A Portrait of Creative Entrepreneurship and the Creative Economy in Canada

From freelancers to internationally competitive firms, this report explores the state of creative entrepreneurship and its vital role in Canada’s innovation economy.
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Nisa Malli
BII+E Alumni
Stephanie Fielding
Policy + Research Analyst
November 19, 2020
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About This Report

Creative entrepreneurs and creative workers are a vital and vibrant component of Canada’s economy, from solo-production crafters, muralists, tattoo artists, and illustrators to internationally-competitive companies in video games, animation, VR, software, film, and the world of dance, theatre, and galleries. Creative work spurs innovation and knowledge transfer across all sectors of the economy, creating commercial and cultural value, and income and employment opportunities. It is a critical input into non-creative sectors and businesses. Statistics Canada estimated that the direct economic impact of culture industries, including visual art, performing art, literature and publishing, music, media arts and screen-based industries, was $53.1 billion in 2017. The Conference Board of Canada forecast that it would contribute 15 percent in GDP growth and 8 percent in employment growth between 2017 and 2026. However, creative businesses and organizations have taken a hard, direct hit from the 2020 pandemic and public health rules forbidding public gatherings, events, and non-essential in-person work. 

Within these cultural industries, women and non-binary artists, creative business owners, and arts-organization leaders are represented across artistic professions and sectors, leading some of the most innovative and successful businesses and artistic practices. According to the OECD, the proportion of self-employed creatives is increasing globally, largely due to the precarious nature of creative jobs, including a rise in contractual forms of work, multiple job holding, and non-institutional support. For 69 percent of countries surveyed by UNESCO in 2017, there were more women who were self-employed in creative sectors than in non-creative sectors. 35-40 percent of Canadian women with creative occupations are self-employed, compared to 10-15 percent of self-employed women outside of the creative industries. It is a group that generally experiences lower earnings, income fluctuations, and limited access to benefits, paid sick leave, etc.

Although virtual arts and culture consumption is increasing, and new programming, mediums, and dissemination channels are making content more accessible to those with a fast internet connection and home devices, it has not compensated for the full loss of income and business to individual artists, arts organizations, and creative businesses during the pandemic, and the future is uncertain for this vital sector. In order to build a resilient economic recovery, we will need to find ways to support this sector and this workforce, and to create safer futures for performance, collaboration, and convenings.

Read this report to help you:
  • Understand the creative sector, creative entrepreneurship, and creative work in Canada, and their role in the innovative economy.
  • Understand the landscape of policy, program, and business supports and gaps.
  • Understand definitional and statistical challenges to studying this sector.
  • Gain an intersectional demographic analysis on the sector, including pay and participation gaps and barriers to entry and advancement.
  • Examine the impacts of the pandemic on the sector and creative practice, how it is adapting and adopting digital technology, and the need to create safer futures for performance, collaboration, and convenings.

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Aug 21, 2020

Artists and creative businesses took a hard, direct hit from the pandemic. This article explores the state of creative work and entrepreneurship in the era of physical distancing.
Abstract illustration of creative items including theatre mask, video game controller.
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