Black content creators have been outspoken about the disparities they face on various social media platforms. At The Root, we’ve reported on Black TikTok creators who have grown increasingly frustrated with white creators’ ability to earn more money and receive more sponsorship deals. These issues have led to Black creators striking and looking for alternative platforms where their voices will be heard and valued. But Isaac Hayes III believes he has developed a solution that will help folks who create viral social content get the credit they are due. Hayes III spoke with The Root about his idea and why he thinks it will change the game.
In 2018, Hayes III, a career songwriter, producer, and son of the legendary singer and songwriter, Isaac Hayes, noticed a kid from his hometown of Memphis who went viral for dancing in a Spider-Man costume to A-ha’s 1984 synth-pop hit, “Take on Me.” After receiving Hayes’ congrats, the young person asked him for advice on capitalizing on his newfound popularity. “From that conversation, I realized that this young man had no idea how to monetize his talent. Marvel and Disney own Spider-Man, so if they want to take it away, they can. But he should still be able to monetize his content and teach people how to dance,” Hayes said. And it was that conversation that inspired Hayes to launch Fanbase.
As the name implies, Fanbase is a social media platform that allows you to follow any user for free. A fee of $4.99 per month allows you subscribe to exclusive content. Users can also unlock one post at a time. The business model lets users make money by placing video, photos, or long-form pieces behind a paywall for fans to access. The idea is catching on. The Instagram account currently has over 103,000 followers
But as a person in their mid-40s who just discovered TikTok, I had to ask, are people really paying for this stuff? And according to Hayes, they are. “I met a young girl working at the Apple store and asked what her favorite band was. I expected her to say someone very famous like Ariana Grande, but she named an indie band I had never heard of,” he said. “I asked her if she would pay $4 a month to subscribe to that band, follow content they posted, and have the opportunity to win tickets to a show or go backstage and meet them. She said, ‘yeah!’ and that’s when I knew I had to do it.”
In an age where most content is subscription-based, Hayes believes Fanbase can provide an opportunity that has been missing for users to make money on viral social media content they create. And he wants potential users to know that everyone is welcome. “I built the platform for every single person on the planet. I want this to be a multi-billion used platform. The African-American component of all of this is that I’m a Black founder, which is rare.”
Although social media can be a place to find content that is good and bad, for now, Hayes says he’s not censoring anyone. “I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. I’d rather provide a space where everyone has a voice, and everyone can monetize. Discourse is needed. I just don’t want spaces where people feel like other people don’t belong because of their skin color or because of the way they decide to live their lives,” he says.
Hayes III, who checks the same age box I do, says he understands my confusion, but stresses that this is the way younger people want to access their favorite artists. “I didn’t build Fanbase for myself. I built it for a 17-year-old who loves Future and wants to see videos of him in the studio or going live at a party. I made it for young people, because subscription-based content is exploding,” he says.
Hayes says Fanbase will allow users to free themselves from traditional distribution models that often prevent certain groups (like people of color) from succeeding. Rather than waiting to get discovered, artists will now have the power to turn themselves into stars. “A lot of jobs are going to be replaced by technology. So we have to create an infrastructure where people can monetize themselves and turn themselves into life coaches, comedians and artists and have people pay to get their expertise,” he says.
If Fanbase achieves its goal, Hayes says it will disrupt all forms of media by removing the distributor from the conversation. And he says that artists who want to stay relevant will need to know how to play in this new space. “I tell artists that if they don’t start monetizing their content, they’re going to be outearned by someone less talented that decided to do so,” he says. “These days, you have to be a videographer, edit your own videos and be your own publicist. But the kids have the tools and the know-how to do it. And they will take things to the next level.”