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How much is CREATIVITY worth to us?


Creativity is not only the foundation for culture, artistic disciplines and artistry. Creative ideas change the world. In this time, as we are transforming to a digital knowledge society, creativity is the heart of innovation for all possible areas in our society.


Considering how important it is for us, do we attach sufficient value to it? And do we sufficiently empower creative people to contribute to our world?


The creative sector in the Netherlands is currently facing a major problem. On the one hand the sector is growing fast. On the other hand, however, wages of artists and cultural creatives decrease. More high quality work is provided, but the producers receive less earnings in return.


The Dutch SER (Economic and Social Council) and the Raad voor Cultuur (Council for Culture) have raised the alarm with the recently published report “Passie Gewaardeerd” (Passion Appreciated). They identify a (too) high percentage of flex-workers (contract workers), and (too) many people who continue working in the creative sector while they hardly earn anything. In addition, the value created by the sector often does not end up with the creators.


The creative business agency Braenworks, and the undersigned therefore believe that a radical change is required in our thinking about the way creativity is valued and exploited.


From dependency to ownership


With creativity being of such importance to the world in which we live, we should no longer consider it acceptable that a creative professional earns next to nothing. This starts with the creatives themselves, who possess something truly valuable. From a strong belief that as a creative individual you are the ‘owner’ of your creativity, the realisation can grow that relinquishing control of that creativity is not necessarily the only way.


The value created does not end up with the creators in a fair way. The reason for this is that we allow too much power to the groups that add value further up the chain, like media companies, agencies, theater producers, music and film companies, but also companies like YouTube and Facebook.


These parties claim that their added value lies in reaching a large audience, and they are of the opinion that a large claim (up to 85%) can be imposed on usage rights and intellectual property rights. In the digital knowledge economy, those claims are becoming increasingly important. Is it therefore not extremely desirable and urgent that we explore alternative revenue models for creative professionals?


In addition, a lot of valuable creativity is now lost. Economist Sherwin Rosen talked about ‘superstar markets’ back in the early 1980s: markets in which all income flows to the most talented, most capable and best performing people. And the more famous you get, the more you earn. In other words, as a society, we only see the tip of the iceberg. What would the world look like if all good creative ideas were given the opportunity to bloom?


So we need a new mindset. One which assumes that you as creative person are the “owner” of your creativity. In doing so, we will think much more as entrepreneurs and make us less dependent on other parties in the chain.


Training and coaching are key


We believe this change is possible. In fact, we are seeing more and more creative people around us who become aware of their (economic) potential and act accordingly. Equipped with relevant knowledge, they ensure that they receive a fair compensation for the value they created. Appropriate training and coaching is essential for this.


Many creative courses now offer modules aimed at developing business skills. Also, business coaching courses for creatives are offered by specialized agencies. However, we believe that these learning paths still too often promote participation in the proverbial superstar-chair dance, and thus ‘dependence’. They are still too much focused on exploiting creativity “old school”. There is too little focus on innovation and independent entrepreneurship.


Also, they rarely take into account the specific DNA of creatives. Often, creative people experience the business aspects of their work as a necessary evil, something they have no time for and gets in the way of their creativity. They must realise this before a suitable business plan can be developed and implemented. In current education programs, too little attention is paid to this. Too often, the passion for entrepreneurship is assumed as motivation when in fact this is literally the opposite of what many creatives feel when they think of entrepreneurship.


From passion to business success


In April 2016, the Council for Culture advised the government to invest more in entrepreneurship in the cultural and creative sectors. A good development, but the creative sector needs to move as well. We want to contribute to a world in which creative people receive a fair compensation for the value they create. That’s why we will start a new Business School for Creatives in January 2018, the Braenworks Academy. We believe this will fulfil a big need.


Despite the fact that we are in line with the Council for Culture in terms of supporting entrepreneurship, we strongly differ in the vision underlying it. The Council for Culture and the Economic and Social Council claim that people in the cultural and creative sector are so passionate that they will continue to pursue their occupation, even on a low income. They say that this reinforces the imbalance between supply and demand, which is already large due to the fact that art and culture are often not produced to fulfil a direct demand.


We believe that creative people do not go so far as to work for almost nothing out of passion. It mainly happens because the ‘superstar markets’ continue to confirm that the endless offering of work ‘for nothing’ can eventually lead to a positive outcome. Only one creative product is needed that reaches a big enough audience through the various links in the chain. If that happens, the economic value of that product is suddenly boosted.


Braenworks Academy, on the contrary, sees passion as a force to bring the skewed market of supply and demand more into balance. We want to enable creative people to use their passion to deliver (scalable) products and services that can generate a sustainable income. Participants will be coached  by various professionals on personal growth and be taught unorthodox ways of commercializing their creativity.


This learning path originated entirely grassroots from the creative sector. Initiator Kevin de Randamie collected all learned lessons from his own career as an artist (Blaxtar), manager (Typhoon a.o.) and cultural entrepreneur and decided to share these with other creative professionals. This led to a successful pilot in 2016.


What now?

We appeal to all creatives, organisations in the creative sector, politicians and policy makers:

  • Invest in education and entrepreneurship and create space for creatives to experiment with new revenue models. Otherwise, only the “superstars” can survive.

  • Take the passion of creatives as a starting point when designing solutions and measures and do not consider it an obstacle. Passion to continue to create is not the cause of a dysfunctional demand and supply market. It is in fact a force to bring the market more in balance.

  • Dare to think out of the box and challenge current usage forms of creativity. This way true innovation can happen.

The initiators will be pleased to enable other creatives and organisations to support and promote the vision and start of the Braenworks Academy.


Thank you for reading! Do you agree with our vision? Then please sign this position paper by leaving a comment. We will then put your name under the document as a signatory – see below.


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