Handbook on the Digital Creative Economy
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Handbook on the Digital Creative Economy

Edited by Ruth Towse and Christian Handke

Digital technologies have transformed the way many creative works are generated, disseminated and used. They have made cultural products more accessible, challenged established business models and the copyright system, and blurred the boundary between producers and consumers. This unique resource presents an up-to-date overview of academic research on the impact of digitization in the creative sector of the economy.
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Chapter 27: Performing arts

Ruth Towse


The live performing arts might be thought to be an area of the creative economy in which digitization has had little impact. That, however, is far from being so, and there are many ways in which digitization is having a profound effect upon the accessibility, financing and business models of performing arts organizations, on their productions and on performers. In cultural economics, the received view of the ëpre-digitalí world was that the performing arts, such as live musical performance, musicals, opera, ballet and dance, spoken theatre, circus, cabaret and comedy shows, would inevitably have to charge prices that outstrip inflation to cover their rising costs due to the ëproductivity lagí that is inherent in their labour-intensive production; or they would need subsidy or other sponsorship in order to keep prices from rising and so reducing demand. Governments in many countries give financial support to some or all of these arts to ensure their survival and to enable access to them by the public. This theory of the ëcost diseaseí, first proposed by Baumol and Bowen (1966), and its associated fears of an ëartistic deficití have a long history. The model is based on the view that technological progress does not increase productivity in the arts as it does in the wider economy, resulting in unbalanced growth. Digital technologies may be challenging this view in a number of ways.

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