Jack Clothier of Alcopop! Records, in a lecture regarding creativity in the music industry, particularly from an independent record labels point of view, mentioned that they created more exposure and sales for themselves than they had on previous promotional campaigns when they brought cheap fragments of asteroid and got it pressed into the vinyl they were releasing for a band. For the most parts, it’s an entirely cost-effective process that generates higher income with lower outgoings. As Towse (2006) suggests, with the likes of Jack Clothier and Alcopop! Records utilising creativity to drive commerce, the world has cottoned on to the economic power of creativity.
As a collector of vinyl and music memorabilia, from first editions of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley records to signed signature guitar strings from Skindred’s Mikey Demus to an Aerosmith sticker from decades ago, I am all for collecting the more creative side of the music industries outgoings, however when my favourite band begin to sell £200 boxes of content that goes above and beyond what any one person could possibly want – including raw files of the album’s songs for creative commons-adhering remixing at the uses pleasure – it begins to make me question whether it is an extended expression of the artists creativity or a mere exhaustion of economical achievement.
Pratt and Jeffcutt (2009) suggest that perhaps creativity and innovation are the snake oil of the 21st century, labelling them as ‘magic bullets’, one-shot solutions to problems and yet to have been bottled, commercialised and controlled. If creativity cannot be controlled, in an era where inexpensive home recording equipment is readily available and accessible, the internet is in its prime, and subsequently grassroots and DIY labels are on the rise (Straw, 2004; Finch, 2015), is there scope for the potential for it to become oversaturated and somewhat ineffective? From personal experience, in one month, I had to choose between ten different coloured vinyl’s from just three bands. I think it’s a brilliant idea to create a splattered red and white vinyl and sell it at a slightly higher price, but when you’re releasing four different ones for the same record, is that straying too far from the point of creativity for economic gain, and instead exhausting all income-only markets. The red-and-white vinyl now becomes less special to me because it is highly likely that my friends have the others, and therefore the nature of collecting it becomes less rewarding as they’re more accessible.
A wealth of scholars have suggested that the cultural and creative industries themselves are retreating away from the idea of creativity as an uncontrollable and spontaneous process, and think of it more as a process influenced by group interaction, incentive structures, and failure-tolerant work societies (Ford, 1996; Bilton and Leary, 2002; DeFillippi, Grabher and Jones, 2007). It is here that I suggest that in an attempt by grassroots and DIY labels to level the playing field economically through creativity, they have almost in a way destroyed the very process they utilised, as it becomes part-and-parcel of the corporate process it was trying to supersede.
Towse, R. (2006). Copyright and Creativity: An Application of Cultural Economics. Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues, 3(2), pp. 83-91.
Straw, W. (2004). Cultural Scenes. Loisir et societe/Society and Leisure. 27(2) 411–22.
Finch, M. (2015). “Toronto is the Best!”: Cultural Scenes, Independent Music, and Competing Urban Visions. Popular Music and Society, 38(3), pp.299-317.
Jeffcutt, P. and Pratt, A. (2009). Creativity and innovation in the cultural economy. 1st ed. London: Routledge.
DeFillippi, R., Grabher, G. and Jones, C. (2007). Introduction to paradoxes of creativity: managerial and organizational challenges in the cultural economy. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28(5), pp.511-521.
Ford, C. M. (1996). A theory of individual creative action in multiple social domains. Academy of Management Review, 21, 1112-1142
Bilton, C., & Leary, R. (2002). What can managers do for creativity? Brokering creativity in the creative industries. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 8, 49-64