Creative Industry Driving Economic Growth

The veritable creator economy that is fuelling a new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship is slowly growing and emerging as an industry unto itself

Across the globe, cutting through geospatial and demographic frameworks, a growing number of individuals are emerging as creative forces to reckon with, thanks to a burgeoning arts and culture scene enabled by a new breed of technology. The near-ubiquitous reach of the internet that has led to the mushrooming of a growing number of digital platforms allows people across socio-economic classes to earn a livelihood by highlighting their individuality. The platforms offer individual and collective talent to reach audiences across the globe, create binge-worthy engagement and garner increasing support from tech players to differentiate themselves and grow their brand amidst growing competition.

The veritable creator economy that is fuelling a new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship is slowly growing and emerging as an industry unto itself. A Deloitte study of nine economies across Europe and Asia Pacific alone found that the creative economy employed nearly 20 million people in 2018, a number that has nearly trebled since the world was overtaken by an unprecedented pandemic two years ago. Over time, this economy is projected to be a key driver of economic growth. The development is not a new one. The American creative industry has used its media platforms to not only promote its culture worldwide but also grow economically. Hollywood alone contributes billions to the US economy annually and holds approximately 3.2% share of GDP (Rosal, 2022). With creators venturing into original ecommerce avenues, the field has become more attractive and appealing than ever before. There are refreshing innovations happening globally. US-based Patreon, for instance, affords member fans opportunities to support their favourite artists, while closer home Meesho, provides novice entrepreneurs with a chance to list myriad items for selling or reselling. A little further across borders, Taobao, an Alibaba-owned Chinese online consumer-to-consumer retail venture provides a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online stores with express delivery services. Taking a single’s day shopping live for customers through their platform, Taobao generated $7.5 billion sales in 30 minutes of livestream! These digital tools and technological support are empowering creators’ to reach a much wider audience at minimal costs thereby making the prospect of a creative economy stronger than ever. As it stands today, the creative economy spans science and technology, arts, culture and entertainment, as well as medicine, finance and law. The scale of economic growth that this sector now offers is too phenomenal to be taken lightly. With the creative economy accounting for 3% of the global GDP, it is small wonder that UNESCO declared 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

As more and more economies recognise the value of creative products and services, the industry, though informal in many parts of the world, is now receiving government support. The innovations, over the last decade in particular, have facilitated an unparalleled match of arts and technology bringing entertainment and information literally to the palms of our hands. OTT (Other the Top) entertainment platforms have completely changed viewership patterns, offering vastly diverse flavors of content that are time and space agnostic. Consumers of digital content are being spoilt for choice. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the creative economy is entering its golden period not only as a harbinger of creativity but also as a significant contributor to a nation’s GDP. As more and more people join the creator economy as creators, influencers, actors and in numerous other roles, the sector is booming as a source of employment.

The appeals and promises of the creator economy are a no-brainer. The ease of reaching an international audience with just an internet connection, and the ability to earn a living by doing something one is passionate about is like a dream come true for many. There are creators earning millions of dollars by creating courses, providing tech support, cooking, entertaining, informing, selling digital content and engaging in brand deals, and more. These online micro-entrepreneurs are often part of the informal sector and number in millions. At the same time, the tech industry is working at a fever pitch to provide support to the creator economy: nearly every large social media platform and a multitude of startups are investing in new programs and features to attract and retain creators and engage audiences. Also with audience attention moving from traditional broadcasters towards OTT channels—audio and video--more and more brands are finding unique ways to market their products on these avenues.

Further, the value addition that the creative economy offers in terms of soft power is invaluable. It has been said that societies that are able to influence the world through their culture will exercise the maximum power in the years to come. In the new global digital village that we have come to inhabit, this idea holds more power than ever before. The cultural representation these industries provide by presenting a diverse range of human experiences can aid social cohesion, by sharing common contemporary narratives and creating a legacy for future generations.

While the creative economy conjures up images of video OTT spaces, audio is an equally significant player in the creative sector. With podcasts, audio books and social media audio networks growing on the horizon – audio has gone way past music and news into streaming services and products on varied genres. What makes it even more stimulating is how it engenders a change in behaviour with audio assistants like Alexa and Google who can be requested to perform tasks making hands-free to continue to create.

Together, these audio-video platforms are weaving a refreshing narrative that caters to all tastes. The audio platforms hold special value for multilingual countries like India where a plethora of languages and cultures allow content creators to create bespoke work for different markets spread across within India. What makes it even more exciting is its low-cost and even low pressure that offers confidence to anyone with passion to create content from stand-up comedy to holding counselling sessions and telling stories. According to Statista, the current market for audio OTT is $0.6 billion dollars, a figure that is expected to rise up to $2.5 by 2030.

Undoubtedly, there are challenges to this growth. It is important to look at ways of sustaining the existing audience and attracting new ones as competition grows in the creator industry. Governments should set up monitoring agencies for the same and make players within the industry aware of the same.

The creative economy impacts nearly every industry in direct and indirect ways. Hence, it is key to ensure it does not function or exist in isolation. Programs like skills enhancement, network development, supply chain management, and consumer awareness are key to help the economy thrive and grow towards a sustainable future.

Synergies from the economy can also help societies become more diverse by opening up to different ethnicities, races and age. The opportunity it affords for democratisation over homogeneity or stratification by income, education and class are also key. While gentrification may be good for the tax coffers, it reduces creative friction and synergy that come from diversity when all types of people rub shoulders in the creative hub. Taking a lead from the products they create themselves, the players and leaders of the creative economy must find a way to foster the more intangible assets of the evolving economy: diversity, transparency, openness, aesthetics, and accessibility.

*The author is Niyati Merchant, Co-founder & COO - Arré

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