Looking at the numbers

Across the world millions of people are employed in creative industries. But what is the real value of creative goods and services produced in the marketplace?

Placing an economic value on anything largely comes down to two things: how much there is of something, and how many people want it. This is called supply and demand. The higher the demand for a product or a service, generally the higher the price, and something which is not readily available tends to cost more than something that is easy to get hold of. Think of some examples to illustrate these economic principles.
Everybody needs water: you could say that drinking water is a precious commodity.
Not many people ‘need’ diamonds: they are not essential to survival.
So why do diamonds cost so much more than water?

The price of art

Diamonds can change hands for incredible sums of money; but then, so can works of art – particularly well-known pieces or works by famous artists. These sales follow the principle of supply and demand referred to previously: could you explain how?

Guesstimate auction
The following descriptions relate to real works of art that have changed hands in recent years, often for huge sums. What value would you place on each of these based on the description alone?

  • A biblical scene with many figures, painted 1609 – 1611. Oil on wood – 142 x 182 cm
  • A painting of two women sitting in front of a tree and mountains, painted 1888. Oil on canvas – 101 cm x 77 cm.
  • Portrait of a famous movie star from the 1950s, in artist’s distinctive style, painted 1964.
    Silkscreen and acrylic on canvas – 91 cm x 91 cm.
  • Painting of mountains with people in the foreground of the picture, painted in the 14th century. Ink on paper – 120 x 54 cm.

a. “Massacre of the Innocents” Peter Paul Rubens – sold in 2002 for $76.7 million
b. “When will you marry?” Paul Gauguin – sold in 2015 for (about) $300 million
c. “Turquoise Marilyn” Andy Warhol – sold in 2007 for $80 million
d. “Zhichuan Resettlement” Wang Meng – sold in 2011 for $62 million.

Valuing Creativity

valuingcreativityModern artists who are still alive can command high prices for their works. Even if they sell them they will still retain the copyright to their picture.

But what does it really mean to hold the copyright to a piece of art? Basically, it means that the artist can control whether any reproductions are made, and whether images of the artwork are used in advertising campaigns, for example.

It’s the same for other artists, such as authors and musicians. A person who has bought a piece of art just owns it as a physical good – they haven’t got the right to control where and how reproductions are made, or how images of it are used. The copyright in a piece of art can be very valuable to an artist when other people pay for the right to use it.

However, copyright is subject to exceptions for certain uses that are considered to be socially valuable or economically insignificant. Hence a transformation of a work for a different purpose (such as an amusing parody) may not infringe the copyright, depending on the local copyright law.
Look at the examples given in this website where works of art have “inspired” advertising campaigns.

Think about why some paintings command such a high price. Put the following statements in order to reflect your ideas about why some paintings cost so much.

Points for discussion
There are three other questions we would like you to think about:

Why would someone pay a huge sum for a piece of art when they could get a digital print for a fraction of the cost?
What about when a piece of art is re-sold, or changes hands – do you think the artists themselves should get a share of the profits? The artist has created the painting after all.

What about if the artist only becomes famous after their death – where do you think the money should go?

Research Task
Choose one of the artists mentioned in this section and research their work and their reputation.
What have they created, and what of their work is most well-known?
What influence has their work had on people, and on art, over the years? Were their paintings valued highly during their lifetime?
Do you think they are underrated, overrated or valued correctly by modern society?

Creative costing

A live performance such as a play, a concert, a festival or a dance show usually comes with a price tag. The ticket price goes towards the costs of the performance, paying those involved in the organization and setup of the event, as well as helping organizers re-coup their advertising costs. Some live shows or events sell out very quickly – there is more demand for the tickets than there is supply. On the other hand, sometimes a show will have to be cancelled due to low ticket sales: in these cases, the organizers can’t afford to carry on and may lose money.

1. What kinds of events attract the highest ticket prices? Make a list of any that you can think of.
2. What factors do these events have in common – do there seem to be logical reasons for these high prices? Do any other factors come into play here?
3. What about shows that are put on for free: how do you think these are funded?

Look again at your answers for the prices of paintings. Which one’s might also apply to a live performance and high ticket costs?

In some cases, live events are supplemented by further sales – for example, a live DVD or digital download of a concert might be available to buy once the run of shows has ended. In this way the event can extend its earning potential beyond the live show. In some cases, these ‘supplementary’ sales are a more important source of revenue than the live event itself. In the creative industries, as with other industries, the choices people make in terms of buying a ticket or buying merchandise indicates the value of that product for the consumer – whether that product be music, performance, film, art or fashion.

Designer value

We have looked at individual items such as paintings or live events. Let’s now look at things which are more widely available – designer clothing.
We will use our categories from paintings and apply them to designer or branded clothes (we’ve changed them slightly). Arrange them in the order that you think makes designer and brand clothing attractive to buyers.

Choose a brand of designer clothing or footwear and find examples of print, television or online adverts for that brand.
Look carefully at the advertising campaign: how is it designed to make people want the product? How is the brand represented or shown in the advert? Below are some links to adverts to help you get started.

What kinds of people are the adverts targeting?
For each product advertised, research the retail price and consider whether this reflects the cost of production or whether there might be other reasons for the price charged to the consumer.

The price of film

What film are you particularly looking forward to seeing in the near future? Which of the following ‘ways to see’ would you choose, and why? Are there any factors preventing you from viewing in certain ways? Would you place more value on one way to see a film than another?

Research Task
For one of the options above, consider what kind of people would be the most likely audience for that output: think about the most common age, gender, occupation and interests of the group most likely to view in that way.


You have now explored ideas around the creative industries – fashion, film, art, music etc.

In the chart below write down what you think creates “value” in any artwork, be it a film, music, painting, fashion design.