Community, Culture, & Content:

The Rise of OnlyFans

By Janelle Wallace
Illustration by Dale Edwin Murray

It seems to have happened overnight. One day we were confined to our homes, the next, the name OnlyFans was buzzing on the internet streets—on the tip of every tongue. OnlyFans is a subscription content service (primarily known for its adult content) on which creators can earn money from users who subscribe to their channel. While the platform had received press long before the COVID-19 outbreak, quarantine provided the perfect storm: a combination of digital content creation, an opportunity for monetization, and sheer boredom.

But what makes a brand such as this permeate culture? And, more specifically, what makes THIS type of brand resonate in a culture forever changed by the times?

A Beyoncé shoutout doesn’t hurt. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard her line on the remix to Megan Thee Stallion’s hit single “Savage” in which she raps, “On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans.” The already bubbling platform was then launched into orbit reaching a new stratosphere and awareness with a whole new audience. The platform has since reported a 75% increase in signups, with 150,000 new users creating accounts daily.

But what makes a brand such as this permeate culture? And, more specifically, what makes THIS type of brand resonate in a culture forever changed by the times? A Beyoncé shoutout doesn’t hurt.

During these times, artists, creators, and even laymen have had to get creative in the digital space to stay relevant and continue bringing in money. Plenty of digital content has sprouted and continues to flourish as a result.

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland birthed Verzuz, a battle-style IG series putting two musicians, producers, or songwriters head-to-head with their best hits. Tory Lanez’s Quarantine Radio made history breaking a myriad Instagram Live record ahead of the release of his album, The New Toronto 3. A mix of live-streamed twerk sessions, chats with big-name stars, and gallons of wasted milk, the series has reportedly earned Tory an offer from MTV.

Image Courtesy of KTT2

Then there’s the after-dark content. Take Demon Time, a network of virtual strip clubs complete with tipping capabilities through CashApp, created by Justin LaBoy. OnlyFans has recently announced a partnership with Demon Time bringing the digital club from Instagram Live to the platform. The debut show had a stacked guest list including The Weeknd, YG, Kevin Durant, and Odell Beckham Jr.

The long and short of it is that, under quarantine, digital content is the event. It’s the only place we can currently commune live to chat and experience in unison.

Contributing to the rise of OnlyFans is the reality that the influencer market is in flux. OnlyFans is undeniably known for adult content, but the platform is clearly looking to diversify as evidenced by the OnlyFans Twitter feed showcasing the many other industries it can support including comedy, fitness, and beauty among others.

While platforms such as Quibi have been adversely affected by the times, outside of Instagram, OnlyFans has likely gained the most notoriety and market share. The platform has even lured celebrities such as Blac Chyna, Safaree, and Casanova to create accounts charging followers upwards of $50 a month for access to their content. 

Singer The-Dream also released his latest project, Sextape 4, on the platform featuring different women dancing to tracks from the project. The effort illustrates the potential of OnlyFans as a marketing platform and the opportunity to “hack” the community. How soon before the platform allows paid advertising from brands in the vein of Facebook Ads Manager or YouTube Ads?

Image Courtesy of HipHop-N-More

As unemployment rates continue to climb, monetization is the magic word. With OnlyFans providing an 80/20 split favoring creators, it’s clear why the platform has taken off in the way that it has. Compare those splits to other platforms such as YouTube (55/45), and the content restrictions on platforms such as Patreon, and the choice becomes even more evident.

Is the upward climb of the platform simply a symptom of our time indoors? Can OnlyFans continue to fan the flames once the world opens back up? I’ll venture to bet yes. While subscriptions might dwindle a bit, we’ve opened Pandora’s Box—it’s on your phone and is full of twerks and voyeurism—and it can’t be unopened. As long as there’s the ability to make good money from the comfort and safety of home, OnlyFans will continue to thrive.︎