You’re probably familiar with the “All your base are belong to us” meme, or any number of variations of the “New phone, who dis” memes. But before memes were “dank”, they were already pretty mainstream on the Internet. During the ’90s and early 2000s however, memes looked very different from what they are today. They were short clips that became video memes frequently involving singer Rick Astley’s hit song, “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
But once social media hit, memes became a supercharged way of fun communications, both as a form of trolling and afterculture. Today, they are how whole generations connect and relate to culture, entertainment and ideas spanning all genres.
How Meme-Makers Became Memelords
Over the last few decades, art has steadily moved towards the influence of the streets. Artists such as Basquiat and more recently, Banksy, communicate important cultural movements in the world through their work; on the Internet, that exchange of culture occurs via memes. In fact, meme-makers may have never made it big if not for social media. It allowed them to explode into the mainstream, treating their humour and creativity as expressive digital art.
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, who invented the term, describes Internet memes as a “hijacking of the original idea”1, which is exactly what street art does. And just like street artists, the people who create tremendously successful memes are celebrated. “Memelords”, as they are known, are recognised on social media and other forums where memes propagate. On Instagram, @drgrayfang, @9gag and a host of other accounts enjoy massive followings. Locally, @sgag is just one of many meme-makers entertaining the public with their opinions.
The Business of Meme-ing
It’s not just for entertainment, though. When modern memes started to take off, there was one legitimate forum to go to for them: Reddit. The “r/memes” forum remains one of the most popular, with over 13 million subscribers and hundreds of memes, if not thousands, posted a day. After the “r/memes” forum was established, the “r/MemeEconomy” community quickly sprung up, where people were investing in memes to demonstrate their popularity. Today, the meme economy is real.
On @drgrayfang’s account, and others such as @whatdoyoumeme, you often see sponsored posts for branded, meme-related products. From t-shirts to card games, art posters and much more, the meme economy has exploded. Professional meme-makers such as Sebastian Tribbie a.k.a. @youvegotnomale often work with brands to create memes for their own use2. There are even meme-makers who have invented card games a la Cards Against Humanity style, with many different ones now on the market and available for gifting.
For many of them, it started simply by establishing a dedicated social media meme account such as Instagram. Then they steadily grew a following by creating memes that were relevant to what was trending. With the help of social media content algorithms, their popularity grew rapidly. Once they had become influencers, their work soared in attention and drew the attention of brands looking to engage with young consumers who were meme-lovers. What was a passion project and side hustle for meme-makers turned into their main gig.
What’s Your Side Hustle?
For many of us, the idea of a side gig that adds to your income is an enticing one, especially if, like memelords, it follows your passions. To start developing a secondary income stream based on your interest, consider how you can introduce it to your community and become an opinion leader on the topic. Find a unique way to own your content through your own style and your side hustle may prosper.
Having multiple income streams gives you the opportunity to figure out which has the greatest potential to grow further. But it’s important to be financially prepared, if you plan to focus on monetising and following your passion. Before you make the leap, talk to a Prudential Financial Consultant
to understand how to prepare for the future, or use our Needs Analysis Calculator
to learn about your financial requirements. This way, you can ensure that your financial planning allows you to focus on your own goals, while protecting the things you care about most in life.
This article is for your information only and does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any persons. Please seek advice from a qualified Financial Consultant for a financial analysis before purchasing a policy suitable to meet your needs.
Richard Dawkins at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase 2013 in Cannes, click here
High Snobiety article on “How to Make Money from Memes”, click here
Meme artist Lauren Kaelin’s Benjamemes are available here