CEEMID & Consolidated Independent presented and discussed with stakeholders the Central & Eastern European Music Industry Report 2020 as a case-study on national and comparative evidence-based policymaking in the cultural and creative sector on the CCS Ecosystems: FLIPPING THE ODDS Conference – a two-day high-level stakeholder event jointly organized by Geothe-Institute and the DG Education and Culture of the European Commission with the Creative FLIP project.
My presentation was focused around the question on invisibility of the CCI sector in the economic, education and labour policymaking, and the low level of data use in fact-based cultural policy design, and the following policy design problems. Our CEE Music Industry Report 2020 created with the help and support of Consolidated Independent was used as a use case for the problems.
This blog post is an edited version of my presentation and the subsequent panel discussion with the stakeholders and organizers.
The CEE Report builds on the results of the first Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian and Czech music industry reports are compared with Armenian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Serbian and Slovenian data and findings.
The measurement problems and the ‘invisibility’ of creative and cultural industries is a consequence of the fact that these industries are predominantly comprised of microenterprises and individual, freelancing entrepreneurs. Even larger entities, such as collective management organizations can be classified as small enterprises. In the EU, small- and medium enterprises, and especially microenterprises usually have reduced reporting duties to the statistical authorities and tax authorities (which is the most important secondary source of government statistics in anonymized, aggregated form.) This means that the supply side is not visible for policymakers. The recommendation is to conduct sample-based surveys among these microenterprises, but very few member states do that.
Another problem is that on the demand side, not all member states create statistics. ESSNet-Culture created recommendations how to measure cultural access and participation, which is a broader term than cultural consumption, as it includes non-market forms, for example, liturgical music, amateur acting, and so on. The European Commission sometimes makes excellent, but not detailed CAP surveys, which are the most important sources of Eurostat’s relevant pan-European statistics.
CEEMID has been making such surveys, both on the supply side (in music and film) and in the audience side (in music, film, theatre, opera, and artistic activities) in several member states, and has plenty of experience with using the EU-mandated CAP surveys of 2007 and 2013. The CEE report relies on the latter date set in first part of the audience analysis. Our work was already presented in 2015 as a best use case in Creating better national cultural statistics with Eurobarometer datasets and ESSNet-Culture technical recommendations at GESIS, which maintains the Eurobarometer archives, on the Eurobarometer Symposium Four Decades of Surveying Europe – Perspectives on Academic Research with the European Commission’s Eurobarometer Surveys
For the EU the lowest hanging fruit would be to critically assess the past surveys, including the partial CAP survey made in 2017 for the cultural heritage part of culture, and the national surveys conducted by CEEMID and its partners, and to mandate an annual or biannual CAP survey within the Eurobarometer series, probably as a specially sampled “Special Eurobarometer”. This would very significantly reduce the costs compared to a country-to-country basis, and probably could be shared by other institutions, for example, with the European Audiovisual Observatory. This alone would greatly increase the demand / consumption side information on the services of creative and cultural enterprises.
In the panel discussion Consolidated Independent highlighted the problem of leaving sample-based statistics making to the industry itself, which leads to myopical incentives to create ‘policy-based evidence’ that is cherry picked by industry trade associations to fit their often not very well thought out policy agenda. In our view, the most important role of a future European Music Observatory would be to set standards to data collection and integration. The music industry is one of the most data-rich industries globally, but the publicly available, verified, trustworthy information is scarce both for policy-making and for business planning among microenterprises who have know specialized research know-how. Our already existing, representative national surveys should and could be extended to the whole Europe with the quality control and visibility offered by such an Observatory.
A very significant challenge with evidence-based policymaking, or, in fact, with any policy making is that the extremely fragmented nature of the industry makes national and EU-level consultations very difficult. Most of the workforce is neither a classical employer nor employee but works as a freelancer or a micro-entrepreneur. Their views are very rarely represented by trade unions or employee associations or chambers of commerce. Despite all efforts on EU level to make the social dialogue more representative for atypical and flexible work forms, the problems and the views of the creative and cultural sectors are largely unrepresented in policy debate.
A prime example of this problem is the very heavy over-taxation of the music industry that we have shown in the Hungarian and Slovak national music industry reports, and in other documents in Croatia. The problem is not only characteristic for the music industry, but generally all CCIs because they share similar economic properties: no real chance to use tax breaks, high level of labour input and high level of value added. While policy makers and granting authorities spend much time on trying to improve the financing of this sector, in fact, reducing over-taxation would make a much more imminent impact on the liquidity, profitability and growth opportunities of the sector.
However, in the making of economic and tax policies, the fragmented creative and cultural industries hardly can represent their special situation.
Apart from taxation issues, which significantly reduce the liquidity, profitability and growth opportunities of these sectors in many EU countries, particularly in the CEE, where corporate taxes are low but value-added taxes are high, there are other important policy problem that reduce the long-term growth capacity of the sector.
The very small enterprise size leads to missing strategic human resources (HR) and research and development (R&D) functions in almost all enterprises – including simple market research activities. Companies with 1-2 employees do not have specialized management and support functions, and thus they have a very strong handicap in HR and R&D.
A good example of this problem is the motion picture and TV industry. These industries were comprised of medium-sized enterprises in the 1980s with significant in-house education functions. The current structure of these industries, however, resembles music, with almost all enterprises staying below the 5-person threshold. In our experience, based on development needs assessments in the Hungarian motion picture and the Czech music industry, this creates an acute skills and labor shortage. Missing skills cannot be well replaced by recruitment, or with strategic HR development via life-long learning.
Similarly to very reduced opportunities to participate in, and create life-long learning schemes, there are very little chances to engage in market research and R&D. While the music industry, for example, is one of the most data-driven industries in the world, the microenterprise size does not allow that these enterprises commission market research or hire data scientists. This leads to very asymmetrical relationships with the main distributors of music and media content on platforms that are owned by global data companies.
I made a few concrete recommendations in the panel.
Creating the European Music Observatory, and the creation of similar industry initiatives, and commissioning collaborative (multi-stakeholder) market research, as CEEMID works in many countries, can only replace the missing market research function in the extremely fragmented industries, such as motion picture production, the music industry, but to a certain degree architecture and design.
A low-hanging fruit would be a critical assessment of the previous Pan-European CAP surveys and the comparable national CAP surveys conducted by CEEMID and its partners following the ESSNet Culture recommendations and the inclusion of the CAP surveys in an annual or bi-annual form in the Eurobarometer (Special) series. A Special Eurobarometer may be more suitable because usually a non-proportional weighting of the sample gives the best value for money in these surveys.
Critically reviewing the participation of micro-enterprises in the current forms of social dialogue and looking for formal or informal ways to increase participation in policy making can gradually lead to more creative-friendly economic regulation and tax policies. The Hungarian Music Industry Report 2015 and the Slovak Music Industry Report 2019 contains very interesting case studies for this problem that we briefly summarize in the CEE Music Industry Report 2020.
Critically reviewing the few examples from mainly Nordic member states where collective agreements and other collaborative institutions allow microenterprises and freelancers to participate in life-long learning problems can help designing policies that will gradually reduce the huge skill gap of the CCIs in management know-how, data know-how, or renew their technical skills necessary in the production of their services and content. Our work with the Hungarian National Film Fund and surveys among more than a thousand film makers can give much insight into this problem.
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