Bursting the Redbubble: Does the Creative Market Work?

Here I am, on another afternoon staring at my monitor as I type up this post. Wait, this sounds somewhat familiar. As I’m reading another of Andrew Ross’s books (In this case, it’s Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times ) I come to the realization that this is going to be the last required reading I’ll have to do for this course (But not the last one I’ll have to do, more on that in a bit). I took a moment to reflect on the posts that I’ve been writing over the last several months, at the various topics I’ve discussed and how they’d relate to my future in the creative industries. I’ve been mainly talking about the gaming industry, and when I haven’t been talking about video games I’m usually talking about online storefronts.

The usual Redbubble front page

Earlier this year I started an account on Redbubble (A site where people can upload content and sell it on t-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, posters, and other products) as a side project to make a little extra cash here and there. I personally sell some designs I made in Illustrator/Photoshop based on some video games and anime. Something I noticed while browsing Redbubble is that while some of the products on there are original work, other products being sold on there use either other people’s work (Be it fan-art or their creations) or just straight up official promotional images. Sure, some of my own designs on Redbubble are traces of official work, but that’s in order to have a minimalist two-tone look that works well on print. Do these people who are just uploading preexisting images devalue the market for original content on Redbubble? Probably not, considering that while the official art usually pops up first, toggling the search to top sellers usually pops up fanart.

Redbubble2

A usual month’s pay on Redbubble

Since I’m only on Redbubble just for fun, I don’t worry too much about how well my design may sell compared to others. Even though I’ve been on the site since March with 4 different designs up for sale, I’ve only made 9 total sales since starting (7 on one design, 2 on another). And even then, from those sales I’ve only gotten about $25 total. If I had more to offer than a few Gundam designs up I’d probably make more, but who knows. Despite this I can see how this kind of occupation can be dangerous for those who do make a living this way. How well your work sells is going to be based on what you base your work off of. People are more likely to discover a shirt based off of say Captain America or Super Mario Bros over a shirt of US Agent or Bubsy, let alone an original creation. Redbubble admittedly isn’t the greatest site for people trying to sell products that aren’t based off of someone else’s work, sadly.

I personally don’t see myself making a living online in the future. Sure I’ll probably have a website to advertise my work and to post contact information, but I doubt my entire workfront will be online-based. After nine semesters and two majors finished, I’m finishing up my time at Wheaton with some doubts of where to go from here. It’s a bit late to submit requests for Graduate Schools that stat in the Winter, so it’ll most likely be going into the workforce again; that is if I can even get a job between now and January. Despite my doubts of an entirely new media future I look forward to my future in the new standard of work: “warily embraced by free agents and high-wage professionals at the jackpot end of the new economy, and wearily endured by the multitude of contingent, migrant, or low-wage workers at the discount end.” (p. 212) The skills I’ve acquired at Wheaton will probably be more than enough to get a foot in the door, but for now I feel like I should start off small. In the mean time, I’ll be posting more on my other blog, GG-Walkthrough if you wish to read more work by me.

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