Updated: Mar 16
In today’s consumer economy, our bank account transactions reflect the significant growth in subscription commerce.
Along with our monthly payment plans for utilities, Wi-Fi, and telecoms, we increasingly see subscription contracts for entertainment and eCommerce services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. These generate individually small but significant revenues by total customer volume, paid each month to the giants of these industries through regular signed-up subscription models.
Subscription commerce, however, poses a real challenge for the creative community. Living hand-to-mouth at some stage in the creative career goes with the territory, but the ‘as-a-service, pay-for-use’ thinking that the ‘micropayments’ economy is driving is a very real threat to creatives who set out on careers that take years to develop and require significant investment in training, equipment and living costs:
According to Miloco, a world-wide recording studio directory, day rates for a writing studio start around £450 and top-end live room studios cost £1000 per day or more.Student costs are significant with the average student graduating with debts of over £50,000 according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.In sports, aspiring young stars of the future are now spending more than £6,000 per annum according to SportsAid on travel, accommodation and equipment.
The ‘bank of mum and dad’ plays an increasingly important role in the lives of creatives while sponsorship, charities, endorsements and bursaries are additional (if limited) sources of funding.
More widely, there are many dissenting voices across a broad range of industries bemoaning the rise of the gig economy and its impact on full-time employment, streaming services in entertainment that return nano-payments to artists, and never-ending cuts in public funding for the arts, sport and culture. And yet consumers browse for cheap flights and holidays, discount codes on everything from furniture to clothing, and ‘buy one get one free’ supermarket offers. The one drives the other and no-one should be surprised that new employee models, incremental payment platforms and shrinking grant funding are the natural outcome.
We must recognise too the ever-widening gap between the top tier in these industries and everybody else. Sports superstars generate billions in ticket sales, personal appearances and brand endorsements; media titans pay billions for TV rights to cover major events and pay huge salaries to anchormen and women; artists land multi-million-pound record deals and tour the world generating billions in concert fees and merchandise. On the face of it, the challenge of these new realities in music, sport and education seem insurmountable.
There is however a genuine opportunity for creatives to harness the subscription commerce model by monetizing their network directly while incentivising support by offering shares in future income. Essentially this takes subscription commerce thinking, already well established by major brands and applies it on a one-off or ongoing project basis to the creative artist, student or athlete proposition.
In exchange for a share in future income, ‘subscribers’ to a project are offered the opportunity to purchase a tiered certification product that guarantees a range of benefits, confirms ownership and the percentage level of earnings attributable in the future. Subscribers linked to specific projects can trade up or down with one another while the project owner – the artist, student or sportsperson – receive incremental commission payments as the beneficiary. With blockchain, the entire process of securing ownership becomes immutable and the process for payments are secured at all stages and for all parties entering into the shared income offer and associated contract.
In less than four months, 1990 will be three decades behind us, it’s time to accept that the 20th century no longer applies. Every tool and platform we now use to communicate, transact, entertain and run our day to day lives has come to prominence in the last fifteen years or less. In light of these realities, isn’t it time we embraced the possibilities that 21st-century technology offers?
Let’s harness the power of ‘one-to-many’ subscription thinking to the career paths of those that won’t usually attract major investment and funding. In doing so we will be guaranteeing access for our young people to the opportunities, tools and success that they so richly deserve..