Monthly Archives: November 2009


c Nex Architecture on the Behance Network

There is a huge wealth of skills and ability amongst arts board members, matched by some brilliant cultural leaders at the helm of our organisations but the system simply does not support them to adapt their organisations during turbulent times.

The current system of arts funding and cultural governance suspends our arts organisations in some sort of aspic, resisting change and discouraging risk taking.  We have created arts organisations which are not robust enough to lead change through setting them up as interconnecting components of public administration.  Most are charities but, unlike charities which are accountable to their members, most of these charities have directors who are also the only members, thereby never having the legitimacy of democratic election.  Being unpaid as well as suffering from a democratic deficit,  they often do not take long term responsibility and neither do they take risk.  They are kept in check through a bespoke system for arts boards governance and investment is made in publications, training and the like.  There is a push for increased diversity on boards, but the reality is that this a pretty elite system with board members almost always well established in the community and the system being pretty inaccessible to newcomers.

Why don’t arts organisations get together and merge?  Because the current artistic directors don’t want to, and the boards neither want to upset the directors nor put their heads above the parapet nor get their sleeves rolled up.

Why don’t some of the high experienced business people and entrepreneurs on boards apply their skills to generate income for the organisation?  Because that is not their role, as charity trustees, and their ideas must pass the taste test of their arts executives.

Tomorrow’s successful local or regional arts organisation will be embedded in its community, be dynamic, risk taking and take a high level of responsibility for success.

It will maximise local entrepreneurial skills and community engagement. The charity model does not support this and so a new model would be to develop Creative Community Companies, cultural Community Interest Companies. CICs are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes.

A CIC can be set up with a mixture of members, representative and individual.  The key thing is that all the members are working within a structure which exists to service a particular community.

The Creative Community Company would be set up to serve the interests of all those in a local arts and culture and creative community – creative practitioners, artists, participants.   The CCC could govern all the infrastructure or some of it, accepting that its job was to provide the best creative and cultural experiences and products for its community and that is likely to involve continually evolving and changing.

Board directors would be accountable to their community of interest and would include executive directors – paid for their professional services and taking full responsibility. An executive Chair, rooted in a community, could lead change and provide robust and dynamic leadership for the organisation long term.  Local authorities, enterprise agencies, universities could all be members and would serve therefore without any of that awkward conflict of interest that can exist in the current system.

We could harness the skills and enthusiasm of some of the volunteers currently serving on board in more satisfying ways  – as cultural champions in schools, for example.  With fewer and small professional boards, the focus for the staff, artists and volunteers can be on creating and supporting the activity and less on convoluted governance matters.

The CIC vehicle is used by Culture and Sport Glasgow and Watershed’s Ished amongst several others, and the model offers an opportunity to change the dynamic of art organisations and to add both entrepreneurialism and community ownership. As our communities become ever more diverse and in the future maybe more so with migrant populations, the CCC model can be designed to be genuinely porous supporting creative hubs which offer neutral space for all collaborations.

And the Creative Community Company can adapt to change.  Who knows what will emerge this century or even this month as a creative interactive experience, or what Spotify, Google, Apple and people we don’t know yet will do?

During the current public sector expenditure reduction, he arts have argued well their case to national governments.  But with the pressure on local authorities, its only a matter of time before parts of the system begin to collapse.  The Creative Community Company can be the phoenix for future growth.

(from a longer presentation)


There was a diversity of creative business leaders at last week’s C&binet Forum.  As well as global industry leaders from Google, Spotify, EMI, Vivendi and many other major media leaders, publishers, content providers and distributors, there was a rich smattering of creative entrepreneurs (mostly not wealthy either because they work in community creative enterprises, or simply because they are emergent).  So both the formal sessions and informal chats were driven by an energy and passion around change and improvement to maximise the impact of UK creativity.

The ‘arts’ did not emerge much during the formal discussions, perhaps due to the domination of the copyright agenda. Twice they were mentioned, once by the CEO of  DACS and once by Colin Tweedy of Arts and Business who was given short shift by the panel talking about investment, who were interested in profit not patronage.  In their mind, music , publishing and games fell clearly under the remit of the creative economy, but subsidised arts did not.

This division is one which some of our artists and subsidised arts organisations feel comfortable.  It provides  some necessary protection and a space for the state to encourage the vital support of individual artists and arts activity which cannot and should not be commercial.  The metrics of the arts are not only (if at all) commercial but are educational, social and cultural, promoting well being, cultural identity, individual growth and community cohesion – as well as , most importantly, provoking ideas, thoughts and revelations.

But not to engage in the fast moving change  around the way we communicate and interact in the digital age  could be a catastrophic mistake which threatens some subsidised arts organisations with irrelevance and possible extinction.

And its not about using Twitter as a marketing tool.

The key areas are around interacting with audiences and around 21st century business models.

In terms of interaction, the massive increase in people interacting through games must surely given some ideas to arts organisations – especially those involved in drama and music – some scope to review current products and seek new collaborative methods of creating work.

And as for 21st century business models   – its all about Freemium and upselling.

The leaders of some arts organisations engage in the challenge and break through the aspic of subsidy.  Watershed, for example, in its Ished project is about to embark on creating theatre with participants through mobile technology. Cornerhouse through the Art of With is at least asking the questions about collaboration with users in curation and programming.  But the examples are few and far between.  In the mainstream of subsidised arts, the production and presentation of work is entirely led by the visions and drives of the artists at the top, and the machinery around that is concerned with realising the artistic ambition and attracting an audience for it.

So does it matter? Maybe subsidised theatres and arts centres are simply the organised versions of individual artists who create work for arts sake and damn the audience?

A colleague , faced with the evidence which demonstrated the type of work which would attract larger and more diverse audiences, and noting the artistic director’s disdain, described the ‘salon  theatre’ with which that organisation was engaged.

Personally, I think that is a great pity.  I, like many, discovered the arts with a little help from the library, my dad’s work night out to the (variety) theatre, and school trips.  A typical child of the ‘C2DE ‘ household with no books, art or music, the arts unfolded as I began my journey of discovery.

Subsidised arts organisations should encourage the discovery of today’s youngsters and engage with their equivalent of libraries and works socials – social networking and gaming as well as intense engagement in education.  Or else adopt the the model of supply-led theatre and arts, the ‘salon’ and make the case for investment for other reasons – the arts are, after all, good for your health, well-being, community cohesion and sense of self.

If that is the case, individual arts organisations will need to have their evidence ready.  We have less and less public expenditure available.  And government, particularly if the Conservatives win the next election, get it about business models.  Barnet Council’s freemium model could, if extended, mean that the arts and culture are an additional extra for tax payers.  And will they pay for salon theatre?

Last week’s C&binet Forum was, on the surface, dominated by concerns about copyright from those with most to lose from filesharing. The agenda was framed to encourage the most fulsome arguments to be voiced by representatives of big players in music and publishing. And although all recognised the need for carrots to encourage consumers to pay for downloading content, and a campaign to raise awareness that filesharing is theft which could deny a livelihood to musicians and authors, most of the discussions were about the need for sticks. Today only 1 in 20 of downloaded music tracks is paid for.

C&binet is a not-for-profit network, created by the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport to link the international creative and commercial communities to grow the global creative economy. At last week’s forum,  business leaders from across the creative and finance industries came together to debate access to finance for creative industries, new business models for online content, developing talent and securing creative rights.

Three cabinet ministers trailed the announcement made by Peter Mandelson on the final morning of the conference, that the Government proposed a new Copyright Strategy for rights management and licensing in the digital age, including the British version of ‘3 strikes and you’re out’, which is two notifications and then ‘proportionate’ action for those who violate copyright.

So with that all important stake in the ground,  other issues which were debated and discussed ..

Its all about the bandwidth, baby

In 5 years time the capacity of the internet will be enormous and with band widths and speeds on a completely different scale from today. So won’t the issue of downloading be redundant?

Mobile is more and more the future

Won’t our devices be ever more disposable as everything is kept in the cloud and as technology becomes embedded in our walls and cars? Notions of disposable Kindles were floated, looking down the evolutionary telescope.

Be Greater with Data

With the exponential extension of cyberspace, the amassing of meta data will form a content –aware network which will be pretty much able to know everything. This will generate multiple issues of licensing and privacy but will be able to be used for almost everything. People/consumers/customers/users will become more and more aware of the monetary value of their personal data as the transaction between users, suppliers and advertisers becomes ever more sophisticated.

Freemium is the business model for tomorrow- make that today

Although there were many references to the need to find new business models, that really was from those who only have old business models.

Taking publishing, Gail Rebuck of Random House told us that within 24 hours of the publication of the latest Dan Brown novel, there were 70 pirate sites offering it for free.

Cory Doctorow, on the other hand, is developing the whole suite of Freemium services with his forthcoming collection of short stories, with free downloadable editions in a variety of formats, pay-per-use audio CD, opportunities for readers to enhance their product, from the $250 hand bound edition to the $10,000 bespoke edition with a unique chapter for the purchaser. These are in addition to buying from a bookseller and his ‘donate’ service where you can buy a book and donate it to a deserving school or library.

This business model nestles comfortably amongst Spotify and Playfish- both of whom use the upselling model as their framework.

Collaboration is king
All of the statistics show that the areas where there is major growth is where people can interact and get involved – games and social networking.

Some of the industry leaders from the games industry, from Spotify and Google were bemused by the focus on copyright and old business models. With a global perspective, they have an eye on what is happening in China, India and Brazil where the growth in creative industries and internet activity is faster than in the UK. The next billion mobiles are projected to be bought in China. And Australia has invested $43bn in fibre networks.

In the words of a games industry leader  “if we don’t get a move on, the UK will simply be trampled on in the gold rush”

But now, with Mandelson’s announcement, we can get beyond copyright. Other areas were aired and discussed at the Forum and with a wide range of leaders of all types and scales of creative businesses attending, this could be the beginning of an effective network in which to influence Government for the success of our creative economy.