Artists are making millions creating digital stickers

On Line, Japan’s most popular messaging app, 4m creators have fueled a booming sticker economy.

When you hear the word “sticker,” you might think of the gold stars that kindergarten teachers use to reward kids for a job well done.

On Line, which is the most popular messaging app in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand, stickers are the basis for a thriving creator economy, per Rest of World.

What kind of stickers are we talking about?

Line is primarily used for messaging, and stickers are manga-style cartoons that offer users a way to express their personalities.

With a wider cast of characters than emojis, stickers give users a more dynamic and specific form of shorthand that taps into cultural trends.

Line launched in 2011 with its own stickers, but the sticker economy took off in 2014 when the company opened up its marketplace to creators.

Business is booming

In 2020 alone, Line pulled in $200m in sticker revenue, with 4m designers creating stickers on the platform.

The economics break down like so:

  • Stickers typically come in packs of 40 that cost $1 to $5
  • Apple or Android take a 30% fee on the purchase
  • The remaining 70% is split 50/50 between Line and the creator

Like any marketplace, Line’s sticker economy follows a power law — with the top 10 sticker creators making an average of $10m in total lifetime sales.

As sticker revenue has grown…

… the marketplace has become more saturated. Artists say the most popular characters are set in place, which makes it harder to break through.

For its part, Line has played both sides — hyping the sticker opportunity for creators, while admitting that helping new creators is one of its biggest challenges.

At this point, any new designer that can break through with a popular sticker truly deserves a gold star.

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