Art also pays off financially

Arts Promotion Centre Finland,
04 June 2024, Finland

A thriving art scene and investments in the arts fuel the nation's economic success. In Finland, this has not been fully understood.

"The share of arts and culture in GDP and employment is low compared to Nordic peers. Finnish economic discourse and politics are characterised by commodity and export fetishism, and it costs us dearly," Markus Jäntti, Professor of Economics at Stockholm University, lectured at the Economy, Art and the Future discussion event organised by Taike and Finland Chamber of Commerce in Helsinki on the last day of May.

According to Taike's Director Kaisa Rönkö, this can already be seen at the airport.

"In Arlanda in Stockholm, Abba welcomes tourists, while Helsinki Airport displays forest images and blueberries," Rönkkö said.

In a fairly unanimous discussion, Sweden became the point of comparison: how to better understand the synergy between culture and the economy and what lessons could be learned from the ABBA country.

Remunerated support is also needed

Jäntti lectures, largely based on the research of Professor of Economics Matti Pohjola, on how Sweden has invested more heavily in intangible capital, i.e. research and development. This has given rise to knowledge-intensive service activities and spurred GDP to stronger growth than in Finland.

"In Finland, investments in research and development are small, even if they have a high social return," Jäntti lectures.

Riku Salomaa, CEO of music production company The Fried Music, said that the global recording market is about $30 billion a year and that commercial bank Goldman Sachs forecasts growth of about ten percent per year.

"When a musical work, such as an advertising song, can be sold to a company one year at a time and one geographical area at a time, the product scales almost indefinitely," Salomaa explained.

He hoped that the state would also see music as a serious export product and invest more in it. All the money would not have to be gratuitous subsidies, but the state could direct affordable guarantee instruments to the music industry.

More cross-cutting educational experiments

In her commentary, Fanny Heinonen, Programme Director at Film Tampere, called for quality instead of quantity in creative education and hoped for holistic and cross-cutting educational experiments.

"If film directors and statisticians were in the same educational position, would viewers and audiences be better reached? If lawyers and film producers worked together, would there be better lobbying and regulation for copyright management?" Heinonen asked.

The chair of the discussion event, financial journalist Katja Boxberg, pointed out that Aalto University is just such an experiment that brings artists into contact with masters of science in engineering and business, creating creativity and wealth.

During his term as Prime Minister from 2003 to 2010, Matti Vanhanen was one of the founders of Aalto University, so he was able to answer – even though he appeared on the panel in his role as Chairman of the Board of the Finnish National Gallery – the question of whether the idea of Aalto University has been realised.

'I have not been able to follow Aalto University very closely afterwards, but I believe that generations will emerge through Aalto University that will change attitudes. Expertise in design, business and technology are under the same roof and collide with each other. The same principle should be replicated in society on a much wider scale," Vanhanen said.

Juho Romakkaniemi, CEO of Finland Chamber of Commerce, told how he has led various projects and projects that bring art and business closer in his work.

"When people from different fields collide, something new always emerges. In the future, too, every larger economic project should consider how art and culture relate to it and how cooperation promotes creativity beyond the project itself," Romakkaniemi said.

Out of the shackles of history

In the panel discussion, the panellists and the audience discussed the different attitudes of Finns and Swedes towards the commercialisation and commercialisation of art.

Salla Heinänen, Executive Director of the design industry organisation Ornamo, said that during the last government term, Ornamo strongly advocated a national IP strategy, i.e. a strategy for intellectual property rights, so that the creative industries could scale their business and thus receive tax euros for the benefit of society.

"The Finnish mentality thinks more about protection than in Sweden. The IP strategy was also made by lawyers, and it was based on protection legislation. However, it would also be important to think about scaling, how best to sell more and more time after time," Heinänen said.

Tiina Laisi-Puheloinen, CEO of the Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN), considered Finns to be too much prisoners of their history.

"Finland paid war reparations and gave birth to large-scale industry, and we cannot get rid of this way of thinking. Last week I was in Estonia at a big startup event, where the former president told how they refused to take assembly lines of ŠKODA factories to Estonia. Estonia has wanted to build business from a different approach, and relatively more unicorns have been born in the country than in Finland," Laisi-Puheloinen said.

A unicorn refers to an early-stage company that has grown to be worth more than a billion dollars.

Petri Rouvinen, Research Advisor at the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy ETLA, pointed out that Swedes are massively more international than Finns.

"Finns think about internationality that we go and we export, and it's not a two-way street. Swedes enter internationalism boldly. They think very carefully about ownership and board work, whereas Finns are lax in mergers to maintain representation on the board. Swedes have a very long culture of wealth and ownership. They have learned how to make money, and they take it naturally," Rouvinen said.

Board professional and former CEO of Kalevala Jewelry Riitta Huuhtanen recalled how, during Kalevala Jewelry's export trips, she was surrounded by engineers taking production factors around the world.

"There wasn't much in it showing exports of consumer goods or intangible products. We have been an engineer-driven country, relying on Nokia and the forest industry. Now we should have the courage to bring up the creative industries," Huuhtanen said.

The panellists, on the other hand, noted that drawing boundaries is difficult. Yes, basic industry and war reparation ships have involved a lot of thinking, creativity, product development and design.

"If, for example, Genelec and Ponsse had manufactured cube-shaped steel boxes, neither would be alive. The importance of design in creating a brand is understood in Finnish industry, but smaller companies are easily the first to compromise on it. A long list of house factories has collapsed because they have not kept up with the design process," Matti Vanhanen said.

Text: Antti Kivimäki