Creative Development: Helping Poor Countries by Building Creative Industries

70 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2009 Last revised: 11 Feb 2009

See all articles by Mark F. Schultz

Mark F. Schultz

Southern Illinois University School of Law

Alec van Gelder

International Policy Network

Date Written: November 26, 2008


This paper advocates a grass-roots, pragmatic approach to intellectual property and economic development in poor countries that focuses on how copyright and related institutions can support bottom-up growth. Two case studies inform this paper's analysis: The development of the country music industry in Nashville, Tennessee, and the challenges faced by the popular music industry in Africa today.

First, we consider the story of Nashville's development into "Music City, U.S.A." as a hopeful example of how a popular music industry can support economic development. Although an example drawn from one of the world's wealthiest countries may not initially seem relevant, early 20th century Nashville faced many of the same challenges as today's developing economies. As is often the case in modern times, Nashville's policymakers pinned their hopes for economic development on access to raw materials and large government infrastructure projects. Success instead came from an unexpected quarter, as musicians and entrepreneurs transformed much-maligned "hillbilly music" into the multi-billion dollar country music industry. Nashville's success provides several important lessons, including the potential of creative industries for developing economies; the importance of private action to the development of creative industries; and the importance of copyright.

We then consider the popular music industry in Africa. Despite abundant talent and the existence of copyright law in most countries, there are no "African Nashvilles." We examine the challenges faced by the African popular music industry and offer a number of specific institutional reforms that could help spark the growth of the music industry and contribute to economic development in African countries. While we do not see this industry as a panacea for the difficulties of poor countries, it could be an encouraging first step, helping individuals and providing an economic and moral victory in a region greatly in need of such help.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, Africa, Nashville, music

JEL Classification: O1, O2, R58

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Mark F. and van Gelder, Alec, Creative Development: Helping Poor Countries by Building Creative Industries (November 26, 2008). Kentucky Law Journal, Vol. 97, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Mark F. Schultz (Contact Author)

Southern Illinois University School of Law ( email )

1150 Douglas Drive
Carbondale, IL 62901-6804
United States
618-453-8750 (Phone)

Alec Van Gelder

International Policy Network ( email )

Rooms 200-205 Temple Chambers
3-7 Temple Avenue
London, EC4Y 0HP
United Kingdom
+44 20 3393 8419 (Phone)


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