2. Defining the Scope of the Cultural Sector

Cultural activity contributes greatly to Canada’s economic prosperity. To understand the cultural sector and its associated economic activities, it is necessary to begin by defining the scope of the cultural sector.

The Conference Board used a consistent a framework to define and measure the cultural sector, and this framework provided the foundation for this labour market information report. The development of the framework was guided by four main considerations:

  • First, the concept of culture needed to be clarified. Culture can mean different things to different people, so we identified which activities were to be included in our definition of the cultural sector and which were to be excluded. For example, although many people would argue that sports play in integral role in Canada’s “cultural fabric,” sports are excluded from our definition of culture.
  • Second, being creative by nature was not enough to warrant the inclusion of an activity in our scope of the cultural sector. In fact, many creative activities do not generate a cultural product. For example, industrial designers in an automobile company engage in creative activity as part of the production chain of an output that is not a cultural product.
  • Third, the framework defining culture needed to be cognizant of the many changes transforming the sector. These include such influences as globalization; the application of technology in the creation, production, and dissemination of cultural goods and services; and changes in consumption patterns.
  • Fourth, the concept of culture needed to be practical in the sense that cultural activity could be measured using available statistical systems, even though these systems may not be particularly well-suited to isolating and quantifying cultural activity.

In the end, the measurement of the cultural sector in this report was assembled using common principles whereby governments, business, and other financially affiliated entities could assess the sector alongside other industries and sectors of the economy.

2.1 Definition of Cultural Goods and Services

In developing a framework for culture, it is necessary to move beyond an abstract concept of culture to form a coherent and usable definition of cultural goods and services. Statistics Canada, in its framework for cultural statistics, takes a relatively broad view of culture, defining it as “creative and artistic activity and the goods and services produced by it, and the preservation of heritage.” [1]

Our definition of professional cultural activity, developed for this report after consultations with a variety of stakeholders in the cultural sector, is as follows:

Cultural activity involves the creation, research, development, production, manufacturing, distribution, presentation, performance, and/or preservation of creative goods and services, including the discovery and preservation of heritage—all with a professional intent.

Why this definition?

  • This conceptual definition recognizes the distinct activities of the “creative chain” and the distinctive nature of heritage.
  • The use of the term “professional” is important for distinguishing labour market activities from hobby or pastime activities.
  • “Professional intent” includes commercial, not-for-profit, and for-profit activities conducted while producing a cultural good or service.
  • “Heritage” includes libraries, archives, museums, and other human and built heritage.

To be consistent with our objective of properly defining culture, we had to ensure that activities included in the framework are creative activities, while excluding other related activities, such as sport. To this end, a cultural activity is an activity whose ultimate purpose is the delivery of a creative, artistic good or service.

We follow Statistics Canada’s current thinking on what constitutes a cultural good or service. For our purposes, a cultural good or service is one that can be copyrighted or advances a copyrightable or heritage good or service to the end user of that good or service. Formally, a cultural good or service must be the result of a creative, artistic activity and satisfy at least one of the following four criteria:[2]

  • It must have the potential of being protected by copyright legislation, or in other words, be copyrightable. Examples include a magazine article, script, manuscript, drawing, choreography, book, newspaper column, sculpture, radio program, film, etc.
  • It enables the creation, production, dissemination, or preservation of culture products, e.g., recording, manufacturing, printing, broadcasting, podcasting, etc.
  • It adds to, or alters, the content of a culture product (content services), e.g., editorial services, translation, illustration, layout and design, music, etc.
  • It preserves, exhibits, or interprets human or natural heritage, e.g., historic sites and buildings, archives, museums, art galleries, libraries, botanical gardens, zoos, etc.

2.2 The Creative Chain

In thinking about culture, we have found it useful to follow the concept of the “creative chain”[3] to define the process of producing a cultural product from its creation to its end use. Within this creative chain, we can identify three main stages involved in moving cultural products from their point of creation through to the point of consumption.

First, the creation stage involves the origination and authoring of ideas and/or content, as well as the discovery and collection of heritage content. Establishments in this part of the creative chain are involved in the development of a creative artistic idea. For example, an independent writer developing a manuscript for a book is included in this part of the chain.

The second stage is production. It involves all aspects related to taking the creative artistic idea and transforming it into the final finished product. For example, the author’s manuscript is transformed into a final manuscript ready for printing through the use of editorial and other services. If applicable, the production stage also incorporates all aspects related to the manufacturing of cultural products. This can involve taking the readily identifiable manifestation of a creative artistic idea and mass-producing it. In addition to the production and manufacturing of new cultural products, this stage also includes activities associated with the preservation and conservation of libraries, archives, and cultural and natural heritage. The production stage, in this context, encompasses the conservation, preservation, and management of tangible and intangible products of significant cultural, heritage or natural meaning.[4]

The final stage of the creative chain is dissemination. It incorporates all aspects related to the distribution of cultural products to the end users. The presentation and exhibition of information related to heritage, collections, and sites and the performance of various forms of performing arts are also represented within this stage.

With only three stages distinguished in the creative chain, it is likely that most cultural products will pass through all three stages. However, there are particular processes, particularly associated with heritage and/or preservation, where the stage of creation may not be part of the creative chain.

2.3 Measuring Output and Employment

One of the challenges in measuring the cultural sector is the dichotomy that exists between the production of cultural goods and services and the employment of individuals who would be classified as working in a cultural occupation. Establishments involved in the production of a cultural good or service may employ individuals who work not only in cultural occupations but also in other (non-cultural) occupations. Similarly, individuals who could be identified as working in a cultural occupation may or may not work in cultural establishments. For example, an editor may be employed by a book publisher, which is an establishment that produces a cultural product, or by an automobile manufacturer editing owners’ manuals in an establishment that does not produce a cultural product.

For this reason, we have restricted our presentation of the financial performance of the cultural sector (and component domains) to include only those cultural establishments specifically identified within the creative chain. Likewise, the reported employment figures are based on specific cultural occupations.

A cultural occupation is one in which most of the work done within a specific National Occupational Classification (NOC) code is directly tied to creating or adding value to a cultural good or service. Similarly, cultural establishments are those in which most of the outputs produced are cultural goods or services.

In this report, cultural sector occupations are organized into four main categories: creative and artistic production, technical and operational, heritage collection and preservation, and cultural management.

2.3.1 Cultural Domains

In measuring the performance of the cultural sector, we found it most useful to think about establishments that are involved along the creative chain. In other words, we measure the performance of those establishments involved in the creation, production, and dissemination of cultural goods and services. The financial performance and health of these establishments is an important factor influencing the future demand for cultural workers and the future supply of cultural products.

This report organizes cultural establishments into the following six domains, each consisting of related activities, products, and occupations:

  • Heritage and libraries—includes the establishments and individuals involved in museums, libraries, archives, and built heritage.
  • Live performance—includes the establishments and independent artists involved in live entertainment shows in a variety of disciplines.
  • Visual and applied arts—includes the establishments and independent artists involved in the practice of visual arts, fine crafts, or media arts.
  • Written and published works—includes the establishments, writers, and independent artists involved in the creative chain for the production of books, newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals.
  • Audio-visual and interactive media—includes the establishments and individuals involved in the creative chains for film, radio, television, and broadcasting, as well as the delivery of an interactive informing, educating, or entertaining experience.
  • Sound recording—includes the establishments and independent artists in the creative chain for sound recording.

In this period of enormous industrial and technological change, the line between the content production and dissemination becomes increasingly blurry. For instance, internet streaming service providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, are moving toward vertical integration and functioning as both content creators and broadcasters. As a result, care is needed to ensure different components of cultural activity in those corporations are reported separately.

Because the six domains listed above mainly engage in producing goods and services stemming from creative and artistic activity, we consider them to be the “core” cultural domains. In parallel, the cultural domains also include four “ancillary” cultural activities associated with advertising, architecture, design, and collected information (publication of catalogues, directories, and related material). Ancillary cultural activities are those that produce goods and services through a creative and artistic process but primarily focus on practicality rather than the transmission of a cultural concept. The final products—such as a building or an advertisement—as a result do not meet the criteria for culture as defined earlier in this chapter. In addition, there are two transversal domains—domains that support and enable creative artistic activities under the culture umbrella. While transversal domains are not fundamentally cultural, they are an integral part of culture, as cultural activities could not exist without their facilitation. The transversal domains are the education and training domain and the governance, funding, and professional support domain.

The analysis in this labour market information report focuses on the six core cultural domains, although some sections of the report also present data on ancillary, multi-, and transversal domains. There are significant differences in human resources issues between core and non-core cultural activities with regards to training, certification, technical industry support, salaries, pension plans, and job security.

More details on these domains and the specific industries that are included in each domain can be found in Appendix A.

2.3.2 Cultural Occupations

When measuring employment in the cultural sector, we found it most useful to think about employment in terms of cultural occupations. By moving away from the use of establishments as the basis of measurement, we can capture those individuals involved in cultural occupations who do not work for cultural establishments. At the same time, focusing on cultural occupations allows us to exclude those individuals who work in cultural establishments but not in cultural occupations. The advantage of this approach is that it allows us to focus on occupations that would be most readily influenced by Cultural Human Resource Council initiatives, while excluding occupations whose training needs fall outside CHRC’s mandate. Because the occupations are categorized differently from the domain groups mentioned above, cultural occupations could fall in either the six core domains or four ancillary domains mentioned above.

These cultural occupations used in this report have been grouped into four separate categories:

  • Creative and artistic production: This is the largest group, encompassing more than half of all cultural occupations. Creative occupations involve the creation, production, and dissemination of cultural goods and services. Many of the occupations traditionally associated with culture, such as painters, actors, dancers, writers, and musicians, fall into this category.
  • Technical and operational: This group provides technical support for culture goods and services that are technical or operational in nature, such as technicians working in television, film, or broadcasting and drafting technicians, etc.
  • Heritage collection and preservation: This is the smallest group and consists of only four occupations: librarians, conservators, archivists, and conservation and fishery officers.
  • Cultural management: This group provides management support for the creation, production, and dissemination of cultural goods and services. The positions are managers in each of the culture domains.

A full list of occupations can be found in Appendix B.

[1] Statistics Canada, “Conceptual Framework for Culture Statistics 2011.”

[2] Statistics Canada, “Conceptual Framework for Culture Statistics 2011.”

[3] Statistics Canada, “Conceptual Framework for Culture Statistics 2011.”

[4] Ibid.