Defining the Creative and Cultural Sector

The term “Creative and Cultural Sector” is referred to often in the research and practice of creative placemaking. But what does it mean? Read the following guide to learn about the creative and cultural sector and statistical frameworks for measuring its reach.


Considered globally as a driver of the knowledge economy, the creative and cultural sector is increasingly understood to play a crucial role in economic life, attracting talent and investment, building international reputation and catalyzing innovation across all sectors of the economy. The sector employs approximately 1.1 million people in Canada with a broad impact that transforms communities, enriches the lives of individuals and regenerates neighbourhoods.
The creative and cultural sector boasts strong interest from communities and governments with potential for significant growth as a sustainable approach to economic development. The workers employed in this sector are creators, participants and consumers of culture characterized as independent artists, self-employed entrepreneurs and micro-businesses.
Like all sectors of the economy, the creative and cultural sector is not without its own distinct challenges. Since it was first established in 1986, Artscape has contributed to a growing body of research to foster understanding and awareness of associated opportunities and needs.

Defining the Creative and Cultural Sector 
As a broad, complex and evolving mix of industries that range from the performing and visual arts to magazine publishing, digital media and design, there is no commonly recognized definition of the breadth (i.e. industry and occupational composition) and depth (i.e. extent of the value chain) of the sector internationally – however, there is emerging consensus on the key industries that constitute its nucleus.
Artscape uses a typology created by The Work Foundation to define the creative and cultural sector. This encompasses three key components: core creative fields, cultural industries and creative services.
Core Creative Fields: focus on the production of “originals” (e.g., visual arts, artisan crafts, designer-makers) and “experiences” (e.g. live theatre, dance, and music as well as heritage). Their commercial outputs possess a high degree of expressive value and invoke copyright protection.
Cultural Industries: focus on creative content-producing industries, whether private or public, which exploit intellectual property (IP) through mass production (e.g., film and television production, broadcasting, record companies, book and magazine publishers, computer games and leisure software). Their activities involve mass reproduction of expressive outputs based on copyright.
Creative Services: are based around providing creative services to clients, earning revenue through fee-for-service and providing IP that has a high degree of both expressive and functional value (e.g., design consultancies, advertising agencies, architecture practices, digital media firms). The use of expressive value is essential to the performance of these sectors.

Statistical Frameworks 
Statistics Canada has recently released “Conceptual Framework for Culture Statistics 2011” which replaces the 2004 framework, Canada’s first conceptual model for cultural statistics. The framework provides standard concepts, definitions and categories in order to achieve consistent and comparable statistics on culture. The “Classification Guide for the Canadian Framework for Culture Statistics 2011” maps the framework to Statistics Canada’s standard classification systems.
The definitions of and industries and occupations included in creative and cultural sector research vary from place to place, and as a result it can be difficult to make direct comparisons. For example, in the United Kingdom, indicators have been established by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport using British standard industrial classifications, and Innovation and Business Skills Australia uses codes established by its National Centre for Vocational Education Research.