Creative industries (design, fashion, film and video, architecture, computer games, music, performing arts, publishing etc.) stay in the hearth of the creative economy. They lie in the crossroad between arts, culture, economics, business and technology.  They deal with “experience goods and services” that have both private as well as public value. Creative production has a collective nature, transforming the “simple goods” into “complex” one due to the uniqueness of the talents and creative labour involved. Many cultural products are “durable” as they have a capacity to extract revenues long after the period of their production. Their significance is not only economic but also social. Creative industries offer to audiences and buyers not just goods and services, but also – emotions, feelings, provocations.

Montreal is, without any doubt, a city of festivity, cultural events and plenty of talents in all areas of arts.  It has created an international brand of a creative, intercultural city where cultural diversity of artistic expressions is well appreciated. Certain branches of creative industries are booming in the last several years, such as fashion and video games. Prominent international arts and culture organizations have their home in Montreal – Cirque de Soleil, Moment Factory and Sid Lee.  The city is ranked in the top 7 metropolis in North America after Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, Toronto and Vancouver (based on the number of employed in the sector). In the period 2007-2012 the annual increase of employment in CI is 2.2%

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal organized the First Strategic Forum on the Creative Industries in December 2013, bringing together leaders from creative industry branches, academic researchers, politicians, decision-makers and diverse stakeholders to discuss successes and future plans.

The Forum emphasized that there is a need for a profound research on the creative labour of Montreal: who the “creatives” are, how much the creative industries contribute to the overall economic and social development of the city, how Montreal compares to other metropolitan cities in North America and Europe.  The first step in this direction is done by the study The Creative Industries: Catalysts of Wealth and Influence for Metropolitan Montreal, commissioned by the Board of Trade and partners. It aims at determining the economic impact of creative industries in the city, including the spinoffs that generates employment and contribute to the economic development. The study shows that these industries generated economic benefits of $8.6 billion and provided the city with 91,500 direct jobs in 2012.

Montreal ecosystem of creative industries is very rich, combining arts businesses, nonprofit organizations, independent arts entrepreneurs, artists cooperatives and cultural venues.  There are six main priority areas for Montreal in development of creative industries, identified by the Forum:

  • Stay focused on talent to maintain a critical mass of creators in every creative industry subsector
  • Stimulate exploration to put in place conditions that foster creativity
  • Consolidate businesses by encouraging the shift from creator to entrepreneur and the emergence of more medium-sized businesses
  • Value intellectual property to generate wealth
  • Support commercialization to further promote local creativity
  • Strengthen Montréal’s influence and positioning as a creative industry hub

Creative organizations in Montreal still need to find the best ways to expand internationally and increase the level collaboration with partners abroad. There is also a strong need to develop entrepreneurial incubators and accelerators for art-based innovations. Offering training programs in the field of cultural entrepreneurship and encouraging connections between  the business schools and arts departments in the universities is also very much needed. This is a strong catalyst for the development of the creative industries.

Despite of the several existing networks in the arts and culture sector of both French-speaking and English-speaking communities, the collaboration and partnership between diverse arts organizations are still not very efficient. Building strategic alliances and coalitions of partners should be an important vector for further development.  Encouraging artists’ cooperatives and artists sharing centers would decrease the overhead costs for many artists who are not able to cope on their own. The city cultural policy need to look also at the ways to support studios and spaces for artists, including in industrial warehouse structures. Let’s not forget that one of the main characteristics of creative industries branches is that they are quite  connected and dependent on one another- one creative product could find realization and distribution in diverse industry branches. Especially in the situation of highly fragmented arts and culture market in Montreal, partnership is of utmost importance.

Young emerging talents in Montreal need much higher visibility and attention. Networks and organizations such as Diversité Artistique Montreal and YES Montreal deserve to be congratulated for their active involvement in offering meeting spaces, bringing diverse artistic communities together and organizing training programs in business matters in the arts.

There is still a lot to do both on policy and organizational level to encourage young talents. Some suggestions for the strategic “to do” list are as follows:

  • Offering mentoring and coaching programs for artists who would like to start their own business;
  • Embedding entrepreneurial training in the arts schools and academies;
  • Supporting the elaboration and realization of business plans of arts entrepreneurs and artists;
  • Offering debut stages for emerging talents across the city;
  • Setting up of risk funds for arts and culture loans;
  • Initiating cross-departmental working groups of young people: between education, economic development, urban regeneration, labour policy , arts and culture;
  • Fostering the connection between research, technology, innovations, arts and culture from early school stages to universities.
  • Helping unemployed talented young people by training and personalized coaching to be back to the labour market and to find professional realization.
  • Assisting young talented immigrants to connect and collaborate with their colleagues in Montreal and Canada.

These strategic steps forward certainly need collaboration between several stakeholders: the government, businesses, foundations, investors.  Montreal has all the chances to rise much higher in the list of the world renowned creative intercultural cities: the sparkle is already lighted up. Efficient and well-directed policy measures and tools would play a catalyst role. As it is well proven worldwide: every well elaborated city cultural policy need to be backed up by a profound research as well as a very good understanding of the artistic practices, in a strategic framework.

Photo credit: Darina Ivani


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