SohoCreate Festival signals value of UK and international creative sectors

CREATIVITY: Some of the good reasons for investing in the international creative industries were highlighted last week (6 to 10 June) during the 2016 SohoCreate Festival in London.

The event celebrating the city’s Soho area as the world’s “most creative square” turned the spotlight on its movie and TV production studios, fashion houses, record labels, digital creative agencies and some of the best restaurants anywhere.

The fact that Hollywood producers have embraced Soho and the UK’s thriving film business was emphasised during a seminar called Soho Hollywood (pictured below).

“The industry has never been better. For the first time in my life, I’m advising my children to look into it because you can now have a real career in it,” said Tim Bevan (pictured above, left), Co-Chairman at Working Title Films, whose movies for Hollywood and independent titles (from My Beautiful Laundrette to The Danish Girl) have generated more than US$6bn at the box office.

Speaking to a packed venue of mostly young aspiring industry executives and artists, he attributed part of Working Title’s success to the country’s tax credits for film investors and London’s status as a hotbed of creativity.

“Being a producer and director has always been difficult but there are more hours of film and TV being made than ever before,” he continued.

“When I started, I was working with a blank sheet of paper. Today, before you start, you are already 25% (of the budget) in credit. Also, various art forms cross-pollinate in London. Over the years, our theatres have been a source of great talent for our film industry.”

Also on the Soho Hollywood panel was Duncan Clark, President of Distribution at Universal Pictures International. He said it was critical to make the right relationships as careers developed in what remains a cutthroat business.

“For the director, making a movie can take up to the next two years of your life. So you need a relationship you can benefit from, people you can trust.”

For every 15 movies made by a studio, 100 are rejected. So once you crack Hollywood, never assume the challenges get easier, warned Fiona Walkinshaw, joint Managing Director at Framestore, the award-winning visual effects studio behind James Bond movie Spectre, The Martian and Everest.

“We can never take what we do for granted,” she stated. “We’ve had to pitch really hard for Hollywood work.”

During the same week, but elsewhere in Soho, fashion retail guru Tammy Smulders was speaking at another event, How to Launch a Fashion Brand in the UK. It was hosted by the Finnish Embassy to examine the trading opportunities for Finland’s designers.

“We’ve a very strong retail tradition here. So you are not just targeting your products at UK customers, you are on a global stage. The UK market is a window to the entire world,” said Smulders, who is Managing Partner, Global Executive Director at Havas LuxHub, the fashion and luxury division of global advertising media conglomerate Havas Media Group.

She then gave a breakdown of the value designer labels and ready-to-wear fashion brings to the UK economy.

The total fashion business was worth £26bn (US$37bn) last year, from £21bn (US$29.9bn) in 2009. Additionally, designer labels represent 7% of the UK fashion market. And fashion retail accounts for 14% of the country’s total retail market, which was worth US$180bn to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, according to UK government data.

She pointed out that the British fashion industry is one of most international in terms of companies doing business in the country.

There are more than 400 international brands being sold on the UK high street, compared to only 35 in the 1980s, she explained. And 55% of the luxury products purchased in the UK are by international visitors.

The creative sectors, including media and entertainment, in London and the UK are not the only ones proving to be sound investment vehicles.

In a survey published last year by Friedrich-Schiller-Universität (FSU) Jena, the German university, it emerged that TV broadcasting industry contributed €5.3bn (US$5.96bn) to the country’s economy in 2014.

It was followed by newspaper publishing (€4.8bn) and the music industry with €3.92bn. Magazine publishing accounted for €3.39bn, while the film industry brought in  €2.55bn, followed by book publishing (€2.15bn), and €1.65bn from radio broadcasting. Another €2.7bn is attributed to public-funded theatres and orchestras.

The FSU report was ostensibly commissioned to compare how the national music business fared next to the other creative trades.

In general, the international music sector has been very vocal about the damage caused to its artists and enterprises by digital piracy and ineffective out-dated copyright laws.

Consequently, there are more figures about the state of the music industry compared to other media-and-entertainment businesses. And thanks to anti-piracy efforts and a healthy live music industry, some have been very positive.

UK Music, the trade body, reported that “music tourism” contributed £3.7bn (US$5.3bn) to Britain’s economy in 2015, a 7% increase from the year before. Music tourism covers all live music events attended by both UK and overseas fans.

In the report, called Wish You Were Here, UK Music also concluded that 27.7 million tickets for live music were sold last year. And the average spend by overseas music tourists was £852 (US$1,214) per head, up from £751 (US$1,070) in 2014.

In New Zealand, the WeCreate NZ organisation reported music contributed NZ$472m (US$333m) to the 2014 national economy, a 4.4% jump from the previous year. The nation’s games sector generated NZ$392m (US$276m) in 2015.

On 3 December 2015, Paris-based creators’ rights organisation CISAC published a new global study on the economic and social contribution of “cultural and creative industries” to the global economy.

The report, called Cultural Times – the First Global Map of Cultural and Creative Industries, was produced by international consultancy group EY.

It examines the impact of advertising, architecture, books, gaming, music, movie, newspapers/magazines, performing arts, radio, TV, and the visual arts on the world’s economy.

In 2013, it concluded, these industries combined generated US$2,250bn in revenues, representing 3% of world GDP, and 29.5 million jobs.

“This represents more revenues than the telecom services worldwide (US$1,570bn) and surpasses the combined jobs of the automotive industry in Japan, Europe and US (25 million jobs),” CISAC said.