Content creation is work, but in such a rapidly shifting social media landscape, creators face an uphill battle fighting for fair pay and ownership of their content — typically without any institutional support. The Creators Guild of America (CGA) wants to change that.
The CGA, which launched last week, describes itself as a “professional service organization” instead of a labor union. It won’t act as a collective bargaining unit or authorize strikes, but it does offer benefits that are “similar to those offered by unions,” according to its site. The non-profit group seeks to back creators with the benefits that workers in more traditional professions also enjoy, like providing networking events and working with brands and studios to advocate for fair pay.
The CGA’s board includes Justine Ezarik, known as iJustine, who has been a fixture of YouTube since 2006. Membership isn’t just for influencers; the CGA is open to videographers, designers, photographers and others across the “supply chain of the creator economy.” Its founder Daniel Abas compared the vast swath of occupations within content creation to that of the film industry.
“Much like in film, it takes an entire group of people to bring that piece of art to life,” Abas told The Information. “Only taking a look at one facet of the creator economy does an injustice to all the other creative people that contribute their time and creative talents.”
Membership is $99 per year, and eligibility is specific to the three categories of digital creator that the CGA recognizes. “Media” creators (influencers, online personalities and gamers) qualify if they have at least 15,000 followers and made $15,000 in brand deals within a year. “Marketing” creators (social managers, videographers, designers and photographers) can join if they have active employment at an agency or if they have at least 25,000 followers across 5 managed accounts. “Makers” (founders, developers and producers) are eligible for membership by raising $500,000 in venture capital or reaching 50,000 streams, downloads or installations.
In addition to access to resources and work opportunities, CGA members will receive accreditation for the work they’ve produced, which will be published in a public database of authenticated member projects. Creating a public record of work, independent of who owns it or where it’s hosted, is vital for creators to establish themselves as industry professionals. Like iMDb, the CGA database will track and validate creators’ contributions to the creator industry.
“In every creative profession, your credits are your currency,” the CGA states. “They demonstrate a public record of accomplishment, the foundation on which your reputation rests.”
If creators don’t yet meet the eligibility requirements, the CGA also offers a free “Associate” tier that provides access to the group’s newsletters and certain networking events.
The CGA is the latest attempt to organize creators and establish industry standards, which other organizations have struggled to accomplish. The Internet Creators Guild, an organization founded by beloved YouTuber Hank Green, shut down in 2019 due to lack of funding. SAG-AFTRA opened membership to influencers and content creators in 2021 in a special agreement that covers commercial work and brand deals. The union does not negotiate directly with social media platforms on behalf of members, however. This summer, creators signed the Labor Over Likes pledge, promising to not take work from struck studios in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
Another group of organized creators is trying to take on tech platforms themselves. Night Media president Ezra Cooperstein founded the Creator Project because “platforms have too much power” over creators. The initiative is still in its early stages, and organizes meetings in a Discord server of about 400 members.