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[REPORT] How Social Media Stars Are Ditching Brands For Direct-To-Fan Paydays

A new report from market research firm EMARKETER reveals that more social media creators are going direct-to-consumer to monetize their followings, bypassing brands in the process.

The study forecasts that U.S. creators will generate $13.69 billion from their activities on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube in 2024. While sponsored content remains the largest income source at $8.14 billion, EMARKETER’s data shows increasingly strong growth in direct audience monetization tactics like tipping, subscriptions, and merchandising sales.

[REPORT] How Social Media Stars Are Ditching Brands For Direct-To-Fan Paydays

Tipping, where fans make one-off payments to creators via social platforms, is expected to generate $160 million for U.S. creators in 2024, up 39.8% year-over-year. TikTok has been a major driver, becoming the first non-gaming app to top $10 billion in global consumer spending through virtual “coin” purchases last year, some of which go to creators as tips.

Subscription revenues from fans paying recurring fees for exclusive content are forecast to hit $270 million in 2024, rising 29.4% annually. Survey data from Teachable cited in the report found that 23% of U.S. consumers who engage with creators had purchased a membership or community access.

[REPORT] How Social Media Stars Are Ditching Brands For Direct-To-Fan Paydays

Physical product sales initiated on social platforms, known as merchandising, will generate an estimated $450 million for U.S. creators this year, according to EMARKETER. While fewer creators are selling basic items like T-shirts compared to the pandemic merchandising boom, the researchers note that big names like MrBeast and Kim Kardashian are finding major success with creator-founded brands.

The report states that direct-to-fan monetization is driven by creators aiming to become self-sufficient businesses less reliant on social platforms and brand sponsorship deals. However, EMARKETER emphasizes that sponsored content and other brand partnerships will remain the dominant income source in 2024, accounting for 91% of forecast U.S. creator revenues alongside platform payouts and affiliate marketing commissions.

[REPORT] How Social Media Stars Are Ditching Brands For Direct-To-Fan Paydays

Other key takeaways from the study:

  • Affiliate marketing revenues from creator product promotions will top $1.1 billion in 2024 as platforms like TikTok and YouTube launch new native affiliate tools. Fashion, beauty, and food/cooking are among the top industries for affiliate creator content.
  • This year, platform payouts from ad revenue sharing and creator funds will generate $3.23 billion for U.S. creators. YouTube’s long-running Partner Program dominates, but short-form video platforms continue struggling with consistent creator monetization policies.
  • While direct-to-fan tactics are nascent income streams for most creators, the report suggests they indicate consumers’ willingness to spend money on creator offerings beyond sponsored promotions. This could open the door to new types of brand collaborations like affiliate marketing, exclusive content, and co-branded products.

Read the full report here.

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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