Milan is the mecca for all things chic and fabulous. Aspiring musicians flock to Bristol. Copenhagen is the place-to-be for designers. Yet what about other cities in Europe? What is the creative fabric of Edinburgh? Where do comic book writers cluster?
In this article we are not using census and jobs data to map creative communities. Instead, we are following a different approach: we are using Kickstarter data, which is one of the largest archives of creative projects, ever. Thanks to Web Robots, we've got access to more than 15,000 Kickstarter projects that took place in Europe from Januray 2016 to July 2017, the latter being the time of writing this article. This way we can characterize every major city by the types of projects it launches.
First, let’s start with how each country in our dataset compares to the other.
What makes the UK unique? First, as we can see in the heat map above most of the Kickstarter action takes place there with 17,507 projects. Second, we broke down Kickstarter into 15 categories (e.g., games, fashion, film) and interestingly enough 'technology' is not the most popular category there. Keep that in mind as you're scrolling down. Now, in case you're wondering why Greece or Portugal, for instance, didn't make it into our analysis, that's simply because Kickstarter is not available there.
But let’s go deeper on the 50 most popular cities of our sample. This will help us understand why the UK is so unique. Just take a look at the size of the circle that represents London. Also, the fact that Manchester or Edinburg, cities with much smaller populations compared to Berlin, have more projects than the latter, which is one of the most vibrant creative communities worldwide, didn't come with no surprise to us.
While a breakdown of film vs. music projects is helpful, what is the nature of these projects? Were they large (in number of backers)? Or were they small and localized to the city’s community?
Every Kickstarter project is depicted as a small circle, sized by its number of backers, having at least one backer. Circles colored in light grey represent projects under less popular categories in each city.
These bubble charts give us a powerful sense of a city’s creative center of gravity. Eidhoven is 51.3% technology projects (green in color). Among 50 cities, it has the most concentrated number of projects in one category: technology. At the same time, Edinburgh is represented by 40% theater projects, depicted by orange dots.
Other interesting observations:
The Netherlands and fashion: we were surprised by the number of fashion projects in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In addition, the Hague, another small city in the Netherlands, has less fashion projects but it gets more backers in the same category.
Spain and gaming: Spain has evolved greatly in the world of 'gaming' in recent years. This may explain why in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia, 'games' is the top category and the one that has the most backers.
'Oxbridge' and publishing: the two oldest universities and college towns in the United Kingdom, Oxford and Cambridge, are top 3 and 4 for publishing projects respectively.
Brighton and art: its location on the south coast of England has made it a popular destination for tourists, renowned for its diverse communities, quirky shopping areas, large cultural, music and arts scene. Brighton has also been called the UK's "hippest city", and "the happiest place to live in the UK." Each May the city hosts the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe, the second largest arts festival in the UK (after Edinburgh, which is the top 10 for art projects in our 50 most popular cities).
Next, let’s go deeper on individual categories, starting with music. How does each city’s projects compare to one another?
The Kickstarter data validates so many anecdotes about cities’ culture and solid geographic roots. Bristol ranks 6th in music projects – an impressive feat for a city of 430,000 people. Since the late 1970s Bristol has been home to bands combining punk, funk, dub, trip hop and Bristol Sound artists such as Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack.
In design Copenhagen ranks third followed by Berlin and Amsterdam, which rank first and second in photography respectively.
Across the whole north west of England, there are round 50,000 people working in food and drink manufacturing. And nearly half of those are employed within Greater Manchester, making it one of the biggest sectors of its kind in the UK and second for food projects on Kickstarter.
Hopefully this data adds a bit more color to how we describe Europe's creative communities, because when we look beyond London and Paris so many smaller and medium-size cities have rich, emerging, garage and basement industries that will not appear in a census.