The dark side of the creative industries

Reading Keith Negus’s 2002 article recently provided a timely reminder that there is more to the creative industries than the oft-feted creative, flexible people used to working and innovating in challenging circumstances and providing a direct conduit between producer and consumer. As Negus says the conduit is often not as direct and creative a force as we might like to think, but rather there is an ‘enduring distance’ that is part of the effect of the cultural intermediary. Having worked in a creative industry I know, just as he states, the importance of the finance teams, who would not fit the stereotype of the creative worker (if we avoid issues of creativity in accounting fraud!); standard, rule-applying,  institutional behavior applies here rather than organic, spirited, serendipitous activity of the ‘creative’; similarly he points out the retailer on the shop floor has a key role to promote creative goods but is not often considered as  part value chain of the created product. Later he comments that while it might appear creative work is enacted in a risky, unpredictable atmopshere , in fact when studying each sector (and indeed this does apply to publishing) one can see well established routines in place to discover and produce creative products in order to reduce risk, routines that can in fact sometime constrain creativity. He further explores these issue by unpicking literature on the creative industries, critiquing writers and thinkers in the area: he considers the misappropriation by some of Bourdieu’s terms and pleasingly includes Hirsch as he starts to analyze subsequent approaches to the role of ‘gatekeeper’. Overall it is an interesting read that aims to realign some of the areas of creative industries analysis that may have got somewhat driven on one line of thinking. We come again to the question that where definitions are provided by Government (such as for ‘creative industries’) does that drive writers and thinkers to stay within those lines in order to gain a voice for important causes (and maybe win research tenders) – giving Government what it wants to hear? Every now and then we must remember as Negus does here to step back again to reconsider what we are really seeing.


Frania Hall

Negus, K. The Work of Cultural Intermediaries and the Enduring Distance between Production and Consumption. Cultural Studies 16:4, 501-515