In search of the Québécois perspective on cultural economics

In search of the Québécois perspective on cultural economics

Forget the hockey and the poutine – Montreal is first and foremost a major hub of Canadian and Québec culture and art. The vibrant city was the perfect host for the Fourth North American Cultural Economic Workshop, which we had the pleasure to attend last week. We presented our paper on PWYW payment decisions for “free walking tours”. Perhaps ironically, we didn’t have to go on such a tour in Montreal, because the hosts showed us everything themselves.

The three-day workshop included presentations about a vast array of the newest research in the cultural economics field. Some favorites of ours included a discrete-choice model of ebooks versus print book preferences (verdict: print books aren’t going away anytime soon), the impact of Netflix and other VOD platforms in reducing illegal streaming and downloading, as well as a case-study on the non-use value individuals gain from arts funding in their city. Aside from the sessions, we were also invited to a round-table discussion on new economic challenges in the music industry, in which Montreal-based musicians also took part (Arcade Fire couldn’t make it). While GRAPE currently hasn’t explored the avenue of cultural economics focusing on music, the round-table was fascinating to be a part of and definitely gave us a lot of ideas that could translate to other cultural sectors. The discussion focused around how the rise of Spotify and YouTube has completed changed the investment and risk mechanisms of the business. Up-and-coming musicians are now left-alone with the burden of the initial investment. The new model strays away from the traditional one where music labels acted like venture capitalist and invested in up-and-coming musicians. It’s up to the cultural economists now to quantify how this new burden has changed the way musicians act and operate.

We had the opportunity to present our working paper on the cultural and individual-level determinants of voluntary payment sizes for cultural good consumption. While the results for the cultural differences remain intact, the paper has changed significantly since we last presented it two-months ago in Krakow at the European counterpart of the Montreal workshop. Namely, we’ve changed our model measuring individual-level factors that affect payment size. Our results are very clear in showing that a tourist’s understanding that the payment they were making was the only form of compensation for the guide greatly affected the payment size. What’s more, tourists who had attended at least one previous tour of the same format, appear to be keen to pay less. Going against the current literature, our result also showed no significant negative affect on payment size based on the growing size of the tour group.

The many comments we received during the workshop on our research are very insightful in helping us plan the continued evolution of our paper. We are very thankful to our discussant, Paul Crosby (Macquarie University), with whom we discussed the limitations that arise from of our country-level cultural scores. We plan to distribute a similar survey in 2018, and are currently looking for ways to calculate individual-level cultural dimension scores (Hofstede & WVS). Additionally, we are very grateful for the comments by Bronwyn Coate (RMIT) and Jordi McKenzie (Macquarie), who discussed the nature of busking (gratuity-based street performances) as being more comparable to PWYW payments than tipping, on which we currently formulate our cultural hypothesis. The discussion following our presentation also validated that, while controversial, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension scores remain the most telling measure of cultures across nations. Moving forward, we are going to focus on measuring tourists’ cultural dimensions on the basis of Hofstede and the World Value Surveys.

We extend a very special thank you to Prof. Doug Hodgson (University of Quebec at Montreal) and Prof. Bryan Campbell (CIRANO & Concordia University) and everyone at CIRANO for their amazing hospitality. Prof. Hodgson’s presentation on Canadian painters’ clustering throughout different artistic movements, which was an absolutely perfect preface to the Canadian Art Collection in Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts. Below, we leave you with, a photo of one of the works of Marc-Auréle Fortin, a 20th century early-modernist Quebec painter. His works’ striking colors and sprawling landscapes are a great contrast to the gloomy war-time paintings of the time we are used to in Europe. The vibrancy in Fortin’s work mirrors the liveliness we felt in Montreal.