Teaching Creative Industries? Q&A with author Chris Bilton

iStock-497030840-creative-marketingChris Bilton discusses the motivation behind his new textbook, The Disappearing Product: Marketing and Markets in the Creative Industries.

Why did you write this book? 

I have been teaching management and marketing in the creative industries for 18 years, and I haven’t yet found a book which sets out a distinctive approach to marketing in the cultural and creative industries. The immediate spur to write the book was a response to the changes which have transformed production and consumption since the turn of the century – partly as a result of digital technology and industry restructuring. These changes are what I refer to in the book’s title – in today’s creative and media industries, what we consume has become less important than how and with whom we are consuming. So the ‘product’ is becoming less important than a shared experience of consumption. The businesses which really understand this are the big tech firms – companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. They have become increasingly dominant in the creative and media sector, changing the way we experience music, films, books and news and have changed the business model from controlling production to managing consumption. My book is aiming to challenge this dominance and help smaller cultural producers to reclaim the relationship with the consumer.

Why do we need another marketing book?

There are lots of marketing textbooks, there are books about the creative industries, there are even books about ‘arts marketing’. But there’s nothing which combines an analysis of marketing in the creative industries with an understanding of the market in which these industries operate – where unpredictability, subjectivity and the unusual industry structure and culture of the media and entertainment industries pose a unique set of challenges for marketers. So I’ve started with some of the familiar elements of marketing – market segmentation, competitive positioning, branding – and tried to rethink how these work in the cultural sector.

It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t just another marketing book – it’s also a critique of the power of big tech in today’s creative and media industries. Given the recent revelations about Google and Facebook’s data duopoly, finding some alternative routes to market for creative content seems more urgent than ever.

What are the key things you hope readers will take from your book?

First of all, I hope readers will join the dots between the power of the Big Four tech companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google) and the transformation of the way we consume and experience cultural products. Marketing is too important to leave to these new intermediaries, whose business models depend upon commoditising consumers and consumption, not investing in cultural products. It’s very important that we challenge that new reality and seek out new models of marketing and distribution.

Secondly, marketing should not be seen as something separate from cultural production and cultural products but a natural extension of them. For better or worse, today’s artists are learning to be more entrepreneurial – some of the most exciting examples of creative approaches to marketing in the book come from artists and musicians. This is not to say that every artist has to be a marketer and vice versa – often it’s a case of finding like-minded partners and working with them for mutual benefit. The creative industries are highly collaborative, so it’s not all down to the individual.

Finally, I want people who see marketing as something done to or for them as something they can engage with themselves, in their own way. A lot of my students come from an arts background, with no prior experience of business and marketing – part of my job is to make them see that marketing is not some alien discipline and is actually a logical extension of their practice as cultural entrepreneurs, turning creative ideas into a sustainable business.

What do your students think of the book?

I think they like it! The library keeps running out of copies which is a good sign. The book has to some extent evolved out of my teaching and I use a lot of the case studies and examples in class. It’s a useful resource and the students like the practical side of the book. It also challenges them to see the bigger picture, getting them to think about the special characteristics of the creative industries and how the creative and media industries are changing. After they graduate, it can help them not only to understand the new creative economy but also think about how they can challenge and change it. And they get to see ‘marketing’ as part of that bigger picture – and to see that marketing can be fun and creative too.

Chris Bilton is Senior Lecturer (Reader) in the Management and Marketing of the Creative Industries, Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies at the University of Warwick, UK

The Disappearing Product: Marketing and Markets in the Creative Industries by Chris Bilton is available now

Read an online inspection copy here

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