Management of the Creative Asset
"Once private citizens began to be seriously engaged in the cultural market, works of art became, more than ever, a commodity. [...]. Businessmen of culture offered and sold artistic products, whether dramas, drawings, or volumes of poetry, [and] with the same gesture, advanced the aesthetic cultivation of the buying public."
—Peter Gay (In Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond)
The dichotomy between the creative and the businessperson is ever widening. Though, in modern times the two have learnt to work together, it has often not been an easy alliance. Filled with a difference in opinion on the production process, the purpose of creation and sometimes as disparate as a difference in the language spoken between the two.
Given the difference between the two realms, the middleperson or in music, the producer often has to actively create a market for the goods produced. This is evident in photography, in animation and any other genre of the arts. Bridging of these two worlds must be done in a manner that takes into account the power structure shifts over time, the gap in dual understanding between financial and creative interests. Resolving this conflict requires a balancing act that allows both sides to thrive while meeting the demands of the market. The market itself ever shifting, and never homogenous.
Winning Jenga while navigating stormy waters
The imagery seems like a losing hand, but without strategy every hand is a losing one. Two models have been suggested in resolving the dichotomy.
Producer led firms like in the music and the publishing aggregate works of many creatives and present them to consumers. As a result, these kinds of firms are often viewed as more objective in deciphering talent. This is because their business model revolves around successfully navigating the market terrain.
In certain industries such as fashion and food industries, the structure allows for creator led firms to thrive. However, even in such firms, the dichotomy between creatives and business persons is still evident. Leading to some form of co-dependency. For example, everyone is familiar with Yves St Laurent but few outside the industry have heard of Pierre Berge, his founding partner and business manager.
One thing is clear in both creator and producer led firms. That a mutually beneficial relationship is core in the growth of the creative industry and the fulfillment of the market driven demand for creative goods.
Walking the tight rope
The creative and the business person are often at loggerheads. The key in both business models outlined above is in building trust and understanding. The managers who understand the often looped and idiosyncratic process involved in developing a creative work can then shift their business structure to reflect the needs of the creative while expertly navigating the terrain of the market and balancing the often profit driven goals of the shareholders and investors. Similarly, creatives must remain cognizant that the work needs to sell and that timelines are crucial to business stability. A stability that grants the creative financial freedom to do what they love.
In Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld demanded limited management interference. This of course was through the understanding that the clothes were to be worn by women and not hung in a museum. Allowing the management, to trust his judgement and reign in the ‘square’ process driven folks to rally behind the creative and not simply interfere anxiously.
It is rare to find a producer led firm whose founders are not led by more than pecuniary motivations. Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin was a lover of books and believed in the power of written works. Such empathy is crucial in building trust, developing the grit needed to grow a firm and the stability to walk the tight rope needed to balance all interests in such firms.
Changing the status quo
The beauty of this strange alliance is not just in providing the market with beloved creative products. It lies in pushing the envelope and enhancing society. The movie industry has for a long time pushed society in multiple directions forcing people to look at different social issues from different perspectives, pushing the limits of human imagination and re-imaging social order and capabilities today. Creative representation and variety is core for these producer led and creator led firms to meet the needs of the market. The criticisms of Hollywood for example in their failing to correctly represent African Americans, Africans, Asian, and Latinx communities is a testament to a lack of representation at all verticals of these diverse communities.
This just isn’t a race issue. It is also a missed financial opportunity and a missed creative opportunity. Creativity feeds off of a creator’s experiences and skill. This is what makes one creator’s work authentic and the other an imitation of the mainstream. Authenticity is as recognizable as the captivating pages of an engaging book, in a haunting picture and the imaginative movie. This authenticity itself often captures a new audience who in their own way relate to these works. The success of the black panther, Beyonce’s Black is King Album and the criticisms levied against the new depiction of Mulan all stem from the need of creative authenticity that matches the changing needs of the market as well as pushes forward society to an age of new thought systems.
The hybrid: Creator and business led firms
The hybrid structure is not something novel. The challenge is finding the true balance and communicating the same to our shareholders. This means providing the financial stability toward the growth and branding of each creative. This often goes against the ‘maximize output and minimize input’ mantra but is core to a long term growth strategy. You cannot build a movement if all of your people aren’t at the peak of their careers. In dealing with creatives this means space to allow them to create their work their way and not build heavily constraining parameters within which they must operate. It requires crediting them for their work, and developing co-branding opportunities in recognition of their contribution to your business success.
At INCMMN we try to do this in our own little way. We strive to build one on one relationships with each of our hand chosen creatives. This allows us to understand their wants and needs and us to feed that into our larger goal. We work to grow with our creative partners not just grow off their work. Our definition of empowerment is granting to them the ability to surpass us. It is not just one way, our creatives understand the importance of the business person in the room. Not just to be viewed as the problematic person who confines their creative goals. This in itself helps bridge barriers and overcome communication challenges. All parties are able to make the accommodations needed to form an internal win-win strategy needed for mutual flourishing. Thus the hybrid balancing of a creator and producer led firm.
CFO to CEO: "What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?"
CEO to CFO: "What happens if we don’t and they stay?"
Grace Guyatu Diida
Growth and Strategy, INCMMN