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Which is the most powerful link in cultural value chains?


- A new survey by Kurt Salmon on the current state of the cultural sector in our digital world was presented during the Forum d’Avignon and discussed by a panel composed of C. Albanel (Orange), P. Dujardin (BOZAR), M. Arets (Crowd Expedition) and T. Cherkaoui (Qatar Museum Authority)

Which is the most powerful link in cultural value chains?

A reflection on how the active involvement of the audience, now possible thanks to the Internet, has changed the cultural value chain has been proposed by the Forum d’Avignon on its second day (Friday 22 November). A portrait of the current state of the cultural sector, and its expected development  was the starting point of the debate.

According to Philippe Pestanes from Kurt Salmon, an average growth of 5% is foreseen for the cultural sector, driven by: the rise in the number of connected terminals, a wider market segment for new forms of digital monetisation and the increase of emergent countries as new potential consumers.

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Concerning cinema today, the sector shows a mild growth, which is expected to improve, thanks to the VOD and EST sales that balance the crisis of traditional supports. The digital shift has first of all shortened the life cycles of cultural products and scattered the audiences. Those two things and the emergence of digital platforms brought major changes to the distribution. It has also concentrated most of the productions in the hands of a few giant labels, with 7 studios controlling 70% of the market share in the film industry.

Innovative production tools are now possible thanks to the digital shift, for example through crowd-funding. Unfortunately, since the average sum collected is 3,500€ - obviously not enough to finance a movie, the crowd-funding is believed to remain a complementary tool in production, used more to reduce investment uncertainty. That’s how crowd-funding was used by Warner Bros in order to decide whether to produce or not a film based on the television serial Veronica Mars. The project raised 2,5 millions in 24 hours on Kickstarter and Warner Bros decided to produce the film. According to Martinj Artes, Dutch founder of Crowd Expetition, money is just one part of the value you get from crowd-funding. “The interesting thing about it is that it enhances the relationship between creators and their audiences; it allows to have feedbacks on a work event before the work is actually done”.

The chain of values has adapted relatively well to the digital shift, without great shocks according to Kurt Salmon. Regrettably the same cannot be said of public powers, whose out-dated legal frameworks lead to distortion of competition (VAT, fiscal regimes, copyright are still very different from one European country to the other). A good solution would be a European convergence to resist the American domination –which still accounts for 60% of European cinemas revenues. According to Christine Albanel, former French Minister of Culture, the main problem lays in the fact that most of the Internet-based consumption escapes from the current regulation

Recoupling research and artistic creation is essential according to Paul Dujardin –CEO of Brussels’ BOZAR, in order to generate spillover effects in a reality that is more and more interdisciplinary and diverse. On one hand there is the struggle of Member states to preserve cultural diversity and on the other  there is a European culture which is made of these diversities. “Initiatives like the Lux Prize of the European Parliament” underlines Dujardin “are so important because they are excellent windows on European cultural diversity and a way to democratise political issues through movies. Cinema today is possibly the best medium to talk about today’s challenges” he adds. “The best way for the sector to have more weight on political decisions is to organise itself as an horizontal, transversal and in an interdisciplinary platform –as it did in the 60s, together with science and civil society. I think that at the European level there is a strong willingness to get to that”.

Even if the European model of cultural policies is still perceived as an example in many countries like Qatar –as said by Tarek Cherkaoui, probably there is something to learn from the latter, which made of culture the 3rd pillar of its modernisation strategy.


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