Part three

The creative industry,
a serious business

In Flanders, there are 125,000 people working in the creative industries. According to recent research organised by the consulting company EY, the creative industry is the third largest employer in Europe. The question is no longer whether it is worth investing in this sector. The question is what will it cost us if we don’t?

“I still hear the occasional sarcastic remark about the creative industries around us. The trick is not to take them too seriously. Because isn’t this sector made up of people that have too much time on their hands, and that make jewellery or paintings in the attic?” Pascal Cools, director of Flanders DC, sighs. “Well, in September 2014, Minecraft, a game (and gaming is part of the creative industry) was sold to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars. A few years ago Volvo was sold for 1.6 billion dollars.

“This example clearly shows that Europe is witnessing a shift from industrial value to creative value,” says Carlo Vuijlsteke, project manager of the Creative Industry at Flanders DC.

A Dynamic image

The creative industries help regions move ahead. They now form the future by ensuring a flourishing creative and cultural climate, which provides value for society. The dynamic image that a region acquires in doing so attracts international projects. But the creative industries also deliver a direct, calculable contribution towards our economy: in Flanders they are good for an added value of 7 billion euros. Besides that, they have another role outside their sector by cross-pollinating with other sectors. To learn more, read part 2 of this series: Working together pays off: on our way to an inspiration economy.

Isolde Lasoen

The Flemish numbers

Numbers from the recent impact study "Creatieve Industrieën in Vlaanderen" of the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at the Antwerp School of Management, show that these sectors in 2010 were good for more than 125,000 jobs and represented 3 percent of the Flemish economy.

hen we compare these numbers with the ones from 2008 (the first impact study) you can see two global trends: in the creative industry you see an increase in the amount of self-employed (2 percent), the amount of employers (with 5 percent) and the amount of employees (6 percent). At the same time, there is a decrease in the turnover (with 5 percent) and in the added value (with 2 percent). Here we need a caveat: the period 2008 to 2010 fell right in the middle of the financial crisis during which the whole economy experienced a downturn.

The quickest conclusion: fewer earnings are being shared among more people” has to be nuanced. The impact study explains the creative industries in detail and divides the twelve subsectors (architecture, audio-visual sector, visual arts, design, heritage, gaming, written media, fashion, music, new media, performing arts and advertising & communication) into three clusters. This shows a nuanced image and a few trends. The first cluster: arts (performing- and visual- arts) and cultural heritage shows an increase across the board from both employment and proceeds. The most significant trend we have here is the upsurge of companies that offer commercial business support to artists from the performing arts and visual arts.

The second cluster is the media- and entertainment industry (written media, the audiovisual sector, music industry and gaming). This cluster shows a general decline. Increasing digitalisation clearly has an influence. In the gaming industry, it works in a positive way but elsewhere, the support industries are having a hard time (video shops, printers, distribution, newspaper and magazine retail).

The third cluster evolves around the creative business services (communication and advertising, architecture, design and fashion). The image we have here is mixed: more people work in the sector, but the turnover and added value are in decline. Design is seeing major growth in all areas. The increase from the amount of players in the creative industries with slightly declining added values, is an extension of earlier findings that this sector is characterised by a majority of small to very small businesses and a few large companies.

This statement supports Flanders DC’s conclusion that stimulating entrepreneurship and professionalisation is a must for the creative industries.

Creative and enterprising, a different kettle of fish

In the fringe of the Creativity World Forum in Kortrijk in November 2014, a workshop was organised by Flanders and North Brabant, two regions that were acclaimed in 2014 as the most enterprising regions in Europe, for policymakers to stimulate more entrepreneurship in the creative industries.

Een Generation Creatives workshop tijdens #cwf14.

For organisers such as Agentschap Ondernemen and Flanders DC, the starting point was very clear: people who are active in the creative industry need a different approach than just your average entrepreneur.

““In this sector it is often the case that income is in the first place devoted to funding new creative projects and that maximising profits often comes second place. The mainstream market-logic arguments appeal less to this target group”.
Carlo Vuijlsteke, project leader Creatieve Industry at Flanders DC

But still, a base of knowledge is very necessary. Not only is the creative sector very competitive (you have to be the “best”), it is at the same time a very dynamic sector that brings with it a lot of challenges: internet brought disruptions in the distribution process and digital developments require different business models. Also, creative businesses are often faced with highly unpredictable demand. Conducting market research beforehand is most of the time useless.

What is also very remarkable is the phenomenon of the missing middle”, says Carlo Vuijlsteke. “In some creative sectors you have a limited amount of big players and then an overload of mini-businesses. And the status of the ‘makers’ (artists, designers etc.) is largely precarious and unstable. It is very clear that this sector needs business support.

Well begun is half done

To encourage and support enterprises in the creative industries, Flanders DC started at the beginning: with Generation Creatives a platform was created that facilitated and encouraged starting in this sector. The platform offers a network of coaches and services for starters and pre-starters in the sector. In addition to a portal site, there are also information sessions and networking nights. Because learning from other creative entrepreneurs and specialist coaches, certainly offers a competitive advantage.

Fuel for Fashion

The Antwerp-based Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), which is part of Flanders DC, takes care of just one sector of the creative industries: Fashion. Informing, coaching and promoting both new designers and more mature labels is part of their range of tasks. Not a luxury. Belgian Fashion is internationally acclaimed, but this well-deserved reputation does not yet mean that entrepreneurship in this sector is easy.

This year the Flanders Fashion Institute, besides the different coaching and info sessions, launched ‘Fashion Fuel’, a program where four promising designers with commercial potential, get a nudge in the right direction with intensive coaching and financial support. The selection for Flanders Fashion Fuel was based on the creative DNA of the designer, but also on the business plan.

“The fashion industry has a few idiosyncrasies that make entrepreneurship a lot more difficult. The infernal rhythm of every season with at least two collections per year and the high level of initial outlay required from designers”.
Ann Claes, project leader at FFI

The creative town

In an economy where inspiration and networking are central and where it is important to show yourself as an industry, conferences such as Creative Ville and Fashion Talks have proven their value. With a plenary program and workshops, these kinds of events offer inspiration around entrepreneurship in the creative industry. As mentioned before, studies show that learning from one another is the best way to learn in the creative industries.

“At the FFI during the coaching sessions we see that budding fashion designers do not have enough information about the world in which they have started working”, says Anne Claes. “The exchange of information between designers and fashion-entrepreneurs and also entrepreneurs from other industries is very necessary. Fashion talks responded to that need”.

Antwerp is invariably included in the list of major fashion capitals such as London, Paris, New York and Milan. The Fashion Academy in Antwerp is known worldwide and already in the 80s the Antwerp Six put Antwerp fashion on the map. “That is a different aspect of a conference such as Fashion Talks where we give international names a stage,” says Ann Claes. “From here on it is important to give a powerful signal towards the international fashion world and to preserve the strong brand of Flemish fashion."

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