–15%, based on the number of substack subscribers who upgrade to premium, paying memberships. But those numbers don’t net you 100 grand, probably less than half that.
Which would be fine with me. I’m pragmatic.
So, rather than a true middle class income, it’s more like above the poverty line. But hey, we are doing what we love right? If you build it, they will come…
A reminder, that came from a fantasy movie, one I love because I am a sucker for that stuff.
So, if you are compelling, work relatively hard, and stick to it, you will end up somewhere between a fantasy and the rent money, but maybe not that mortgage or a Lambo. Those are some pretty big ifs.
But I still buy into the idea and the promise for one main reason: the cost of entry is low, because of that the risk is low, and there are seven billion souls on this planet, any of them connected and hungry for knowledge.