The holy grail of diversification

Recently people told me my articles haven’t explained the master plan for the creative and cultural sector. They’re right. I’ve explained sections to open up people’s understanding—but I haven’t ever shown the big vision. However there’s a master plan document available here on this site. For those who want more technical implementation data, click here.

The refined Cultural Sector Master Plan has existed for over five years—built on a mother-document first compiled in 1997. It’s been the subject of dozens of meetings with leaders of representative groups, artists and foreign experts—and fortified by generations of ancestral technical and vision documents from pioneers like Beryl McBernie, George Bailey and Terry Evelyn, Colin Laird and CLR James. This has been anchored by international best practice strategies which nations have used to grow these industries throughout the course of their civilisations.

It however especially refers to techniques used in three modern periods:

  1. the immediate post-World War II period of the 40s and 50s when the grand architecture of arts councils, heritage economies, and consolidation of performance economies happened;
  2. the late 60s-early 70s with the first wave of broadcast legislation and codes; and
  3. the 90s when many countries identified the creative sector as their growth industry and started re-tooling national economies around them, and the burgeoning computer/telecom industries.

Those three waves of enabling systems made the creative industry the second largest industry on Earth—worth over $1.5 trillion annually. The reason why T&T’s creative sector under-performs is because we’ve implemented none of these systems the world has had since the 1940s!

T&T’s Cultural Sector Master Plan—as formulated by the Artists’ Coalition—remains the most comprehensive pathway document existing for the retooling of any local industry for diversification. The last two ministers of finance have confessed that the cultural sector is the most organised, with the most visionary and implementable plans for diversification. We’re the only sector that went through the rigorous three-month post-Budget scrutiny of the Ministry of Finance’s Implementation Unit wherein every single programme in our master plan was tested for feasibility and practical industrial implementation. Month-by-month five-year plans were built out of it. Yet still, three years later, not one part has been implemented—despite the fact that in 2012 $100 million was set aside—and instead spent on 50th anniversary fireworks and fluff by the Ministry of Planning.

As artists we’ve worked long and hard over the last decade to destroy stereotypes that artists are airy-fairy and don’t understand economics, money, and structure. Our master plan—distributed to hundreds—has withstood all kinds of attack. The latest has been the shadowy conception called the Creative Industries Company—or “Cultural Capital”—a series of models that imperfectly understand the sector—and in many people’s minds has been fabricated to line certain people’s pockets and egos… We’ll deal with it another time…Let’s deal with the legitimate master plan.

Currently we estimate the creative sector—meaning the conventional arts and festival-related genres of music, theatre, dance, visual arts, Carnival and other festivals, media—earn about $1.9 billion for our economy annually. The lion’s share—just over a $1 billion—is earned by the domestic Carnival. We believe if the master plan is implemented, in four years the sector will earn between $6 to $7 billion annually. This meteoric rise in income is possible because within the creative sector most of the investment is concentrated in the creation of prototypes—a musical recording, film, photograph—which can then be exploited infinitely after for a fraction of the cost, unlike manufactured goods. For other creative products the value of an artefact can rise geometrically because of marketplace factors. A performer or a painting may be worth $600 today—but $7,000 ten weeks from now. In one year both could be worth $120,000. Few other industries offer such geometric rates of return…One local artist earned over $20 million in deals off a song he recorded for TT$6,000.

Transforming the local cultural sector is predicated upon growing four components systematically:

  1. Heritage—which includes natural and man-made sites and intellectual property like patents and copyrights. Most of our built-heritage is collapsing and is a drain on the Treasury. This sector can earn $1 billion annually.
  2. The release of our genius creative class by empowering them with merit-based grant-funding, entrepreneurial incubators, and venture capital can transform this class from a $0.2b earner to over $2 billion annually. This includes moving our touring contingent from 0.05 per cent to 19 per cent in that period.
  3. Carnival and other festivals can double contributions to $3 billion annually—if we sensitively evolve festivals—respecting their source rituals—but using brilliant design to evolve them past folk roots.
  4. Finally other creative practices—consultants; event-solutions; graphics; indigenous IT; cuisine; fashion; industrial-design; educational products; media; advertising—can earn $1billion.

Every single lever to achieve these goals is known. We’ve won the policy battles—they’re in national budgets. Its politicians, especially from two ministries, who stand in the way of the wealth of the nation. In following articles I’ll detail the sector transformations and how diversification really works.

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Posted on June 7, 2013, in President's Blog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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