Creative Industries and Trade Digitisation Forum Begins

Josanne Leonard

The first plenary session on Day 1 of the Creative industries and Trade Digitisation Forum addressed the topic “Creative Industries Through the Lens of Digitisation: Trends & Policy Challenges”.

Trinidad-based communications consultant Joseanne Leonard was the moderator.

She started the panel discussion by suggesting that, “As we begin to crank back up after COVID, we ask some questions about how we should use this moment to rebuild the creative sectors, which quite frankly were already under duress in many developing countries.”

Nicholas Brancker

Panellist Nicholas Brancker, a Grammy-nominated producer and musician from Barbados, was the first to make his opening statement.  He said that, “We in the Caribbean have been functioning for a very long time outside of what we would call the mainstream music industry. The idea of a major label being an aspiration for us was more of a dream than a reality, and we have found ways over time to exist reasonably fruitfully with tools that we have developed on our own.” For example, he said that we have developed systems of live performance in our own region and for the diaspora that is all over the world.

He added that, “We have also over time developed a very vibrant recording industry in the sense that the Caribbean, in my view, and the statistics do show this to a certain extent, is the most prolific region in the world with regards to releasing music per capita. Not only the amount of music but also the number of styles and approaches that we are responsible for worldwide makes us a significant contributor to what we would call the content, the material that people are selling internationally.”

Birame Sock

Birame N. Sock, a successful technical executive and serial entrepreneur, is currently the Founder and Managing Partner of Founder 5, Inc. a startup management group focused on developing innovative ventures with successful executives and non-technical co-founders in various industries in the US and Africa.  She stated that, “I had the luxury and opportunity as someone that had grown up in Africa and went to study in the US to be able to start my first company and start that company as a mobile application in the music space where we were just starting to distribute content via mobile phones. Where operators were just starting to look at their revenue models and realizing that they were going to reach some sort of peak when it came to using your phone just to be able to make or receive a phone call.”

Ms. Sock added that, when we look at technology we can frown upon it. However, she said there are lots of negative things that we can see around technology and just the digital world, especially for the creative industries. But she said that ultimately COVID did prove to all of us that when you take everything away what’s left is technology for us to be able to communicate with each other.

She said that, “I look at the Netflix of the world, and Apple Music Spotify etc. I look at them as what the record labels did before. To a very very limited audience, record labels could choose where their CDs would be available, in what neighbourhoods, what ZIP codes their CDs would be available. They could choose who would listen to what kind of music. It was very structured. Today, with technology, everybody has access to any music they want to have access to. The challenge now is to figure out how to monetize it for the creator.”

John Howkins

John Anthony Howkins, a British author and speaker on Creative Industries, said that, “If there’s going to be a new world that’s different we have to invent it, and we have to work hard at that invention.”

He stated that, “I think this is something that started before the pandemic. We are shifting to a new understanding of the creative industries and the creative economy. For the first 20-25 years, we all worked very hard at identifying those industries, defining them, measuring them, with a lot of help from UNCTAD, WIPO, and national agencies. And we did a remarkable job. And as a result of that a lot of governments, national governments and city governments see it as important and have developed a very strong and wide-ranging effective range of policies.”

Mr. Howkins suggest that, “What we need to do now is to step back bit and think much more about the nature of creativity and how being creative changes the individual. The creative economy is more than just a group of business sectors. It’s a very personal, actually quite private, difficult process that the creative person goes through.”

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