This blog section contains new information, ideas and examples for creative people who want to make their businesses and organisations even more successful.
Written by business adviser, trainer and creative industries consultant David Parrish, these articles add to the ideas and examples published in his book 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity'.
I'm recommending The Curve to my consultancy clients in the creative and digital industries. This free eBook is a great short introduction to the The Curve. It contains specific references to creative industries subsectors including music, book publishing and computer games.
"The heart of the Curve is to enable those who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they truly value."
This approach embraces the idea of a 'Freemium' pricing strategy, combining Free for many people with a few paying Premium prices for deluxe goods and services.
What this means is, for example, make your game free to play, then add optional purchases to offer a range of extras for sale, including the option for true Superfans to spend lots of money. The same principle can apply to music, publishing and most other sectors in the creative industries - and beyond.
(Thanks to Jon Wetherall at Onteca games development studio for introducing me to The Curve.)
policy has both immediate and long-term consequences on a creative business
and has an impact not only on the economics of the enterprise but also on
the perception of its products and/or services.
can be derived from costs and this is a useful exercise to do, though it’s
not the only way to decide how much to charge. All the direct costs must
be included of course, including the cost of labour. More difficult to
calculate is a proportion of the indirect costs that should be allocated
to products and services - in other words, how much should the sale of
each item contribute to the overheads of the business? There is no exact
way to do this but there are conventions of management accountancy, which
can help. Whatever method you use, income from sales must
be sufficient to cover both the direct and indirect costs of producing
goods or services.
and retailers are part of the marketing and pricing equation, so building
in an attractive profit margin can help to incentivise such partners to
promote your products. Or to put it another way: if the price doesn’t
produce a profit for your distributors, they won’t sell your product.
way of calculating pricing ‘from costs upwards’ is useful for establishing
a minimum price, but doesn’t in any way indicate a maximum. We need to
take a look at pricing from the other end – in other words from the
customers’ point of view rather than the producer’s.
price customers are willing to pay for a service or product equates much
more closely with its value to them rather than what it cost you to create
and deliver it. So pricing is about the customer’s perception of value.
is not just about the economics of the business; it’s also intimately
connected with customer perception and the enterprise’s position in the
we fully understand what the customer is buying, we can set the prices
a pricing policy is one of the most important decisions creative
entrepreneurs make about their businesses. Pricing has significant consequences
not only on short-term income but the long-term perception of the business
and the goods or services it creates.
One of the points I make in my training workshop 'How to Make Money While You Sleep' is that 'Ideas Don't Make You Rich". I quote multimillionaire Felix Dennis, publisher and poet, who wrote in his book 'How to Get Rich': "Ideas don't make you rich, the correct execution of ideas does." In other words, ideas are necessary but not sufficient. So my workshop is about business models based on intellectual property, its creatiion, protection and commercialisation.
In terms of intellectual property rights, you cannot protect an idea, only its expression in a tangible format. These intellectual property rights can then be sold (or often even better) licensed or 'rented' to make money while you sleep. My article about Brazilian creative entrepreneur Guilherme Marconi, 'Don't Sell It; Rent It' is one example of this.
However, what's crucial, is a feasible business model, in other words a system for turning a great idea into sustainable income streams. This system can also be called a Profit Model, a Revenue Strategy or other name. It involves creating your own 'Business Formula', developed into a workable strategy, plus lots of hard work, resilience, and luck. This is the hard part!
Thanks to creative entrepreneur and workshop participant Hua Jing Li for sending me this link to Peter Shallard's article 'Your Ideas Suck – A rant on Startups, Investors & Profit'. I agree with him wholeheartedly that "A Great Idea is only great if it has a profit model to match."
Many times I've heard people say "I'm an 'Ideas Person'" and my heart sinks because what they are really saying is that they want to spend all their time thinking up cool ideas and get paid for it without doing all the hard work. They want someone else to do that for them, usually with yet someone else's money. Felix Dennis points out that you can take someone else's idea and make yoursefl rich if you can execute it correctly: "They do not have to be your ideas — execution is all". And conversely, you don't achieve success just by having the ideas. (And of couirse it's not just about getting rich, this also applies to social impact, changing the world and making great things actually happen.)
That's why my workshops and management consultancy help creative people to use smart business thinking with better knowedge of intellectual property rights, marketing, finance, leadership etc. Using this 'T-Shirts and Suits' approach, we can combine ideas and execution into business models that achieve business success consistent with our creativity, values and objectives.
Whilst working with creative and digital businesses in New Zealand, I had the pleasure of meeting digital media guru Helen Baxter of Mohawk Media in Wellington's creative quarter.
Helen has written about crowd-funding for Generator on The Big Idea, the home of New Zealand's creative community. Written from a NZ angle, the articles provide additional information and inspiration for creative entrepreneurs everywhere.
On the page 'Attracting a Crowd', Helen says of crowdfunding, “Without a good promotional strategy
across old and new media to back up your campaign, it’s like putting a
poster on your bedroom wall and hoping the world will see it.”
Related articles explain more about Planning, Platforms and Performing. Platforms mentioned include New Zealand's own Pledge Me, Australia's Pozible, as well as internationally renowned KickStarter, Rocket Hub and Indiegogo. The advantages and disadvantages of various crowdfunding platforms are set out clearly in a table on the Platforms page.
Creativity loves a crisis. Especially at times of crisis we need creativity. Indeed some of the most creative solutions in human endeavour have come about because of a crisis.
But what do we mean exactly, by ‘Creativity’? There is artistic creativity: the visual arts, music, literature, design, architecture, film and video, TV and radio, crafts and advertising, for example. These are the kinds of artistic creativity on which the concept of the ‘creative industries’ is based. Examples of artistic creativity are numerous and obvious: the art of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, the literature of Shakespeare, the music of Mozart. More recently there have been modern classics in design, architecture and cinema.
But there is also a more general kind of creativity, which we might call ‘ingenuity’, ‘innovation’, ‘invention’, ‘lateral thinking’, or simply ‘problem solving’. We can find this kind of creativity in all fields of human activity: for example in science, education, politics, finance, engineering, agriculture, health care and warfare.
Here are just a few illustrations of creativity outside the arts: - Sending steam trains in tunnels under the streets of London to build the first world’s first underground railway system; - Providing education by radio to children isolated on farms in the outback through the Australian School of the Air; - Winning Olympic gold in the high jump by leaping over the bar backwards, as Dick Fosbury did; - Online brokering of small loans for enterprises that change the lives of people in some of the poorest countries of the world through non-profit organisation Kiva.
There are thousands more examples like this. All these are ingenious innovations but would not be described as ‘artistic’ in any way. Yet they are certainly creative solutions to problems.
The fact is: Creativity is everywhere.
But we have a problem of terminology. The word Creativity has two meanings (at least). This can cause confusion and can prevent us discussing creativity in the most comprehensive and useful way possible.
In the English language, the word Creativity usually implies ‘artistic creativity’. You might say that the word Creativity has been ‘hi-jacked’ by the arts sector. Hence the word is skewed towards a definition of artistic creativity and does not comfortably suit the more general meaning of creativity (ingenuity, problem solving, innovation etc). Consequently some people will say they are “not creative” meaning that they are not talented artistically, even though they might be ingenious engineers, innovative farmers or inventive educationalists. Ironically, many people who are indeed very creative don’t relate to the word ‘creativity’. That’s what I meant when I wrote in my book: “Creativity is not the monopoly of the artist”.
So, for the sake of clarity, let’s use two words. I suggest: “a-Creativity” for artistic creativity of all kinds; and “i-Creativity” for the wider version of creativity: ingenuity.
People with a-Creativity have a lot to offer to others. Their artistic creativity can benefit other people and society at large in all kinds of ways. At the same time, people with a-Creativity have a lot to learn from others. Indeed they (I should say ‘we’, because I include myself) have a lot to learn i-Creativity from people in other sectors of the economy beyond the ‘creative industries’ - in the fields of science, education, politics, engineering, sport, etc. We need to get out more!
In my experience of working as a management consultant, advising hundreds of creative enterprises in countries all around the world, I have found that many people who define themselves as “creative” are often highly creative in the studio – but not when they are in the office. They somehow switch off their creativity when it comes to doing the business side of things. Perhaps they believe that business is boring and ‘non-creative’. In doing so, they fail to recognise other forms of creativity beyond the artistic sphere.
All of us need to use i-Creativity to develop our creative businesses, cultural projects and social movements in the most imaginative and ingenious ways, especially in times of crisis, to achieve success. And by using the word ‘Success’, I mean the unique kind of success that each of us wants, defined in our own personal terms.
We can be creative in the studio and we can be creative in the office too. In other words, we can be creative, not only in the goods and services we devise, but also in the way we manage our enterprises. Yes, we can combine artistic creativity with smart business thinking. That’s what I mean when I use the metaphor ‘T-Shirts and Suits’.
Here are just a few examples of how people in three different parts of the world have made their enterprises even more successful, by bringing together ‘a-Creativity’ with ‘i-Creativity’; by combining artistic creativity with smart business thinking.
Banda Calypso found that people were pirating their CDs and selling them on street corners in Brazil, without paying any royalties to the band. The band could have tried to stop this illegal practice. Instead, they used i-Creativity and found an ingenious solution. They realised that this was a great way to publicise their music and build audiences for their concerts. So instead of fighting the pirates, they encouraged them. They used the pirates as their marketing department. They sent master copies of their CDs and even the artwork to street corner vendors, so they could sell them cheaply in all the cities, before the band arrived. The result was that Banda Calypso built a huge following and all their gigs were sold out. Now they make enough money to fly from city to city in their own private jet. They have musical creativity and also use business creativity. Sometime, giving things away free is a smart business move.
In Vietnam, two art galleries in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), were competing for customers, trying to attract tourists to buy their paintings instead of their rival’s. But they used i-Creativity to realise that as well as being competitors they could also collaborate for the benefit of both their galleries. Sometimes it’s a clever idea to co-operate with competitors, so they used the concept of “co-opetition” – a creative blend of co-operation and competition. They realised that they could both sell more paintings by joining forces to attract customers from around the world. Together they set up an e-commerce art gallery to sell paintings from both their galleries online. By ingeniously co-operating with a competitor, both galleries sold more paintings.
British sculptor Steve Messam has received grants from public bodies such as the Arts Council of England to create his amazing works of art. But sometimes grant funding is not available – especially at a time of financial crisis. So he used his creativity not only in the studio but also in the office to think of ways to finance his projects. He used techniques from business using his i-Creativity, looking outside the world of the arts. He had the insight to realise that his works of art could also be tourist attractions and could be used to promote the geographic environment in which they were installed. A sculpture called ‘The Drop’, a gigantic 'drop' of water, was to be located in specific sites in the English Lake District, so this could be an opportunity to promote tourism in the region. He approached the marketing team of the tourist authority and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He talked to them about his sculpture, not in terms of artistic merit but in the language of commerce, and presented them with a business case to demonstrate that it would be a good investment for them to finance the sculpture project in terms of ‘Advertising Equivalent Value’. In other words, by investing in his sculpture they could achieve more publicity than they could buy in conventional advertising to reach their target market. The result was that his project was funded this way - and he didn’t compromise his artistic vision at all. I congratulate him, not only on his a-Creativity but also his i-Creativity.
So let’s use i-Creativity to develop our projects more successfully, by learning from other sectors about how to be ingenious in terms of raising finance, innovative in devising joint ventures, inventive in using intellectual property, being imaginative in communicating with customers, thinking laterally about using appropriate legal structures, and being smart in trading internationally.
In conclusion, by recognising and respecting both kinds of creativity, we can open our eyes to amazing new possibilities and find ingenious solutions in every field of human endeavour. We can then adopt and adapt these ideas for our own purposes, in a way that is consistent with our own values and objectives, to achieve our own unique version of Success.
So let’s celebrate creativity in all its manifestations. Let’s explore all kinds of creativity that exists everywhere, and learn from other people in all walks of life. Let’s recognise and respect not only a-Creativity but also i-Creativity.
In this way, even in times of crisis - especially in times of crisis - we can make our creative businesses and cultural enterprises even more successful.
This article is based on the presentation "a-Creativity : i-Creativity" by David Parrish at TEDxNapoli on 14 April 2012. ---
Here's a fascinating interview with fashion design guru Paul Smith, who talks about many aspects of growing a business in the creative industries, including:
- How he succeeds as a creative entrepreneur by saying no to many potential clients, choosing only those projects which fit his brand and excite his creativity. He has (politely) rejected the opportunity to design 3 hotels, 5 mobile phones and 2 cars - and that's just in the last year!
- How he manages his company's finances and business growth in such a way that he can be selective. He avoids the pressure to constantly grow his creative business. Crucially, he manages cash flow carefully so that he has never needed to borrow money from a bank.
- How he became 'big in Japan' by being respectful of Japanese people and culture (when others were being brash), and took his time to build solid business relationships.
Keep it personal when using social media. That was one of the key messages from DK of MediaSnackers, who gave a very impressive talk in Aberdeen where we were both keynote speakers at the launch of the Cultivating Creativity project to develop creative businesses in Scotland. I learnt a lot (and yes, still have a lot to learn).
Now MediaSnackers have publshed their Top 50 Blog Posts about using social media, which I recommend as essential reading to creative, digital and cultural enterprises.
One important point emphasised by DK is that when using social media you should imagine you are in a room full of people, interacting with them on a personal level. Sounds obvious, but in a face to face situation you wouldn't introduce yourself with your company name, you'd use your real name. You wouldn't just talk, you'd listen too. You wouldn't just say your mission statement like a robot, you'd tell stories about what you do. In other words, you'd be real, with opinions, stories, personality and humour.
Read the MediaSnackers blogs, including the ones about 'The Business of Being Human' and 'Why Social Media Shouldn't Be Outsourced'. These messages link in with a point I often make when advising creative businesses about marketing - your potential customers want to do business with real people, not with a "email@example.com", or a slick corporate website, or a salesperson working on your behalf. For more about why it's important to show your personality, not just your products or services, see the blog 'Don't hide your people!'.
So when using social media in the creative industries, keep it social, not 'corporate'.
DK from MediaSnacker with David Parrish at the 'Cultivating Creativity' launch at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
Share your experience and opinions about using social media in the creative industries on the T-Shirts and Suits Creative Enterprise Network. It's free to join and easy to promote your creative/digital business and share cool business ideas with creative entrepreneurs world-wide.
You can use crowd-funding platforms to test the market for a new product, service or project, in parallel with raising finance to fund new creative initiatives.
This was one of the many interesting points made by Slava Rubin, Chief Executive Officer of the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, where we were both speakers at a creative industries conference in Santiago de Chile.
Market research can be expensive but it's crucial to be able to test the market to minimise risks. Feedback from potential customers can help improve products or services at an early stage of development. Posting a project on Indiegogo or another crowd-financing platform provides an opportuntiy to test the potential popularity of a new product.
Even better, creators can establish an online dialogue with potential investors who are also likely to be customers and consumers of the product.
Don't just think 'crowd-funding', think 'crowd-testing'.
Slava Rubin, Chief Executive Officer of Indiegogo, with David Parrish, at the Cultura y Economia conference in Santiago de Chile.
- How Creativity and Business can be combined intelligently and sensitively to achieve business and creative success in a way which is consistent with our values and objectives.
- Being Creative in Business: How creative people can be creative in the office as well as the studio. In other words, how creativity can also be applied to the 'business system' or business model. We need to apply our creativity not only to working 'in' the business but also 'on' the business.
- How creative entrepreneurs have raised finance for projects in unconventional ways, applying their creativity to business issues, including 'crowd-financing' or 'crowd-funding'.
- How to Achieve Your Own Version of Success. Advice on being clear about your objectives and personal definition of "success". Don't just follow the crowd or develop your business in the way others suggest. Decide what you mean by Success - and then go and achieve it!
In this 'How to Succeed in Creative Business' video, David Parrish offers five pieces of advice about how creative entrepreneurs can make their creative and digital businesses even more successful.
1. Define Success - in your own terms, with your own specific and unique definition of success for your creative enterprise.
2. Understand your Strengths - especially your strengths in relation to competitors. Identify what you can do better than everyone else, or at least most of your rivals. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
3. Choose your Customers. Not all customers are good customers. Choose customers that fit your objectives, your ethos, and your financial aims.
4. Manage your intellectual property. Use copyright, design right, trade marks and patents not only to protect your rights but also to generate income through sales and licensing.
5. Business growth. Be clear about what you want to grow. Grow your business in the right way. Grow the right things. Size isn't everything. Small enterprises can generate large profits and have a big impact.
Clearly, there are many more things to consider when growing a business in the creative industries, but these are five important things to think about. Enough for now!
Embed this video in your own website or blog from Vimeo or YouTube.This video is published using a Creative Commons licence which allows you to republish it.
Business doesn't have to be about being the biggest, fastest or strongest.
Entrepreneurs don't have to be short-sighted, aggressive and unfair.
"Entrepreneurialism has nothing to do with hardwired personality traits."
This is what Robert Kelsey says in this article in the journal of the Royal Society of Arts.
I agree totally.
Unfortunately, the popular image of the 'successful entrepreneur' is someone who is arrogant, ruthless and entirely motivated by money.
Robert Kelsey argues that this skewed image of what a successful entrepreneur needs to be is deterring many talented people from setting up their own business. In the same article, Rajeeb Dey says that "The media overplays the image of the nasty entrepreneur. It's easy to forget that business is primarily relationship-driven."
In my view, TV series such as The Apprentice and Dragon's Den, entertaining though they are, portray business in such a way that they probably do more to deter rather than encourage people to become entrepreneurs.
Many creative people don't fit the 'maverick entrepreneur' stereotype - yet they can be highly successful in business. They choose to do business in their own way, being clear about their objectives and sticking to their values.
There are many different ways of growing a creative or digital business and all kinds of people can succeed by doing things unconventionally. My book, blog and the Creative Enterprise Network illustrate how people have combined their creativity and with imaginative business thinking to achieve success on their own terms. Indeed T-Shirts and Suits® is all about empowering creative people with the best business techniques so they can grow their creative enterprise in the way that's best for them.
Successful creative entrepreneurs focus on their own Business Formula, which brings together creative passion, personal and business goals, business feasibility, competitive advantage, financial realities and strategic marketing.
So, be creative in your work - and also be creative about the way you do business and develop as a successful entrepreneur.
You don't have to be like the stereotypical businesspeople portrayed in the media.
Be true to yourself, your goals and your values.
Be your own kind of entrepreneur!
The article 'Create your own Business Formula' and the eBook 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity' are both available free online and can be copied, printed and re-distributed (provided you don't change them or sell them).
Robert Kelsey's book 'What's Stopping You?: Why Smart People Don't Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can' is available from Amazon.
David Parrish, Robert Kelsey and Rajeeb Dey are Fellows of the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce).
The Guggenheim Museum is a symbol of the transformation of Bilbao from an industrial past to a creative future. And throughout the city, less visible but just as important, creative businesses are starting up, growing, creating jobs and transforming the economy. Creative entrepreneurs in the Basque Country are making their businesses even more successful, with the help of Creativity Zentrum and their Bizkaia Creaktiva project.
This short video reports on a project to help creative entrepreneurs become even more successful. The project was organised by Creativity Zentrum, the agency which supports creative entrepreneurship, based in Bilbao in the Basque Country of Spain.
I was invited by Creativity Zentrum to deliver a training workshop called ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ (See dycb.info.) This helps creative entrepreneurs to start feasible enterprises, attract financial investment, and grow successful businesses. The entrepreneurs who were selected to attend have businesses in publishing, online social networks, product design, fashion, computer games, iPhone app development and other fields.
I work internationally and bring cool business techniques from all over the world to my clients in Bilbao and elsewhere. And I have also learnt a lot from creative businesses in the Basque Country each time I have visited. I also went to the border town of Irun, to run a business development workshop and I was a guest at a meeting to discuss the development of the creative industries there.
The staff at Creativity Zentrum are professional and hardworking. Yet they always find time to be hospitable when I visit, and this includes enjoying the wonderful food – and having a few drinks.
I’m looking forward to helping more creative enterprises in Bilbao in the future. In the mean time, I wish all the entrepreneurs every success with their creative businesses.
Find out more about business development workshops for creative entrepreneurs, or contact David Parrish's office for details.
''Freedom, Money, Time - and the Key to Creative Success' is the title of an excellent new free eBook from Mark McGuinness.
Download this free ebook here. You can also distribute it to friends, colleagues and contacts.
Mark reckons that creative people need three things to be happy:
1. Freedom - to do what you want, when you want and how you want it. Not just in holidays and spare time - but also doing meaningful work, in your own way.
2. Money - to maintain your independence and fund your creative projects. Of course you want a nice place to live, but you’re not so worried about a bigger car than the guy next door. You’d rather spend money on experiences than status symbols.
3. Time - to spend as you please, exploring the world and allowing your mind to wander in search of new ideas.
Usually, you’re lucky if you get two out of the three. But if one of them is missing, it compromises the other two. Without money, you don’t have much freedom, because you have to spend your time chasing cash. Without time off, money doesn’t buy you a lot of freedom. And if you’re doing something you hate for a living, it doesn’t matter how big your salary is, or how much holiday you get.
This is the premise of Mark's free ebook: Freedom, Money, Time - and the Key to Creative Success.
It's full of practical advice you can apply to your own situation, if you want to earn a living from your creative talent, or if you're a freelancer or small business owner and want to make your business less stressful and more profitable.
Mark and his partners have also prepared a training programme to accompany this eBook - the Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap course. (The free ebook gives you a preview of the training programme.)
Mark's writing and coaching business complements my own work as a creative industries business adviser, trainer, speaker and writer helping enterprises in the creative, cultural and digital sector worldwide.
'Freedom, Money, Time - and the Key to Creative Success' sits nicely alongside my book (and free eBook) 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity'.
A Creative Barcode builds on this information and provides more detailed and robust evidence for the creator: detail of ownership, date of creation and limitations on use. The barcode includes uniquely numbered digital codes on creative works to specify ownership and permitted usage. The barcode can be used on designs, written proposals, sketches, drafts and other copyright works associated with a project.
For example, have a look at the Creative Barcode I've attached to this copyright article at the bottom of this page. (Click to enlarge.)
Creative barcodes make the copyright position even more clear to recipients of creative works than a simple copyright notice (though there's no harm adding that too). Furthermore their use is an indication that you know your rights and are organised. This in itself should help deter unlawful usage of your copyright works.
An additional very useful facility offered by the Creative Barcode service is the ability to forward your copyright works to external parties via the Creative Barcode file transfer area, which adds a password unique to the recipient so that they can download it after receiving your email. In this way, the Creative Barcode system can track receipt of files and register the recipient’s agreement to the conditions of usage associated with the work.
Finally, the Creative Barcode app includes a ‘transfer of ownership’ feature which enables the creator to provide the purchaser with a certificate of ownership when full payment has been made.
Registration costs £30 GBP plus VAT per annum, which includes five free barcodes and a downloadable program to generate them. Additonal barcodes cost £4 GBP each. Annual membership also includes the usage of 200MB of server space to store documents for registered download by clients.
She explains how she manages her business cash flow and uses her terms and conditions of trade, credit terms and a payment schedule with clients to ensure she gets paid in good time so she always has money in the bank to pay her rent and other bills.
In short, Sue tells Jon how she combines creativity with smart business thinking using the 'T-Shirts and Suits' approach to business management in the creative industries.
This Financial Times article reports on a new initiative to fund arts projects by crowd funding / crowd financing. The 'We Fund' website enables individuals to donate small amounts of money to arts related projects in return for credits, perks and other benefits.
In return for pledges of amounts of cash between £1 GBP and £3,000 GBP, donors can choose from a menu of benefits ranging from a simple 'thanks to' credit, packs of goodies including DVDs, right up to special performances in your own home. For example see the 'Butter Side Down' and 'Madam Butterfly' projects on We Fund.
These are examples of raising funds through crowdfunding by offering credits, perks and other benefits in return for donations (rather than 'investments')
There are also more sophisticated financial investment schemes which enable investors to take an equity share in a project - or a company set up for a particular project. There are many examples of raising finance for film projects in this way. Such schemes generally involve larger amounts of cash and present the investor with more risk - and the prospect of substantial financial rewards - depending on the financial result of the creative endeavour.
A range of examples of crowdfunding in the creative industries are mentioned in this discussion on the T-Shirts and Suits Creative Enterprise Network.
Join this international creative enterprise community and let us know of other examples of projects and initiatives to raise finance for creative businesses and projects using crowdfunding / crowdfinancing techniques.
If you are talking to a potential customer and they say (or maybe just think) "So What?!", then the chances are you are talking about features, not benefits.
It's a trap we can all easily fall into. We are enthusiastic about our creative businesses and want to tell people about what we do and how we do it, to produce products or services - and forget to sell the customer benefits.
The customer will ask themselves "What's in it for me?" and if we fail to explain what's in it for them (customer benefits), and just talk about the facts or features of the product or service, they will walk away.
An example. I was talking with a web designer and asking how he could help me with a project I was working on. He went on at length about the open source software he used, the capability of the programs, his skilled staff etc, etc. I was thinking "Good for you! But what's in it for me?" I had to ask him directly before he explained the benefits to me, the potential client, of his using open source software.
Time Management is an issue that comes up frequently when I'm advising creative businesses. It seems there's always too much to do, and not enough time to do it.
In my view, time management is both a strategic issue and an operational challenge.
If we are unrealistic about what can be achieved with finite resources, we will always be frustrated. Trying to run two businesses when you only have the time needed to run one is an impossibility, not a matter of better time management. So firstly we need to prioritise strategically and decide what we are going to do - and not do. The 'Not To Do' list is as important as the 'To Do' list. Strategy is also about Saying No. It's more realistic to focus on a few things and do them well than to attempt too much and do nothing properly.
Then it comes down to operational matters - ie how to actually manage our time on a day to day basis.
Business Coach Mark McGuinness has published 'Time Management for Creative People' as a free eBook. I've recommended it to my clients as well as finding it useful for my own work. It’s subtitled ‘Manage the Mundane - Create the Extraordinary’ as it’s designed to help you maintain your creative focus while dealing with your other commitments.
My keynote speech to film and TV producers in Finland (video below) referred to the changing business environment for creative enterprises. Consumers are now also creators and marketers; technology is advancing and becoming cheaper at the same time; global communication and distribution are easieir than ever before.
These new realities bring both threats and opportunities. The old order is threatened by the loss of control. They no longer have a monopoly on the means of production in TV, film and video. New distribution networks are available online. And this new 'democratised' landscape enables new business models to emerge. My message was that established businesses must change or die.
On the positive side, this new economics opens up opportunities for new entrants in the world of video, film and TV.
One of the main factors is easier access to technology. At the conference I used my HD Fliip video camera to make YouTube quality video at the same time as the conference was being filmed with highly expensive TV cameras. Different definitioons of quality for different purposes.
Making a feature film used to require cameras costing £100,000 GBP. Now, for £1,500 GBP you can use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This camera has been used to make an episode of House, the documentary 'The Road to Coronation Street', and the BBC series 'Shelfstackers'.
Of course it takes more than equipment to make a film. As a creative industries management consultant advising talented film-makers, I know film-making needs a huge amount of creativity and dedication. It used to also require a huge amount of money, but this is no longer the case. The message in this article in the Observer is that we need to be creative with budgets. With the demise of the UK Film Council, more and more filmmakers will have to change their mindset away from public funding towards the new economics of creativity.
Combine this lower cost with opportunities to raise funds creatively using crowd-financing and film production is within the reach of the many, not just the few. For people involved in video, film and TV, there has never been a better time to think creativiey about business models and grasp the opportuity of the new economics of creativity brought about by inexpensive technology and online distribution.
David Parrish's keynote speech at the Media & Message conference in Finland on the subject of 'New Business Models in the Creative Industries', including crowd-sourcing, viral marketing, crowd-financing and other business developments relevant to the creative industries.
The creative industries have the potential to be a significant factor in economic growth in the UK and other countries.
The potential to create jobs and wealth in the digital and creative sectors has been recognised by national governments and local authorities for some time. Consequently various economic regeneration projects have focused on the creative, cultural and digital sector of the economy. This sector has high-growth businesses within it and the sector as a whole has massive potential for growth, job creation and the generation of wealth.
One of these projects is the Liverpool Creative Growth Initiative, which has been designed to help creative and digital businesses in the city to grow. This is a Merseyside ACME project at Liverpool Vision, running from 2009 to 2011.
Here's a short video featuring some of the 100+ creative businesses that have been supported by this project so far.
The project has helped more than 100 creative businesses in Liverpool to grow, create jobs and regenerate the economy of the city of Liverpool.
I'm proud to be involved in this project as well as also helping
similar initiatives in other cities in the UK and overseas in my
capacity as a specialist business adviser and management consultant.
Merseyside ACME has 13 years experience of supporting creative businesses through
projects specifically designed for the sector. Support includes
professional business consultancy services, training workshops,
provision of information and networking. Examples include the Creative
Advantage business development workshops and the Kin2Kin online network.
The experience of Merseyside ACME has been used by other creative industries support agencies to regenerate local economies, create jobs, support high-growth businesses in the creative and digital sector.
Thanks to Mark Beaumont, Creative Director at Dinosaur, for introducing me to this excellent book.
Written by Dave Trott, it's a series of anecdotes and thoughts about the world of advertising, drawn from his extensive experience as a creative in top agencies.
Very thought provoking and inspiring. As I was reading it, I thought that it would be a good idea to savour one of his two-page chapters/stories/ideas each day. But I kept turning the pages for more and read it all through to the end.
It's difficult to describe. You just need to read it. But as a taster, mini-chapters have headings such as 'Creative Silence', 'Don't Over-Think It', 'Change the Rules', 'Don't let anyone else write your agenda', 'Creative Editing' and 'If you're Creative, Create'.
If you're a fan of Paul Arden's books 'It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be' and 'Whatever you think, think the opposite', then you'll love this book.
The other day I was advising a client about a trading name for a new creative enterprise. There was a danger that the name she had chosen could infringe the trade mark rights of another business - so she decided to choose a different word for her new brand.
Using a trading name without first checking that it is not already in use by another business offering similar goods or services can lead to a lot of hassle in the future. I know of several cases where businesses have been forced to change their name because of a legal challenge, which is embarrassing, to say the least. The worst thing is that the challenge tends to happen once the new business has become established, simply because the challenger simply doesn't notice in the early days when your new company's profile is still 'under the radar'.
This is not just about registered trade marks, which are relatively easy to search using official registers (for example in the UK Intellectual Property Office online register of trademarks). A trading name can be regarded as an 'unregistered trade mark' and defended by its owner against other people using it. You could be accused of 'passing off' your business as theirs: in other words, trading on its reputation and/or taking business away from them because the public could be confused into thinking that your business is connected to theirs.
Now BSkyB is trying to stop Skype from continuing to use its name because the first three letters spell "sky" according to this article.
It's a reminder that trading names and trade marks can be a complex legal area, so it's best to take professional advice from a trade mark attorney if in doubt.
As a general rule though, the safest trading names to use are totally new words because nobody has used them before - in any context. The KODAK® trade mark is often quoted as a great example of this because the word 'KODAK' was invented, its pronunciation is unambiguous, it has no meaning in English (and, as far as I know, doesn't mean anything silly or offensive in other languages!).
So if you are choosing a trading name for a new business venture, think creatively! If Google can't find any references whatsoever to your proposed name then it's a good start!
A Facebook friend called Phil sent me a message asking for advice about creating
an effective business model for his creative enterprise. I didn't have
much time - but I didn't want to ignore it either - so I sent a quick
answer. This is what I wrote:
--- Here's the starting point of a business model:
what you excel at in relation to the competition. In other words,
pinpoint what you are especially good at that most others aren't. 2. Focus on the type of customers who want that thing you do really well.
Hope this helps! ---
I think this summarises the essence of any successful creative enterprise, so it's a good starting point when devising a new business.
can also be used as a 'reality check' to keep an established enterprise
on track as things constantly change: rivals are improving their offerings, new firms are
entering the market, client requirements develop and new customer
These two questions also act as an effective
'acid test' to use when evaluating a lengthy business plan. In other
words, they ask whether or not the fundamental assumptions are valid
before going into further detail.
of the issues it raises about pricing strategies and pricing mistakes are relevant to the creative industries,
whether you are selling products or services, even though the examples
are from big manufacturing firms.
1. Look at your offerings from the
customers' point of view and understand how they see value in your
products and services. This new perspective may allow you to increase
prices. (See also: 'What
are you selling, really?')
3. Instead of competing on price with
lots of competitors who do much the same as you, focus on what you can
do that they can't. In other words, focus on the areas of the
marketplace where you have a competitive advantage. This will lead you
to particular types of customers who need and value the things that you
excel at in relation to competitors. These customers are more likely to
pay higher prices because they recognise you are the best in your field.
Coming soon! The iPhone App from T-Shirts and Suits.
"Getting the T-Shirts and Suits iPhone App is a no-brainer. Bite size chunks of great thinking and advice right there in the palm of your hand. Most content is around three to four minutes, so however busy you are, this is cool. Anyone in creative industries will benefit. Just get it." Ray Hanks. Business Advice and Consultancy www.rayhanks.com
The iPhone App will contain new information, ideas, examples and inspiration for creative entrepreneurs, to help them make their businesses and organisations even more successful. The App will be free, with lots of free information, ideas and techniques to use - plus some additional content you can buy.
Register for updates about the App and to be informed as soon as it is launched by entering your email address in the 'Receive Updates' box on the right.
We want you to help us make the iPhone App as useful as possible, so please let us have your suggestions and ideas at this development stage.
For example, let us know the areas of business development you would most like to be included in the App, eg: marketing; intellectual property; leadership; business growth; raising finance; organisational structures; competitor analysis; financial management; development strategies; etc.
Please also comment about the format, style, price - and any other issues or ideas.
We also want to work in partnership with creative industries support organisations and agencies to promote the free App to businesses in the creative and digital industries sector.
Here's a great way to multiply the number of commercial competitors you're up against - if you really want to! (OK, maybe the word 'enemies' is a bit strong.)
Many early stage businesses that
found their specialist niche sometimes offer a very wide range of creative services (or products). This
approach is often a desperate attempt to find work by 'offering everything to everybody'. Unfortunately, the 'jack of all trades and master of none' will
generally lose out to a 'master' in each competitive field.
This ‘jack of
trades’ tactic instantly creates a multitude of rivals as the enterprise announces its entry into many different competitive fields. It also slams
in the face of partnership working at a stage when the company can least
to do so.
On the other hand, many of the most successful creative enterprises don't try to do everything - they specialise and become excellent at a few things. They then work in partnership with other businesses, devising creative collaborations that suit the client's needs.
There's more about partnership working and creative collaborations on my guest blog for Vision and Media, with examples of how businesses have worked in partnership to win work - including making TV programmes for the BBC and major international projects such as the design of the Liverpool Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
Here's a fascinating article in Wired magazine about the graphic design of restaurant menus.
And here's another menu analysed in terms of design and pricing.
These are essential reading not only for graphic designers but for anyone in the creative industries interested in marketing and pricing. So that's everyone then.
Amongst other things it includes interesting insights about the psychology of pricing. For example, a very expensive item makes other expensive ones look reasonable in comparison. This 'extremeness aversion' means that people avoid the most expensive - and the least expensive items.
This approach can be used in selling any range of good or services.
You know the one I mean. The the famous one of Che Guevara wearing a beret. It's been reproduced millions of times, not least on t-shirts and posters. You'd think it was in the public domain but actually the copyright belonged to the original Cuban photographer, Alberto Díaz 'Korda' Gutierrez - and now to his estate following his death in 2001.
Korda took the photo in March 1960 and didn't mind it being reproduced world-wide, even though he didn't benefit financially, because the image became an icon of the Cuban revolution.
He did object, however, when it was used to sell alcohol. Che Guevara, a doctor by profession, was teetotal. Korda sued Smirnoff Vodka and prevented the use of his photograph for this commercial purpose. His daughter is now involved in similar lawsuits according to the Guardian.
The point is that copyright isn't just about money. The creator's moral rights establish their authorship independently of commercial considerations. (So the credits for the song 'Yesterday' remain with Lennon/McCartney, even though they signed away the commercial rights many years ago.)
Copyright also allows the creator to control the use of their creation, preventing its inappropriate use. This applies to photos, music, film, writing and all other art forms protected by copyright.
So, for example, Simon Cowell reports that Lou Reed refused permission for Susan Boyle to sing his song 'Perfect Day' on America's Got Talent.
Moral rights as well as commercial rights are important for creative entrepreneurs. All the more reason to understand copyright law and use licences such as those offered by the Creative Commons to control the usage, adaptation and commercialisation of creative works.
I’m often asked what I believe the year ahead holds for
creative industries, and this is often followed by a second question -
what can be done to remain strong in the tough economic climate we are
It may sound rather absurd, but my advice is to think inside the box during hard times.
I’ve worked in more than 20 countries over the past 12 years and helped
hundreds of creative companies to grow. It’s vital creative leaders get
smart, take a detailed look at the sources of business, and adopt a
more tactical approach to winning new contacts.
Economic conditions are tough and if you’ve relied on hard work and
enthusiasm to get results, it’s likely you’re not seeing the same level
of results now. When work slows down there can be a knee-jerk reaction
to go off in all directions chasing new business, but it’s not just
about getting new clients, it’s about getting the right ones.
Right now the average lifespan of a SME in the UK is just 24 months,
which is why it is so important to take the time to evaluate your
business and work more strategically. By focusing on a just few key
areas you can not only survive the recession, but emerge stronger when
the economy recovers.
One common flaw I often come across is where creative enterprises
haven't fully evaluated their position in a competitive market place.
Even if you’re really good at what you do, if several others are better
still, it's going to be difficult. So look around and identify the
goods or services at which you excel in relation to competitors. In
this way you can find your competitive advantage and a profitable niche.
It’s also important to remember that marketing isn’t just about winning
new clients. Many businesses are so excited by the prospect of finding
totally new customers that they overlook existing ones. It's much
easier to keep your existing customers and win more business from them.
Your current and past customers are also the best marketing department
you'll ever have so look after them!
Here are my top tips for success in the creative industries:
1. Focus your financial goals on profit not turnover. As they say, "turnover is vanity; profit is sanity".
2. Identify the goods and services you excel in over and above your
competitors to find your competitive advantage and a profitable niche.
3. Remember business takes place between people, not companies. Don’t
hide your people, show them off by giving contact names on your
websites and marketing materials.
4. Cash is king. When winning new business check credit references and
ask customers pay a percentage upfront. A customer who doesn't pay, or
even one that pays late, can cripple a business.
5. Marketing is not just about winning new clients. Look to your existing clients as a source of further business.
That's what I think when a website invites me to contact "firstname.lastname@example.org" instead of a named person. Are there real people in there? If so, why are they hiding?
Customers want to do business with people, not with a website. As a potential client, I want to know who you are before I'll do business with you. (So do you - just watch yourself when you are a buyer rather than a seller.)
It doesn't matter much if I'm buying stationery supplies or other commodities, but if I'm buying a service I need to know that I can do business with you, that I can trust you, and that I like your style.
And if I'm buying a creative product I'd like to know something about the creator, their inspiration and creativity. As a customer I want to buy into you, not just your products. (See: What are you selling, really? )
Word of mouth marketing works so well because happy customers tell other people about your personality as well as your competence. But this 'personality' is much harder to get across on a website. Customers need to like you as well as respect you. Presenting your creative enterprise as a professional but faceless corporation to get them to respect you more, has the downside of making it even harder for them to actually like you.
I'm very much in favour of professional presentation, but pretending you are a huge company when you're a small or medium sized enterprise ultimately kids nobody. If they are going to do business with you, they will have to respect and like you for what you actually are. Sooner or later you'll have to 'come out', so why not do it sooner rather than later to save everyone's time? If you think some people won't want to do business with you because of your age, gender, nationality, race, location or personality - you might be right. But by the same token, other customers will love you because of what you really are!
So don't hide your people and the personality of your creative business - show them off!
Let's publicise creative businesses who are doing a good job of showing off their people and the personality of their enterprise. Publish your links, opinions and experiences on the Creative Enterprise Network.
Not all customers are good customers and marketing is about choosing the right customers; it's not about trying to please everyone. Of course this means you have to choose which customers not to deal with. It's scary to deliberately turn your back on potential customers - but not if you end up facing the right ones and then have the time, energy and resources to serve them wholeheartedly.
Alienating bad customers isn't a matter of being rude or unprofessional. Put your prices up and unprofitable customers will walk away; ask for a percentage of the fee upfront and the non-payers won't sign the contract.
Shout loudly about your values and the people who don't share them won't knock on your door (but those who do, will ). Tell people about your personality (and your team's) to deter people who aren't going to like you and at the same time attract customers who will love you.
Your marketing strategy involves deciding which types of customers to alienate so you can really embrace the right ones.
Read more about how to market creative businesses in the free eBook version of 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity'.
My aunty is 85 years old and recently she got a new digital TV with
a Sky Box. I was showing her how to use the remote control and I
said, “Look at this. Imagine you’re watching a TV programme and you
want to take a break or make a cup of coffee. All you do is press this
button and the programme stops.” And she looked at me, in all
seriousness, and said, “But what about everybody else?”
What that illustrates is the mindset of somebody who was brought up in
the last century, whose social habits involved going to the cinema
to watch, with everybody else, at the same time, the same films. And
even more recently we all watched TV at the same time. Whereas younger
consumers expect to be able to record a TV programme to watch later, or
to watch it on the internet. For shorthand, we might call these ‘old
consumers’ and ‘new consumers’.
In the age of Web 2.0, the interactive web, what we are witnessing is a
fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power in favour of
consumers. We no longer have passive consumers who are told what to
watch, when to watch it, how to watch it - but a new breed of much more
informed, demanding, tech-savvy and communicative consumers.
Consumers are no longer passive. They are creators too. Consumers are
also acting as marketers and even as financiers. Technology has enabled
this shift in power, but it’s consumers who are driving it and becoming
much more powerful. So we need to understand the new economics of the
age that we’re living in and this underlying shift in power – a shift
which makes things in some ways more difficult, and yet also brings new
opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Business models that deny or resist this shift in power are doomed to
failure. And that includes many established businesses that are stuck
in their ways, who will not or cannot change. They won’t change because
they’ve invested so much in the old way of doing business: their
assets, financial structures, their mindset, their skills, their staff
and their whole way of thinking is based on an outdated assumption that
customers are passive and can be treated as one mass.
At the same time, on a positive note, new business models that embrace
the fact that consumers are now ever more powerful will succeed. As a
business adviser in the creative sector I am helping creative
entrepreneurs in the UK and world-wide to develop innovative ways to
create profitable business models based on the new opportunities to
engage with powerful customers.
The most successful creative businesses in the future will be those which follow this approach.
This is an edited extract from a longer article based on a speech by
David Parrish to a conference of TV producers in Finland. To watch the
video of this speech online, visit: www.t-shirtsandsuits.tv
I'm interested in your experience and looking for case studies about creative businesses working together. - What were the challenges? - What were the solutions? - What's your advice to other creative enterprises considering collaborations?
Creative entrepreneurs are rightly concerned about controlling their copyright ('not getting ripped off') and generating income from their copyright through licensing, ie being a creative entrepreneur.
It seems that we used to have only two options about what to do with our copyright material - either give it away into the 'public domain', or heavily restrict its use, quoting one of those 'all rights reserved' paragraphs often found on copyright material.
But creative people often want to be more flexible about how they restrict or permit the usage of their copyright material - writing, photographs, music, designs, video, artwork, computer programs etc.
Sometimes we want to allow people to reproduce our works, but only on certain conditions, for example that they don't change it or use it commercially. Sometimes we want others to develop the work, but still credit the original artist. We might want to apply different conditions to the use of our copyright material depending on the circumstances, the works themselves or our business strategy. Sometimes we do want to adopt the 'All Rights Reserved' policy and at other times we want to take a 'Some Rights Reserved' approach.
This is where the Creative Commons movement can help. It began when creative people got together with lawyers to explore these different options for use of copyright material and then express these different options both in straightforward language and also in the form of legal contracts. The Creative Commons now offers a range of legally-watertight but also easily understood copyright licences that creative people can use.
Some people seem to think that the Creative Commons movement is telling us to release our copyright, but that's not the case. It's for us to decide what we want to do - the Creative Commons enables us to do it with a legally valid copyright licence.
Customers are more powerful than ever. Because of changes in technology, particularly the interactive internet (Web 2.0), there has been a fundamental and irreversible shift of power in favour of consumers.
The bad news is that businesses that deny or ignore these changes by continuing to regard customers as passive targets will fail.
'New Business Models in the Creative Industries' was the subject of my keynote speech to the Media and Message conference of indepedent TV producers and media professionals in Finland.
We need to be innovative about how we do business and devise new business models centred on demanding, talkative and creative customers.
Presentation by David Parrish at Media & Message, Finland. Watch the video here (if the embedded video above does not play) [or go to the Media & Message site and click "Puheenvuorot" (speeches). It's the last one.]
Iron Sky is a sci-fi movie that will be produced collaboratively on the internet using the Wreck a Movie site and partly funded by selling 'war bonds'. Iron Sky is the next movie from the creators of Star Wreck.
It's a creative collaboration using crowd-sourcing and crowd-financing - two of the important new business developments in the creative industries which I spoke about in my keynote speech at the 'Media & Message' Conference in Finland for independent TV producers and media professionals, organised by satu.
At the conference, Timo Vuorensola from Energia Productions Oy explained how they are using the internet to help creative people work together to make a film - and the business model behind it.
The project has 1,207 members and uses the collective creativity of the people involved by breaking down a huge project into small tasks - a classic crowdsourcing technique.
Some of the capital required is raised through crowd-financing. For 50 Euros you can buy 'War Bonds' in the movie. They explain that these are not really bonds or shares, so in fact this is a donation to support the project, for which you receive a limited edition 'supporter's pack' of goodies.
For more information about the project - and how to get involved - see the Iron Sky website.
It's fun to watch - and it raises some important issues about pricing and customers for creative businesses and cultural enterprises.
If customers believe they can get a discount from you, it's because they think they can go elsewhere and get the same thing cheaper. If they can in fact get the same thing cheaper elsewhere, then you are in a marketplace with lots of competitors offering similar products or services, all competing on price. So you are in a poor negotiating position. It's a losing battle.
Instead, build your business around those goods and services at which you excel in relation to the competition. Better still, focus on your uniqueness, providing goods and services that nobody else can. Customers will then have nowhere else to go and your negotiating strength increases dramatically.
To do this requires an understanding of your competitors and your market positioning. It means that you need to choose your customers carefully, selecting those people who want what you can uniquely offer.
So be prepared to say No when people ask for a discount. Only the wrong kind of customers will walk away, which is good because you can never build a thriving business around them. The right kind of customers - the ones who recognise the how special you are - will pay the price. These are the kind of customers to build your creative enterprise around.
- What's your business policy when it comes to giving discounts? - Do you know how special you are? In other words, do you know at which products/services you excel in relation to the competition? - Do you target those only those customers who want what you are especially good at?
It's only when you have devised your own unique business formula, based on your speciality and your special customers, that you can say No to customers asking for discounts.
Although I'm a business adviser, I rarely give direct advice to the creative entrepreneurs I'm helping. Instead, I help them to reach their own conclusions by asking questions, providing information and guiding them towards the kind of success they seek to achieve.
There's no shortage of advice. Often my clients come to me with an abundance of ideas, plans, schemes and tactics. They are weighed down by advice that has been heaped upon them by well-meaning colleagues, friends, relatives and professional advisers. It's easy for people to suggest good ideas but the effect is that the person receiving the ideas ends up with a to-do list which is impossibly long. Then they either burn out or just feel overwhelmed.
My job is to help them sort it all out and select the ideas and advice that fits best with their overall objectives. By helping to remove the burden of too much advice, I can help them to focus on the few important things that must be done next in order to become even more successful.
When people offer you ideas and advice about developing your creative business, I suggest you do two things: 1. Thank them sincerely - because no doubt they mean well. 2. Add it to your list of things to consider - but not necessarily a list of things to actually do.
Since they want to be helpful, you could also ask them which of the things already on your to-do list they suggest you remove - to make space for their idea. It's a tough question!
The art of developing a creative enterprise isn't just trying to do more and more - it's about intelligently selecting the best things to do (and therefore actively deciding what not to do) in order to prioritise and focus energy and resources on the most important things.
We don't need more things to do. We need to decide which things are the most important things to do.
Comment on this blog post on the Creative Enterprise Network. (It's free to join and easy to promote your enterprise with links, photos, videos, etc)
The Creative Business is a series of 12 modules of information about developing creative enterprises, written especially for people running businesses in the creative industries.
The information is particularly relevant to creative businesses and cultural enterprises in the fields of Advertising, Literature and Publishing, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music, Design, Cultural Heritage, and Crafts.
Published on the Creative Choices website, this series of 12 articles covers a range of business issues facing creative entrepreneurs:
Raising finance from loans or investments can be a major challenge for all types of businesses, and it’s especially difficult when credit is scarce and investors are feeling the pinch. So any alternative ways of raising funds are worth exploring.
Enterprises in the creative, cultural and digital sector have creativity at the centre of their products and services, yet don’t always apply that same creativity to the business side of things, such as marketing, leadership or finance. But some do. True ‘creative entrepreneurs’ are not just creative people doing business – they are creative with business too. Some of these creative entrepreneurs - especially in music and film - are exploring innovative ways of raising serious amounts of money by asking lots of people for modest investments. This ‘Crowd-Financing’approach can be labelled ‘Fan-Financing’ when fans are the focus for investments. Here are some examples:
Australian musician Clint Crighton has devised a way of raising funds from his fans to record his next album. For 100 Australian dollars (about £50) you can join an exclusive club of fans which gives you special privileges: a lifetime free entrance pass to all his live gigs, a signed pre-release version of his next album, and a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to be there at the recording of his next album. A membership of 1,000 true fans will raise the 100,000 Australian dollars he needs.
In the USA, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule invites fans to invest in her enterprise at different levels to receive a range of different benefits. From just 10 US dollars for a digital download, the investment levels rise in steps to 1,000 USD for a specially-written song for your voicemail greeting. For 5,000 USD she will perform a concert in your home and if you want to invest 10,000 USD you can sing along with her on her next album.
In the UK, Slice the Pie is a sophisticated music investment site which allows you to invest in the future success of a wide range of musicians. (I’ve invested £100 in Sarah Grace.) This model also uses a voting system to find and filter talent and then voters are invited to invest. Like the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, this model cleverly involves the ‘crowds’ in voting - and at the same time builds a base of followers who eventually become customers or investors.
Three British teenagers raised £105,000 by selling credits in their film - for just £1 you can have your name listed in the closing credits. Award-winning Merseyside writer and film director Fiona Maher sold bit-parts in her film on eBay to raise money for her first full-length feature film. A new film called The Age of Stupid is using crowd-financing to raise investment from the public by selling shares priced £10,000 which entitle investors to a share of the profits.
Music and film are leading the way with fan-financing in the creative industries, but surely other enterprises - in the creative sectors and elsewhere - could adapt these models to their own situations and raise much-needed cash by adopting this crowd-financing approach.
"Art is not what you see, it’s what you make others see"
- Edgar Degas, French artist (1834-1917)
I agree with this statement, which switches things around nicely, so that instead of thinking only about our own point of view as the creator, we also look at things from the point of view of the audience/client/customer.
In the context of combining art and business, Degas helps us to think about Marketing and Quality in useful ways. I suggest that:
- Marketing is about looking at things from the point of view of the customer (or "audience" or "client" if you prefer).
- Quality is not what you put into it, but what the customer gets out of it.
I'm sure Edgar Degas would agree.
Furthermore, what you 'make others see' might be a variety of different things. According to Charles Leadbeater in his essay 'The Art of With', the writer Umberto Eco "long ago declared that works of art were open to multiple interpretations; the reader was as active in creating meanings as the writer."
In business terms, we need to be open to these various 'meanings' or 'customer interpretations' because otherwise there can be a big difference between what you think you are selling and what the customer is actually buying. What you consciously or unconsciously 'make others see' could be a lifestyle, a feelgood factor (or even a 'feelbad factor'), or maybe a 'talking point' or a 'story' when they buy your creative product or service.
What both Degas and Eco are saying is that we need to be aware that other people (the audience/reader/consumer/customer) might see things differently than we do.
Understanding how clients see things and perceive customer benefits helps creative entrepreneurs to become even more successful in terms of marketing, pricing and choosing the right customers.
Steve Messam is a talented artist - and a shrewd creative entrepreneur.
Steve was approached by Cumbria Tourism in the UK to create an art installation to help publicise the launch of their campaign for cultural tourism. The budget offered was a modest £4,000 GBP so Steve put together a business case for a bigger budget. He knew that the client wanted publicity and so argued that a bigger investment in a more impressive work of art would pay dividends in terms of 'Advertising Equivalent Value' (AEV) - in other words, the cost of the publicity in column inches if it were paid for as advertising.
Steve pitched his idea and business case to the PR Agency Colman Getty, who specialise in arts related work and had been commissioned by Cumbria Tourism to publicise the art installation and campaign for cultural tourism. Using data from previous projects, Steve calculated that the Advertising Equivalent Value should be at least £150,000 GBP and possibly as high as £250,000 GBP, provided the budget for his art installation was increased six-fold. Colman Getty understood the commercial value of the PR that could be generated and helped Steve to convince the client to invest accordingly.
The result was a spectacular installation called 'Drop', a huge inflatable sculpture modelled on a drop of water. The sculpture was installed at various scenic locations in the English Lake District. Part of the publicity campaign was to encourage tourists to take and publish photos of the huge silver sculpture and this viral marketing helped to promote the campaign further. See photo below. More images of Drop can be seen in this pool of photos on Flickr.
With the help of Steve Messam's art, the campaign was highly successful and exceeded its targets in terms of publicity. In one weekend alone, over 10,500 people went to see it. News and images even reached the world's biggest circulation newspaper, China Daily.
Steve's reputation - and his creative enterprise - goes from strength to strength. He will be exhibiting his latest art installation at the Venice Biennale in June 2009, raising finance in a similar way using the business case of Advertising Equivalent Value, rather than an application for an arts grant.
How do you raise finance for a feature film? (Or any other creative enterprise, for that matter.)
It's an expensive business, but some creative entrepreneurs think imaginatively about raising money, including raising small amounts from lots of people. Like 'crowd-sourcing', 'crowd financing' allows many people to participate in a small way to have a great collective effect. This 'crowd-financing' approach is now more feasible than ever before because of online networks and ecommerce technology.
Fiona Maher sold bit-parts in her film on eBay and now three British teenagers have raised £105,000 (105,000 GBP) so far, by selling credits in their film for just £1 (1 GBP) each, according to this article in the Guardian.
Congratulations to these entrepreneurs for using their creativity to think also about finance as well as their film projects !
PS: Thanks to Felix Holm for his reply on the discussion forum, letting us know about 'Boy Called Twist', a South African film financed this way.
PPS: Thanks also to Hannah Rudman for providing links to the excellent site The Age of Stupid (Crowd Financed film with funding models, budgets etc) and the fundraising/campaigning site The Point.
T-Shirts and Suits has set up an online Creative Enterprise Network to help creative people world-wide to promote their enterprises and to network with each other across national and cultural boundaries.
It's free to join - and easy to upload photos, videos and information. The network includes blogs, events and discussions.
You are invited to join the network and to invite friends, colleagues and contacts to join too.
The network welcomes anyone involved directly or indirectly in the creative industries, cultural industries, creative businesses, cultural organisations, cultural enterprises and creative industries support organisations.
The network is especially useful for creative entrepreneurs in all sectors of the creative industries: design, music, publishing, architecture, film and video, crafts, visual arts, fashion, TV and radio, advertising and PR, literature, graphic design, marketing, computer games, the performing arts, including designers, photographers, advertising and PR, musicians, writers, new media professionals, artists, marketers, publishers, fashion designers, architects and designer-makers.
Creative industry organisations world-wide are also invited to join.
For many people, the words ‘business’ and ‘culture’ don’t sit comfortably side by side. Some people assume that culture has to be non-commercial to be valid, and therefore to apply commercial thinking to cultural endeavour is to pervert it. But even charities and ‘non-for-profit’ organisations in the arts and cultural sector need to be business-like, even though the traditional business motive of profit maximisation does not apply.
Many people in the arts are reluctant to use business terminology, despite being very professional and successful in achieving their aims. When I was interviewing creative enterprises for my book ‘T-Shirts and Suits’, several managers said that they had never devised a ‘business strategy’ or used ‘market research’. These terms were simply alien to them. In fact they did do these things, but didn’t use those words or document these processes conventionally. More often than not they were skilled at growing their business and excellent at listening to customers. Ironically, cultural organisations and creative businesses are often keen to shun commercial jargon whilst actually using smart ‘business thinking’ to achieve success in their own terms.
My own background is in the cultural sector and later I also studied at business school, so I’m comfortable with business jargon but at the same time I understand the sensitivities within the arts about business vocabulary. Recently, in preparing a training workshop for arts organisations I was asked not to use the term ‘customers’ but use ‘audience’ instead. It’s a matter of choosing vocabulary appropriate to the context. In my book I feature the Windows Project, a cultural enterprise which devised a ‘Development Plan’ rather than a ‘Business Plan’ because that term fitted better with their ethos. Despite its name, it’s as robust as any business plan from the commercial sector.
The cultural sector can and should learn from other sectors, but it’s a matter of sensitively adapting techniques to fit into a different context - and maybe changing the terminology too. Equally, the commercial sector can learn from the cultural sector, but need to see what’s actually happening rather than being put off by the lack of business jargon. For example, I’ve been engaged by international corporations for revealing to them management techniques which are commonplace in the arts world, but I’ve expressed them in business-speak to make them more acceptable to pin-striped clients.
So it’s the terminology that’s the issue, not the reality. Lack of business jargon doesn’t indicate an absence of smart ‘business thinking’. It’s a point worth making, for two reasons. Firstly to dispel the myth outside the arts sector that cultural organisations are somehow ‘amateur’, simply because they use different language. Secondly to challenge the belief held by some in the cultural sector itself that using business terminology to describe what they do inevitably means somehow ‘selling out’.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not we choose to use the jargon of business. What really matters is being clear about our definitions of ‘success’ and then achieving it. Then we can all become even more successful by using appropriate management methods and techniques which fit the objectives and ethos of our organisations - in the cultural sector or elsewhere - whatever vocabulary we choose to use.