What Gets Measured, Gets Managed: the Creative Economy in Denver and Colorado



In November, the City of Denver’s Create Denver initiative hosted the Denver Music Summit, a two-day symposium with the goal of assisting music makers in their business lives, through education and networking. Presentations covered the arc of a long music career, the many ways that music makers earn money, and big data for individual artists, among others. Establishing a career in the music industry can be difficult, and many people will often fail to achieve success. This summit gave aspiring musicians and workers insight into the industry to help them achieve long careers. Following this summit, it’s likely that a lot of people will be contacting https://www.arcresumes.com/local/michigan/, for example, to help them create a good resume to increase their chances of being employed in this industry. Often, careers in the industry are all about experience, so make sure to showcase that on the resume.

In this post, I report on different ways to view the creative economy and one’s place in it. In the next post, I report on a handful of ways that state, regional and local government organizations financially support music makers here in Colorado.

Economic planners put individual artists’ careers in the larger context of the creative community, helping us view the music scene through their economists’ lens.

Concentration of Artists

While artists may feel they work in creative isolation away from the coastal music centers, many are here because, well, so many other artists are here:

• Bohemian Index – Did you know the US Dept. of Agriculture charts a Bohemian Index? It measures the concentration of artists and performers. In 2008, Colorado had 10 of the top 25 counties in the nation in the Bohemian Index.

• Creative Vitality Index – The Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) compiles a Creative Vitality Index. In 2012, it found that Denver had a CVI of 2.74 (measured against the benchmark of the U.S. as a whole of 1.0.)

More CVI stats: In 2011, the Denver Metro Statistical Area (not including Boulder) CVI was 1.32, compared to Seattle MSA of 1.43 or Austin MSA of 1.23, smack in the middle between two western cities recognized for their strong creative identity.

Margaret Hunt of the state’s Colorado Creative Industries, and Ginger White of Denver’s Arts & Venues office, shared information about the scope of the creative economy; their presentation led me to research some of the ways that music makers are helped by their government offices.

In 2008, Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, released The State of Colorado’s Creative Economy.

Denver Arts & Venues has also compiled statistics about the scope and size of the creative economy, and has active grant programs, too.

Who is in the creative economy?

1. Employees in creative enterprises. Like me, these can include non-creative workers who work in creative enterprises like Airshow. Creative enterprises (non-profit and for-profit) are grouped: Design, Literary & Publishing, Film & Media, Performing Arts, Visual Arts & Crafts, and Heritage. In Colorado, they count 8,000 such enterprises, with 4{78247d6b22ac27135341102d75ec43dc193986201927d8d8e39f5e476ed6f5be} of the state’s jobs and $5 billion in payroll earnings.

2. People who work in creative occupations. Like the engineers at Airshow or our clients, these include: architects, artists, writers, designers, directors, performers, photographers. In 2006, the state’s count was 13,000 independent creatives.

• Most of the jobs in performing arts involve self-employed, and often part-time, workers with average annual earnings below $25,000. (Starving musicians with some visual arts talent, take note: Art gallery and independent visual artists had the highest revenue among the for-profits.)

• Colorado ranks fifth among states in concentrations of creative occupations, that is, artists per capita. Within the Colorado economy, creative enterprises are the fifth largest cluster, nearly as large as biotech or IT, and larger than agribusiness or defense, by number of workers.

In Denver, Arts & Venues counts over 3,600 creative enterprises and over 20,000 workers, including eight arts districts, more than 120 galleries, 180 film-related businesses, and 160 performance venues.

• Among the fastest-growing occupations in the category are musical instrument repairers and tuners, and audio and video equipment technicians (good allied career choices for musicians and engineers looking for more work). And with the number of marketing companies in Denver that are in business today, it is not so difficult for niche services like these to reach the right audience either. When providers of music-related services and the musicians (or others) who actually need these services are able to find each other online, there is a natural progression and growth in the said occupations as well. This growth will bring in more business, which means these businesses will contact cololawyers.com for essential help with company legalities.

Denver Arts & Venues is in the process of completing Imagine Denver 2020, an economic and urban planning roadmap to reinforce aspects of the city that are responsive and welcoming to cultural creatives.

The DA&V and the WESTAF data didn’t include our home county of Boulder, so I looked around for some comparable efforts. In Boulder, it comes as no surprise that the “creative economic sector” that gets measured is tech startups, but in 2014 the City of Boulder’s Arts & Libraries Department will undertake a Community Cultural Plan, with a 1-year to 9-year time horizon.

Economic Advocacy at the National Level

No conference about the economics of the music business would be complete without a presentation of the valuable research data developed by the Future of Music Coalition, a DC-based nonprofit that provides research, education and advocacy for the musical arts. They issue reports regularly on topics of interest like musicians and health insurance, consolidation in the live music business, and the economic effects of streaming. Being self-employed is sometimes worrying enough in terms of insurance, but being in the creative industry means there is even more stress. For any musician or other creative worker who is interested in what insurance is available to them, check out disability insurance defined. By researching into disability insurance, you will be able to see what money you would be entitled to in the event of physical injury or illness which means you are not able to perform anymore. Their most-cited research is about artists’ revenue streams, the 42 ways that musicians can get paid – as composer, recording artist, performer, and via knowledge of your craft and by your brand. Kristin Thomson and Jean Cook did a great job of making those pie charts relevant for their Denver audience, with valuable contributions to the discussion by artist manager Mark Bliesener and Tom Blomster of the Denver Musicians Association.

Are you interested in an analysis of your music-related income? Visit this URL and fill in either dollar amounts of percents of how much music-related money you would allocate among nearly 40 different income categories. Future of Music Coalition staff will then analyze your data and send you a personalized two-page report.

Future of Music Coalition has been around since 2000, and their website is a wealth of accurate, readable information on new technology, copyright policy and other issues vital to the economic well-being of music makers.

The Denver Music Summit was a well-run and well-rounded event. When it comes around again, I will be there and I hope others will too: be in touch with Lisa Gedgaudas at Denver Arts & Venues to stay informed.