The self-empowerment and individual expression that web 3.0 technologies enable was a resounding theme at the Creator House, a joint project by Rolling Stone and Meta (formerly Facebook) that spanned two days at SXSW in Austin last week. Featuring discussions centered on how creatives can leverage the tools of emerging technologies, The Creator House aspired to the same aims of the metaverse itself, offering an open forum for people from a variety of backgrounds and vocations to engage. The focus on forward-thinking discussions about bettering creative communities was enhanced by product demonstrations, DJ appearances and a rooftop lounge furnished with huge cloudlike bean bag chairs.
Panelist conversations ranged from abstract theorizing about the possibilities of web 3.0 to tactical advice to succeed on social platforms like how frequently to post, the value of first impressions, tips on avoiding hackers, and how to avoid creative slumps. The event also featured electric moments, such Texas-based rapper and BARS competition winner Festive firing off a barrage of impressive acapella bars that had the crowd nodding along in rhythm, even without a backing beat.
Among the most reiterated points expressed at the two-day event was that emerging tech spaces will reflect the creators who adopt them. “We need skeptics and doubters,” said streetwear designer Bobby Hundreds, calling attention to an attendee in the crowd wearing a (mostly ironic) shirt that read “NFTS ARE A SCAM,” which was designed by his company. “Most of all, we need outsiders, who are looking at this space completely fresh,” Hundreds said.
He and other panelists said the metaverse and emerging creator spaces remain amorphous and uncharted. They see an opportunity for those who envision a more equitable exchange of goods and services to get involved now and make the space representative of their interests and goals. Hundreds says it’s good to approach new tech with questions but also feels that it’s up to those conscientious and visionary thinkers to interact with and shape these spaces as they emerge. He also expressed the importance of shedding ego and recognizing that pioneers in new tech spaces need to pave the way for others as they grow the community at-large. “I’m like the Rakim of NFTs, the KRS-One — no one is going to remember much of what I’ve done, but it’s okay because I believe so much in the work,” Hundreds quipped.
Throughout the sessions, participants emphasized the ability emerging technologies and platforms possess to disrupt the status quo by circumventing traditional gatekeepers. Because these decentralized platforms don’t depend on approval from entrenched industries, creatives like illustrator Maliha Abidi see it as an open door for anyone and everyone — not only musicians and artists but also activists and entrepreneurs of all kinds. “It’s not just about buying an NFT; it’s about investing in the future of a project,” she said during the ‘Metaverse Creator Economy’ discussion. Abidi has found success with her NFT project Women Rise, a series of 10,000 digital artworks featuring women with diverse skin tones and varying careers.
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Gaming streamer Candice Townsend, aka Munchkindoom, echoed Abidi’s sentiment. During the ‘Controller One Chronicles’ session, she explained that she decided to get involved in Facebook Gaming when she didn’t see anyone that looked like her in these spaces — meaning not just Black women but also vocal and expressive plus-sized women. “I knew that if I was going to be in this industry, I would have to help eliminate the gatekeeping,” Townsend told the audience, adding that she used her streaming platform on Facebook to converse with and educate viewers on how to get involved themselves.
Using online interconnectivity as a tool for equity and change was underscored by the ‘Socially Conscious’ panel with activists Deja Foxx and Ambers Closet, both of whom advocate using social media to organize like minds around a common cause. “Creators are filling an important gap in traditional media,” said Foxx, who worked on Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign as a digital strategist at age 19. She says there’s value in taking your message directly to a community rather than relying on more heavily regulated modes of communication.
Whether advocating for social change or self-promoting artwork, panelists agreed about the power of using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to gain an audience and boost engagement. “Everything is opening up the gates for anyone to enter and build their own leverage and not have to rely on anybody to create their success,” said musician and creator JVKE. The fact that success in these spaces doesn’t depend on approval from a centralized entity has the added benefit of producing community-vetted creators since their popularity rises organically from audience interest and engagement rather than a company’s decision to market an artist or musician.
Because the metaverse and its rules of engagement are still being written, avenues to success are more open as conventional thinking about monetization shifts. Creators no longer have to seek approval from single gateways like record labels, publishers, or angel investors. Instead, these platforms themselves act as an open door for any creator who decides to get involved.
Ultimately, the two-day symposium spotlighted creative minds and showcased a pervasive enthusiasm that emerging tech spaces offer tremendous opportunity. “Creators in the market now have way more control of their future, their fanbase, how they put stuff out,” said Houston rapper Tobe Nwigwe. “I feel like this is the most opportune time to be a creator.”