The sharing economy could have a key role to play in cultivating the UK’s creative sector and breaking down the barriers-to-entry for the industry’s high proportion of freelancers and small businesses. In other words, collaboration, sharing platforms, crowd-sourcing and resource-sharing could help make creativity accessible.
The creative industry is becoming an increasingly important sector in the UK where, between 2011 and 2015, employment in the creative economy grew by 20 per cent, compared with just over 6 per cent in the wider economy. Exports in film, TV, radio and photography grew by almost 10 per cent from 2009-2014, generating over £4.7bn, and 2016 saw a new record in international inward investment in UK film and TV production of over £1.8bn. This growth means there is a significant increase in the demand for creative work and creative professionals.
Collaboration, a defining characteristic of the fast-growing “sharing economy”, will be a key tool in empowering the creative community and meeting this demand. Disconnected individuals and groups will always struggle to build expertise and compete with large corporates, where they face the disadvantage of smaller networks, little to no credibility, and prohibitively expensive equipment. However, through collaboration, it is possible to enable freelancers and small businesses to build expertise, share ideas, grow networks and access equipment, efficiently matching supply and demand and sharing underutilised assets.
For example, there is a burgeoning trend to democratise creativity through a variety of crowdsourcing platforms, where creatives professionals pitch for paid work – these include Talent House, Tongal, Hiive, Freelancer.com and Genero TV. Similarly, many platforms are using collaboration to support the creative industry: Vrumi and WeWork enables creatives to rent a studio/office space at low prices in central London; Etsy gives a platform to freelance artists and craftsmen; and QuickBooks offers a low-cost solution to manage back-office administration and accounting.
The sharing economy is also seeking to overcome the typically high prices of creative equipment. For example, BorrowFox is a high-end equipment sharing marketplace for creatives, such as photographers, freelancers and filmmakers. Its aim is to disrupt the equipment rental market by providing lower fees, more convenience, and more choice. The fully-insured platform already has over £3m of high-end cameras, lenses, grips, lighting equipment, drones, studios and more. It could be viewed as the “Airbnb” of high-end equipment, building an exclusive community for users to connect with each other and share equipment, saving money by avoiding expensive purchases and over-priced rental stores, and making money by lending idle gear.
Sharing economy platforms are clearly breaking down the barriers-to-entry across multiple industries: Airbnb is changing how we view accommodation, Uber is disrupting the transport sector, and now this collaborative approach is reshaping the norms within the creative industry. No longer does it have to be about “who you know”, or whether you own expensive kit. Freelancers and small businesses are now able to reach the market more easily and compete with large corporate agencies, using these innovative platforms to showcase their talent, connect with clients, manage their business, and access high-end equipment. The sharing economy will be key to making creativity more accessible, and help the fast-growing UK creative industry build a diverse supply base and meet demand.