A few months ago, a person who was explaining their business venture to me told me that their target client was not the creative entrepreneur. Their reason for avoiding this segment of the market was that, according to them, creatives are known for not making much money and we wouldn’t be able to afford the services that they offered. That is why, they continued saying, they couldn’t come up with a business strategy that relied on us. This idea that creatives can’t live from their art is not new. BBC radio Veteran John Humphrys famously said that “Art Does Not Get You A Job”, and a phrase like this said by someone who works within the industry shows that we have a lack of support from outsiders as well as from peers.
Last year, I wrote a post titled Art Puts Food On The Table about the contribution of the Creative Industries to the UK economy as a reaction to the thought that, while we are contributing massively to the economy, it doesn’t feel like we are given the importance that we deserve. This is something that also troubled Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards, the creator of an artists’ network with the aim of encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration across the arts sector, who said that “now more than ever, the arts are minimalised and trivialised”. The network that she created is called Art Does Not Get You A Job, and its name is inspired by Humphrys’s phrase.
In July this year, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) sent the new British Prime Minister an open letter stating that “The Creative Industries are the UK’s fastest growing sector, growing in every region and at twice the rate of the wider economy. In 2017, the sector generated £101.5bn GVA (that’s more than aerospace, automotive, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined). There are 2 million jobs in the Creative Industries (and jobs in the sector are growing at three times the UK average), while the Creative Industries account for more than 5% of the UK’s economy, and almost 12% of all UK businesses. Moreover, 87% of creative jobs are resistant to automation, which means that a creative workforce is one that is both resilient and future-proof.”
Later this year, the CIF also published an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, on the value of creative education.
It is true that early-stage freelance creative businesses struggle to take-off, but the same can be said of so many other industries. So, what’s the difference between our industry and others?
Well, for starters, in other industries like Technology, investors throw millions of pounds at thousands of startups in the hopes that at least one of them becomes the next big thing. In the Creative Industries, you have funders and patrons, but there aren’t enough, or there isn’t enough money to be able to develop early-stage creative businesses as there are in Technology.
Second of all, as Sonya Dyer says in her essay “Pivotal Moments”, mid-career creatives, considering mid-career to be the longest and most productive phase of a creative’s life, do not receive the same level of support that early-stage creatives receive. So, if early-stage creatives receive very little support, mid-career creatives don’t receive any at all.
This is the state that our industry is in right now. Like we have seen from the figures, we are a vital component of our economy, but one that seems to be as invisible as air. So, the same way that we need air to breathe think of all the consequences to our economy if we stopped creating financial and business support that targeted creatives.
If you don’t believe me, think of all the movies and the TV shows you like, think of the clothes you wear, the spaces where you live, the places you like to visit because of the way they are designed. Think of your favourite music playlist. Think of that witty ad that made you smile, or of the books you read, the poems that inspire you, the photos or artwork that hang on your walls. Think of museums and galleries, theatres and concert arenas, think of the videogames you play or the foods that melt your senses. A creative made that happen for you. Do you still think we are not worth targetting?
Photo credit: behind the scenes taken by Andrzej Gruszka.
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