Creative Business Wrap – September 2023

This month, I’ve been thinking about saying yes. Obviously, the Voice referendum is coming up, and everyone will make their own choice about that. Personally, I’m one of over 1,800 company directors who have signed up to the Directors for the Voice campaign. Perhaps you’d like to join us.

More broadly though, what is possible when we approach our work and lives with a “yes” mindset? There’s loads of material online about the power of saying yes, and a lot of it is of the relentlessly upbeat, self-help variety, which I think it does us all good to be skeptical of. And there’s a bit of that in Kwame Alexander’s TED talk about saying yes, but there’s also the idea that “yes” is just a word, if it lacks commitment behind it to take action. It’s an entertaining 20 minutes where he talks about how “yes” made him an unintentional theatre producer and eventually, a successful author.

If nothing else, it’s a positive addition to your day, as I hope is this month’s collection of interesting snippets about creative industries business.

BTW, did you catch our submission to the NSW government’s arts, culture and creative industries policy? If not, you can read about our 12 big ideas here.  


Live event attendance post-COVID is patchy, at best.

What’s happening to live event audiences post-COVID? There are mixed signals. Roy Morgan is charting an increase in cinema attendance in 2023, led by female movie goers. But Linda Morris in the SMH notes tougher times for the major theatre companies, who have been struggling to bring in patrons in recent years. The ABC notes the troubles being experienced by music festivals attracting punters (never the most stable sector at the best of times, but still), and even the much admired Dark Mofo is taking a breather in 2024

Creative Australia has some interesting data on this topic, which shows that the recovery is uneven between age groups and, as widely noted, last minute purchasing is still prevalent. If you’re after some longer reads on this topic, the New York Times, has this piece on why theatre subscribers aren’t renewing (“we’re old, that’s the problem!” says one) and the BBC this one on how cost of living pressures are confounding music festivals in the UK. Some creative thinking is going to be needed to lure ticket buyers back.

When Human Centred Design neglects some humans.

Human Centered Design is one of those concepts that lots of people like to claim expertise in. It follows a five-step cycle: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and iterate, and in that way, seeks to understand human tendencies, then design products that complement those behaviours. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

But this article by Brian Le on Medium examines how Human Centered Design fails when it doesn’t take into account the diversity of users – like motion sensor bathroom taps and facial recognition software that fails to recognise darker skin colours and people with head coverings. He’s critical of what he calls the “sleazy religion of fixing the world” whereby Human Centered Design is used to justify anything that fixes a so-called problem in the cause of making profits. A challenging but thought-provoking read for design thinking devotees.

I’ve pimped my office, please come back.

Here’s a story that blends architecture, accounting and the future of work. Accounting software provider Xero has souped up its office space in Hawthorn, in an attempt to lure workers back into the office.“The mantra you often hear from building owners now is, ‘double the experience and half the space’,” says architect Chris Idle. Being canny accountants, they also sublet the lower levels of this flash new building to designer furniture, homewares and lighting company, Trit.

Clearly design is going to play a big role in attracting workers to come back to communal office spaces. But there are cultural changes to try too. This article in Forbes offers a few ideas about design changes (an in-house art gallery, anyone? Comfy sofas?), mixed with greater attendance flexibility and building comradery amongst staff. Attractive workplace + improved culture = people leaving the home office? We’ll see.

Board games are booming. Yes, board games.

Those thrillseekers at Xero might be distracted from their shiny new office by playing Ledger Mania, a board game that reinforces their accounting skills. It’s part of a worldwide boom in playing board games – another of those lockdown activities which have found new life post-pandemic. As well as being fun ways to approach staff training, board games have mental health and social connection benefits. “The games are not the point – the play is the point,” enthusiast Adam Davis says. “Engaging in play allows you to interact with your peers in a different way, but also with the learning material in a different way, so you can tinker and explore and get excited about a project, as opposed to just looking at it mechanically and analytically.” Why not roll the dice and take a turn?

Meanwhile, video games are everywhere.

On games of the digital variety, there’s new research showing just how integrated into our lives they are. The annual Australia Plays report from IGEA and Bond University, comes up with some interesting stats:

  • 94% of Australian households have a device for playing video games (up from 92%)
  • 81% of all Australians play video games (up from 67%)
  • 48% of Australian players are female –more women and girls are playing than ever before (up from 46%)
  • 35 years is the average age of video game players in Australia (up by 3 months) and
  • above 76% of game households have 2 or more devices for playing games.

I asked my 11-year-old son how many games playing devices we have in our house, and including tablets, laptops and phones, he reckons there are 15 (but he also collects old consoles for nostalgia value, he’s insistent to add). Can anyone beat that number? I’m guessing the answer will be yes!

There’s that “yes” again.

Things to do this month

Three steps to take this month to boost your business

  1. How long since you benchmarked salary levels? Having this information to hand can help your performance review/pay increase conversations go a bit more smoothly. Seek has some basic information you can use, before seeking advice from a HR firm about what’s standard in your industry.
  2. Talking of benchmarking, if you’re after some broader benchmarking data on your business, the ATO has a tool that can get you some baseline information. Take it for a spin here.
  3. It’s always useful to spruce up your cyber security precautions. There’s a guide for small business available here.