Creative Business Wrap – February 2024

February, sweet, February. The shortest of the months easily slips past without us even noticing. Except maybe for that mid-month candy and kisses blip, Valentine’s Day (you can choose your preferred appalling origin story at NPR), that one Kansas City, Missouri creative business has turned into a thriving money spinner over the last 101 years with its mass-produced cards.

But this year the little month that thought it could, as it does every four years (give or take), bursts forth with an extra day. A day that all creative businesses should use to make up for all the gradual start to the year that is January. A day to come up with your own genius creative business idea.

Perhaps, a day to dedicate to an extra day of sales activity. Make some more calls. Email a few more “how are things going” messages. Introduce your business to a bunch of new businesses or organisations that you’d like to work with. Scribbling a list of customers to call … tomorrow, I promise, if I have time … doesn’t count.

Alternatively, drawing on the spirit of Valentine’s Day, use the 29th to check-in on everyone’s wellbeing across the office, studio, set, foundry, printery, accounts department, IT-room, lunchroom or boardroom.

And don’t forget, your feedback is always welcome so please let me know what you love in the Creative Business Wrap and what didn’t get your heart racing so much.

Copyright battles and opportunities

1. The New York Times has reported that it is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for the use of copyrighted work (millions of articles, it says, from The Times) that it says were used to train chatbots that now compete with it.

Whatever your thoughts about AI – the end of the world as we know it or lifting the yoke of employment drudgery – its impact on creative businesses and creative practitioners is likely to be significant. As the NYT writes, “Concerns about the uncompensated use of intellectual property by A.I. systems have coursed through creative industries, given the technology’s ability to mimic natural language and generate sophisticated written responses to virtually any prompt.” And the ABC is reporting that AI has already changed the game for copywriters.

The same could probably be said, without picking sides, for the product of just about any creative pursuit – commercial or otherwise. Visual. Musical. Theatrical. Filmic.

There is much to play out in this nascent world in the courts, in the boardrooms, in creative studios and in the theatre of public opinion. And as the figures quoted in the article from both sides dig in their heels, a little predictably, the battle lines are being drawn quite clearly.

2. The New York Times also reports that on the 1st of January 2024, Mickey Mouse (T&Cs apply), Minnie Mouse (T&Cs apply) and Tigger from Winnie the Pooh exited copyright protection after 95 years and entered the public domain. This means that, within the tight context of the law, creatives can apply their own takes on these venerable characters. But be warned, as the article points out it is only the “black-and-white versions of our favorite squeaky rodents that appeared in “Steamboat Willie.

According to the NYTimes in an article 12 months previous:

“Only one copyright is expiring. It covers the original version of Mickey Mouse as seen in “Steamboat Willie,” an eight-minute short with little plot. This nonspeaking Mickey has a rat-like nose, rudimentary eyes (no pupils) and a long tail. He can be naughty. In one “Steamboat Willie” scene, he torments a cat. In another, he uses a terrified goose as a trombone.Later versions of the character remain protected by copyrights, including the sweeter, rounder Mickey with red shorts and white gloves most familiar to audiences today. They will enter the public domain at different points over the coming decades.”

The 2024 article notes that, “Disney is famously litigious, and this copyright covers only the original versions of the character.” You have been warned.

The Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, has compiled (as it appears to do every year) a list of a “handful of the works that will be in the US public domain in 2024.” All up, it says, “thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923.”

The Center also offers the reminder that their “site is only about US law; the copyright terms in other countries may be different.” You have been reminded.

Creative Communities in New South Wales
The NSW Government released its 10-year integrated policy for arts, culture and the creative industries 2024-2033 in mid-December. Entitled, Creative Communities, the Government’s website says, “It is an inclusive 10-year policy that supports artists, creatives and cultural organisations and importantly, expands to include, for the first time, the rapidly growing creative industries.

The policy, the website says, is “grounded in five guiding principles”:

  1. Prioritise First Nations culture
  2. Embrace the arts, culture and creative industries
  3. Advocate for the value of culture
  4. Support sustainable growth
  5. Take our creativity to the world and bring the world to our stories

Whether the policy can achieve the goals that grow out of those principles will, no doubt, continue to be hotly debated and watched by other states and territories.

ArtsHub’s Gina Fairley writes that, despite some misgivings about the timing of the release of the policy, “this new policy is largely glowing. And, indeed, Arts Minister John Graham leads with a cross-government recalibration in how we think about – and value – culture and creativity. It is less siloed, more holistic and wildly ambitious.

If you want to read the rest of Gina Fairley’s commentary you will have to become a member of ArtsHub which, other than for students, will cost you money. And given this newsletter is called the Creative Business Wrap, and this author at least, doesn’t have a problem with that.


Generational Shift

If you’ve been watching Millennials pass through the demographic shredder and observing Gen Z do their end-of-the-alphabet thing and building products to sell to them and hiring practices to lure them, watch out. Here comes Generation Alpha. And according to FastCompany, at two billion globally it is the largest generational cohort we’ve seen.

The article’s author, Lucy Maber, a senior strategy consultant at Brandpie, says this swarm of consumers and future employees is set to “disrupt culture, the economy, and our workplaces, presenting a huge opportunity to those who understand them.”

Maber says that if you missed the boat on the two previous generations, there’s no time to wait; even though the oldest of GA are only 14 years old. Apparently, “if you’ve been pestered for Drunk Elephant* products” then you’ve probably encountered a member of GA and had a peak into their cultural stomping ground. If not, time to fire up your favourite search engine.

[*This newsletter’s re-search took it to a site called Girls United – provenance unknown but SFW – and an article entitled, “Gen Alpha Is Causing Disruption At Sephora” which included this insight, “Drunk Elephant is the brand that seems to have Gen Alpha in a chokehold.”]

“Over a decades-long career as a kidnapping and extortion negotiator …”

… is not a sentence the Creative Business Wrap was ever expecting to feature. And yet there it is. It comes from an article entitled, Negotiate Like A Pro by Scott Walker, the aforementioned kidnapping and extortion negotiator.

In his March-April 2024 Harvard Business Review article (don’t be put off), Walker explains that what he learnt in those high stakes negotiations – kicking off with his one golden rule, “it’s not about you” – can be used to “yield better outcomes in everyday business negotiations—whether you’re asking for a higher salary, lobbying for additional team resources, or hammering out the details of a contract with a client or a supplier.”

Creative businesspeople are great at staring down a blank page, creating something from nothing or telling a story but find themselves floundering when it comes to making a sale. To closing the deal. Fleshing out his golden rule, Walker says :

“The only way to move someone else in your direction and find a solution on which you can agree is to listen deeply and empathetically, ensuring that the other person feels seen, heard, and understood. That is particularly powerful when the two sides are in disagreement. It allows you to build trust, manage expectations, and find ways to meet the other party’s key needs.”

Walker’s then describes what he calls his Level-five Mindset (a high-order form of listening based on empathy and curiosity) and a handful of tools of the trade (under the mnemonic MORE PIES) that you can employ to “prove to negotiating partners that you’re paying this level of attention to their logic, emotions, perspective, and, ultimately, wants and needs so that they begin to see you as a collaborator rather than an adversary?”

Cracks in the Awards System for Creatives

A report by Linda Morris in Nine Newspapers on the Fair Work Commission’s modern awards review for the arts and culture sector, suggests there is “a long list of jobs falling through the cracks of Australia’s modern industrial award system.” This, it is suggested, has left “artists and creatives, particularly young workers, vulnerable to wage theft and poor conditions.”

Morris, it must be acknowledged, has done an admirable job of sifting through the numerous submissions and FWC hearings to find examples of arts and culture jobs that are not adequately serviced by the awards system. Some because they are new. Others because they are hybrid jobs that might previously have been quite separate roles. It also highlights the ancient and ongoing tussle between the forces of creativity and commerce in this peculiar sector.

It also reveals what a “patchwork” of organisations represent the different groups of workers across the arts, cultural and creative sectors. All of whom are working in the best interests of their members and constituents, but it must make it difficult to create a single, powerful voice.

The period of consultation for this part of the review closed on 2 February 2024. If you’re keen to dig deeper, you can browse through the FWC’s transcripts of its hearings and the submissions from individual interested partes on the FWC website.

Things to do this month

  • Quick ad: we’re presenting a Business Basics for Beginners roundtable session at City of Sydney Creative studios on 28 Feb. Designed for those starting out on their creative business careers. All the details are on the Brand X site.
  • Mumbrella reported that, based on Next&Co’s annual Digital Media Wastage report, “Brands wasted over $6 billion in misplaced digital ads last year”. This is up 17% from 2022. So, in the interest of reducing waste, Feb is a good time to run your ruler over your own digital advertising.
  • Retrieving backup files is not what it used to be when had to ask your head of IT to search through boxes of tapes to locate the most recent copy of your half-finished proposal, lovingly crafted but incomplete designs, accounts system or a crucial database. Backing up these days just seems to happen automatically but despite that new world order, it is worthwhile testing your backup retrieval system from time to time. How long does the file take to locate? Does it exist? Is it usable or corrupted? How long does it take to restore? How old is the file? How many iterations have passed since your most recent version? How much time and effort is required to bring the work up to where it was before it disappeared?
  • CB Wrap is keen to mention the ACF’s Boost series of micro-grants but the deadline is 19 February, so move fast. Similarly, crowdfunding platforms Pozible + Birchal Community-Led Funding Workshop looked worthy but it took place on Feb 13 (you can access their online Crowdfunding Resource Centre). And the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship’s 3-day Start-Up Success for Women course from 16-18 February should have been listed. Spurred on by these near misses, may we suggest that you start a list of the grants, seminars, workshops and opportunities that you hear about too late to access but which are likely come around again next month, next quarter or next year. CB Wrap promises to do better too!
  • Check out Creative Australia’s grants and opportunities. All with closing dates in March 2024 (some the 5th) and beyond.
  • In the last issue of Creative Business Wrap we encouraged you to review your value propositions to make sure they were fit for purpose. A tip for a reader goes one step further, suggesting businesses should complete a Value Proposition Canvas for three or four of their customer groups and then take these out to your and see how true they right. Notably, the jobs-to-be-done, pains and gains customer side of the Canvas.
  • Wish Facebook happy 20th birthday (4 February 2004) while listening to or reading The Atlantic’s The Despots of Silicon Valley by Hanna Rosin. Another side of creative business one suspects.