Our economic potential is limited only by our collective imaginations – the right hemisphere of our brains applied to both creative and quantitative endeavors.
Orange, the Color of Creativity
You’ve heard of the green economy and the blue economy. Now, researchers are taking a closer look at the so-called “orange economy”. With no set definition, the core of the orange economy encompasses a wide array of cultural and creative goods and services from architectural design and performing arts to film, games, fashion, music and video games.
Creative goods and services include art you can hang on your wall, print newspapers and crafts, but also works that are “experienced” such as gastronomy and live music. Beyond the physical realm, they include gaming apps on your phone, advertising on TV, and streamed movies. The infrastructure that supports our interaction with creative goods and services are also part of the orange economy, such as stadiums, fiber-optic networks and museums.
Capturing the Value of Creative Output
A 2015 analysis by Ernst & Young presented in their report, Cultural times, attempts to quantify the value generated by cultural and creative industries in the orange economy. It suggests the global industry generated $2.25 billion in revenue, supporting 29.5 million jobs in 2013. At the time, the creative economy exceeded the value of the global telecoms services industry and the entire GDP of India – and this was before the digital streaming boom.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than one-third of global sales and 43 percent of jobs associated with cultural and creative industries. Visual arts and television broadcasts accounted for nearly 40 percent of the value generated by the industry and 35 percent of jobs. Other parts of the industry such as newspapers and book publishing employ more people but generate less revenue.
The report credits cultural and creative output as driving the online economy’s rapid growth. Sales of e-books, music, videos and games generated $66 billion in 2013. Content sales in turn drove sales of digital devices and subscriptions to online media and streaming platforms and the advertising on them. Ernst & Young estimates creative content yielded $22 billion in advertising revenues in 2013 for online media and free streaming websites such as YouTube.
These figures have probably grown exponentially in subsequent years. Consumer appetite for greater bandwidth and faster networks available on smart, portable devices appears insatiable, and the figures do not include billions in online ticket sales for performances, or all the additional revenue and jobs accruing to creative professional service providers such as digital advertising and media agencies.
Beyond the numbers, nurturing talent in the cultural and creative sector is important to economic development and growth. The industry is characterized by relatively fewer barriers to entry and digital opportunities now abound for creators to grow their business by acquiring a global reputation and audience. Cultural and creative industries tend to employ more youth and women and can offer more flexible work environments.
For example, American artists are 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed than U.S. workers overall. On the downside, many of the associated jobs are gigs – or temporary work – and remuneration might rely heavily on acquiring and asserting intellectual property rights. Without sustained work that is well compensated, creative and cultural work may fail to provide a source of reliable and adequate income.
A Culture of Trading
The beauty of trade in creative goods and services is the ability to enjoy tremendous cultural diversity, ingenuity, and have shared experiences as a global community. When K-pop and K-beauty burst on the scene, everyone could dance Gangnam-style or slather snail slime on their face. Beyond the cultural enrichment, policymakers have noticed the boost to the GDP bottom line of exporting cultural and creative offerings.
The UK is known for world-famous video games. One of its most notable exports is Grand Theft Auto 5, the fastest-selling video game of all time, which grossed $1 billion worldwide in its first three days. The UK government launched a $6.2 million Prototype Fund to help video game start-ups and pledged another $6 million to support a Skills Investment Fund for training in this and other creative sectors.
Canada has long offered tax credits to attract film and video production. An Ontario Music Fund provides grants to address investment gaps in its live and recorded music industry.
Latin telenovelas and music attract global audiences. The many World Heritage sites in Latin America built upon ancient Inca, Maya or Aztec civilizations are magnets for tourism exports (when visitors spend money in your country), supporting both local and national economic development while sharing the region’s rich cultural history.
Modern and traditional African art, sculpture and music hold wide appeal and are featured in global concerts and festivals. Nigeria’s government supports its film industry (“Nollywood”) which has become the country’s second-largest employer, generating export earnings and tax revenues.
Deploying a different model, Dubai in the UAE has created a cottage industry of hosting international cultural events, boasting the region’s largest indoor exhibition space. The UAE also opened the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2016 to serve as a focal point for contemporary art in the Middle East and invested $136 million in the Museum of the Future, which showcases futuristic inventions but is also positioned as an incubator for global design innovation.
Colombian President Iván Duque even campaigned on supporting growth of creative industries and set a goal of expanding production and exports to grow Colombia’s orange economy from 3.3 percent to 10 percent of Colombia’s GDP, putting it roughly on par with the manufacturing industry. He held an auction during which more than 320 investors bid on $124 million of “orange bonds” issued by Bancóldex backed by a triple-A rating.
Getting Paid for Creativity in the Orange Economy
To enable these industries to thrive, governments must shore up their legal frameworks to protect cultural and creative intellectual property from theft. Goods and services in the creative economy usually hold a distinct intellectual property claim, so that when an author or creator exports it, they retain some form of ownership on which to compensate them for use or enjoyment of the work. A developer in the Ukraine or Colombia, for example, would be entitled to receive a royalty each time their copyright-protected and licensed software is downloaded anywhere in the world.
Simply having appropriate intellectual property laws on the books, however, will not be sufficient to protect many creative works. In a survey by the Inter-American Bank, just 34.8 percent of creative entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean had made some effort to register their rights to intellectual property or obtain a copyright. Of the total of entrepreneurs, 17.4 percent responded they had not done so because they considered it “very expensive,” and another 16.4 percent said they did not know the procedures for getting the registration.
Although the survey was limited to one region, this is likely a familiar refrain globally, including in the United States where creators are familiar with rights available to pursue but find it too costly to obtain representation and navigate complex intellectual property laws. In some industries, creator organizations such as collective management organizations (CMOs) in the music industry, help overcome such challenges by manage licensing and distribution of royalties and remuneration to its member artists. More could be done by governments to help their creators avail themselves of intellectual property protections.
An Infinite Economic Asset
Protecting author and creator rights is critical to fuel industry growth and provide returns to authors and creators, particularly as digital platforms expand. Although such platforms enable them to reach global audiences, creators must adopt new business models and strategies to monetize amidst a sea of free content on internet intermediary platforms. Another challenge is that such platforms remain immune from liability despite hosting entities that traffic in products that violate copyright and other intellectual property rights protecting their creative goods and services.
It should also be mentioned that when it comes to cultural and creative experiences, digital and virtual are not forcing the extinction of an analog experience. Before COVID-19, New York City’s Broadway was achieving record sales. World class museums like the Guggenheim and cultural zones like West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong attracted their share of visitors. The Comic Market in Tokyo still drew global fans of Japanese manga and anime.
Put On Your Thinking Cap
Creativity is rapidly becoming a condition for competing in the globalized economy. It has become among the top ten skills sought by employers. The application of creativity is not limited to cultural goods and services. Scientific creativity drives the pursuit of new ways to study, experiment and resolve societal problems. Creative thinking is applied to design new products, new production processes and commercial practices.
Ernst & Young analysts point out that the world is young – and that young population is increasingly literate, has more means and a global outlook. If policymakers view creativity as a significant economic asset, and nurture and protect it as such, countries can leverage creative output to support jobs and growth.
And – if we can manage to protect freedom of expression and the ability to trade in cultural and creative works – we can simultaneously promote cross-cultural experiences, preserve traditions and heritage, and celebrate diverse aesthetics, which might just make our world more civilized.
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.