Obama and the Creative Industries

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If there is one thing that has been striking in the past few days of American political celebrations, beyond the pitch perfect speech writing and orations of the central figure, it has been the stellar music that accompanies every moment. From the fabulous Lincoln Memorial Concert on the weekend, to the thoughtful and prominent musical offerings in the inauguration ceremony itself. There was so much high profile music involved that Billboard produced a music specific schedule for the four days of festivities.

The question for us now that the parties are over, is not whether musicians love Obama, that seems clear, and indeed Obama seems quite fond of music and the arts, but what will it mean for the creative industries in America and abroad to have a music lover back in the White House.

The new President came to power thanks in a large part to urban voters and, according to the Telegraph, the support of the creative class. What remains to be seen, is if Obama can reciprocate with support for the creative industries. Richard Florida writes that while politicians and economists are shouting about putting shovels in the ground and saving the auto industry, true economic stimulus for the youtube era will recognize the importance of the knowledge economy and the creative industries. After all, it's inefficient and overly expensive houses and cars that got us into this mess in the first place.

Investment and support for the creative industries would be smart economic and cultural stimulus, both much needed in the US today. At the centre of economic issues for the creative industries is the throny issue of copyright reform. Now matter what side of the issue you are on, the current copyright regime is a mess, and is far behind technological and social changes.

Obama has shown some signs as to how he will deal with copyright and the creative industries. On one hand, he has licensed all of his websites leading up the inauguration with a Creative Commons license, seen by some as a nod toward fair use and snub to the copyright industries. On the other hand, he appointed two copyright lawyers to top positions in the justice department, a sign that he recognizes the importance of copyright reform to businesses in the creative industries.

The Obama team does have an arts and culture policy that promises to put more money into arts education, the NEA, cultural diplomacy, and status of the artist provisions such as health care and tax breaks. It is not an industry development document, but still a very positive sign for the arts and creative communities.

Interestingly, and very promising for Canadian musicians, is a specific section in this short document titled Attracting Foreign Talent. The Obama team promises to make it easier for foreign artists to visit, study, and work in the US. Hopefully this will result in a P2 visa process that returns to the original 30 day processing time, from the current 120 days. And perhaps it will mean even more changes for us Canadaians wanting to do business in the US.

The creative community has responded with support for the new President, in the form the star studded concerts, but also with collectives and organizations where artists and creative industries workers can get involved and show there support for the new, arts friendly regime.

The President is facing ginormous expectations in the next 100 days. There is much to do, and much to fix. We hope that Obama sees the creative industries as central to the rebuilding of the economic and cultural health of the country, and that our government up here watches and takes notes.

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