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Contribution: "The cultural entrepreneur, an artist in the digital economy" by Clara-Doina Schmelck

The Forum d'Avignon was held for the first time in Bordeaux, from March 29th to April 1st, around the theme "Entreprising culture." The debate "Are the creators of entrepreneurs like any other?" outlined the characteristics of a new type of artist born with digital technologies: the cultural entrepreneur.

The debate associated Tonje Bakang, founding director of Afrostream; Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange; Manuelle Gautrand, Architect; Anthony Leonard, Associate Director of Susanna Lea Associates and Co-founder of Editions Versilio; Sana Ghenima, CEO Sanabil Med; Glenn O'Farrell, President and CEO of Média TFO group; Aurélien Bellanger, writer; Michel Kacenelenbogen, Comedian, founder and co-director of the Brussels theater Le Public; Raphael Pichon, head and founder of the Pygmalion ensemble; Françoise Benhamou, Professor, member of the Circle of economists; Thomas Paris, economics research Officer and management at CNRS and professor at HEC, and was moderated by Isabelle Giordano, General Manager of Unifrance films, Journalist.

In November 2015, the consulting firm Ernst & Young assessed direct sales of cultural and creative industries reaching €61.4 billion. However, the number of jobs in this sector has experienced exceptional growth since 1995, at the beginnings of the internet. There are 1200 museums in France, 23 million spectators, not to mention the 203 million moviegoers. Consequence: yesterday’s bohemian artist seems to have become the Bac+5 graduate from a great school, curious and surrounded, that is to say a cultivated manager able to monetize his creativity and passion for music, literature, architecture or visual arts.

Antagonistic approaches

Although private companies in the cultural sector exists in Europe and the US for over a century, like the music labels, movie production houses, galleries, concert halls, some companies..., bringing closer culture and business in the citizens’ mental structures is not easy, since we still often associate the artist with the clichéd images inherited from the nineteenth century, despite the international culture market realities in 2016.

Cultural creation and business seem to proceed from two antagonistic approaches: Raphaël Pichon thus distinguishes creation and interpretation for the musician: "undertaking is the nascent gesture of interpretation", while creating must "especially not meet a need; you have to distance ourselves from the world.” Manuelle Gautrand decomposes: there is a "single moment of creation; and a moment of openness and vulnerability to the business.”

Yet, as pointed out in the Bordeaux’ sumptuous theater by the economists Françoise Benhamou and Thomas Paris, the world of culture was the precursor of three typical entrepreneurial trends, both in terms of management and business model: a continuous innovation which does not meet a simple need; a project-based operation and non-linear careers, which were first developed in the cultural field, with more and more short intermittent contracts; finally, the hybridization between model of independence and wage models, and the belief that the social model of the future will be hybrid.

Convergences models

However, bringing closer cultural and economic model of the company carries the potential risk of privatizing culture, that is to say, to turn everyone into an entrepreneur and to end all public support for creation or heritage.

During the Forum d'Avignon, the idea was to overcome this divide in order to make that public authorities to better take into account the cultural enterprises and enable them to define and develop.

Today, the question of the funding of hybridization is central to the problems of cultural creators. First challenge: find a funding model, particularly for the means of financial leverage such as the public investment banking (BPI), the crowdfunding and private savings, which could be directed towards the companies of the cultural sector.

Second challenge: defining its status, just as when setting up a business. For now, in France, a different status applies depending on the activity: artisan, artist-author, liberal profession, official, auto-entrepreneur… with tax and social systems sometimes mutually incompatible and which significantly complicate administrative procedures, as pointed by Aurélien Bellanger in Bordeaux.

In 2016, an artist, as an entrepreneur, combines many activities. A life of artist / creator is the life of an entrepreneur: writing, performance, education, own productions, participation in co-productions, etc. A common point between the two figures: risk taking and its corollary: exposure to a certain insecurity. As Tonjé Bakang, founding director of Afrostream, summarized at the Forum, the specificity of the cultural company lies in "an energy that combines audacity of the entrepreneur and risk-taking of the artistic creation."

Obviously, the market law redefines the perception that political and cultural stakeholders have of culture. On the one hand, artists are not bohemian anymore, and consider themselves more as entrepreneurs. On the other side, the ministers think culture in economic terms. After the CNC, Audrey Azoulay, the new Minister of Culture belongs more, like Fleur Pellerin, to this category of professionals in "public management" applied to culture than that of the founders of cultural policies in France as was André Malraux. What are the consequences of the creation?

However, let there be no mistake: as proven by the testimonies of Raphael Pichon or Léonard Antony, each in his own art, undertaking culture does not mean undertaking in culture. The creative act of the artist involves cultural choices that necessarily precede any managerial or financial concern. Simply because society knows how to distinguish the artist from the one who is not, the cultural work from what it is not it.

About Clara-Doïna Schmelck

She is journalist, head of the « Media » section from Intégrales Mag, which is the pure player for Intégrales Productions, a press agency specialized in television coverage around Europe, Middle East and Africa. She often publishes leading articles in RFI Atelier des médias, MétaMédia, France TV Info but also CB News, Libération and Le Plus de l’Obs. She is graduated from ENS, and she holds a philosophy master, leading her to become attached to information and new communication forms stakes.

Her blog :

On Twitter : @ClaraSchmelck