Last week's post on creativity was mostly about the personal side of creativity, talking about both engineers and artists. I want to touch on the economic side of creativity, and talk some ideas about what the Internet means for creativity in a city like Tacoma.

The Internet is Really Really Great (for creativity)

Consider this hypothetical, but very common, example of why the Internet is great for the arts and creativity:

An artist wants to sell her art as greeting cards, posters, t-shirts, etc, to make some extra income. She can use the web as a virtually unlimited and virtually free sales platform. She can set up a free blog to tell people about her site, she can post videos or photos of her art for free to YouTube or Flickr, she can sell the art using Etsy or eBay or Amazon for a nominal fee, usually only a percentage of actual sales, so that her only expense for the business is when she makes a sale. Or she can sell directly on her own with PayPal or Square with the same deal.

Basically, all the roadblocks that can commonly block businesses are removed or significantly diminished. An artist can sell her work online and have the cost of all online expenses not be more than … 5% of total sales, maybe less. So the majority of her cost is in the actual production of her art.

The Internet has allowed home-based businesses, artists included, unprecedented opportunities. I would suggest that this hypothetical artist, as described above, is only limited by how much time she can throw at free marketing, how creative she is with her marketing, and how good her work is.

Those are certainly limiting factors, but it's better than what the limiting factors were before the Internet: hard to find customers, hard to accept payment from them, expensive marketing, etc.

The Arts & Entrepreneurship

We all intuitively understand how engineers, programmers, and such help the local economy. They come up with a new design for a widget, for a whole new class of widgets, for a computer program that models widgets–whatever it is, they come up with it and a company creates a product around it that it can sell. That company brings money in to the community, and helps the community get wealthier. We view the asset as being the widget, but really the asset is the person who came up with widget, specifically their creative spark.

The same is true of artists. Filmmakers, writers, painters, designers … their asset is not their portfolio, their gallery showings, or their artistic widgets–it's the creative spark that led them to produce their art. And it can function the same way in the local economy.

Wouldn't it be great to have hundreds of people like the artist above living in Tacoma? They live in Tacoma and sell their art (or books, movies, designed goods) worldwide, bringing all that money into Tacoma.

These artists would be a huge economic boon to Tacoma. Maybe they wouldn't look like a traditional business, because they wouldn't have an office, a factory, or what we normally expect. But they would drive the economy the same way.

My hunch is that there are actually far more individuals like this in Tacoma than anyone realizes. I want to see a lot more.

My point is that the arts and entrepreneurship are on the same spectrum. An artist can be just as important to the financial health of a community as an engineer or a programmer. We too often forget that.