New York, LA and London: A Creative Industry World City Network


Being the newest member of the Globalisation and World Cities Research Group at Loughborough University, I thought that it was worth splicing together my interest in the creative industries and cultural economy with the methodologies of my new Ivory Tower.

What GaWC pioneered in recent years was a methodology to produce hierarchies based not on what is inside cities (such as what Sassen (1991) with her famous book title ‘London New York and Tokyo’, and others previously had been doing), but on city connectivity of multinational companies (see Taylor, 2004). One of the first papers (Beaverstock et al., 1999) published by the GaWC group compiled a hierarchy of world cities based upon the connectivity of business service firms, as opposed to the attributional factors that previous scholars used (Such as Hall, 1966; Friedman, 1986). This study was important because it was the first to rank cities upon relational data. In other words, it used the connectivity of the firms (APS firms, not creative industry firms) being studied as the barometer for the hierarchy, not attributional data that had previously been adopted. Using data on the location of the headquarters of major business service firms, and the location of those firms’ subsidiary branches, the connectivity of each city was ranked, thereby creating a relational hierarchy based on communication and connectivity; rather than counting the number of firms in any given city and comparing them.

This paper became was a seminal research agenda which spawned a number of other authors to conduct simiilar  into the connectivity of world cities, which are all available as research bulletins on the GaWC site. One which is ofrelevance here, is that of Krätke (2003) who produced a similar connectivity index, but this time based on media conglomerates, again using the headquarter locations and subsidiary branches as the basis of quantifying the connectivity. The production of the quantitative relational empirics by Beaverstock et al. (1999) for advanced producer service firms and Krätke (2003) for media firms, produced a preliminary visualisation of the world city network, and were the first empirical steps into a new conceptualisation of world cities. However, Krätke’s (2003) work used 33 media firms, using specific criteria;

“In order to carry out an empirical study of the network of globally linked media cities and the relative importance of the various urban nodes in the global cultural economy an analysis was made of the location networks of 33 global media industry firms with a total of 2,766 business units (establishments). To qualify as “global” a media firm had to have a presence in at least three different national economic areas and at least two continents or “world regions” (USA / Canada / Latin America; Europe; Asia / Australia; Africa) with its branch offices, subsidiaries and holding firms”.

(Krätke, 2003: 610)

Therefore, the hierarchy in this blog post is put forward as an extension (and update) of Krätke’s initial work, by including more firms from an official ranking – namely the Financial Times Top 500 and the Forbes Global 2000 – the (arguably) two most recognised (and utilised), list of global companies by business. These sources rank companies by turnover and value, which provides are more objective economic representation of the ‘global’ companies in any given sector (this list is given here).

The categories that aligned most with the ‘accepted definition’ of the creative industries (by this I mean in the UK) were media, software and services and leisure goods. While these are not exact matches for the DCMS’ sub-sectors, they represented those companies which deal in services and products that are considered part of the creative economy. The methodology involved having to select which cities the selected companies were located in, and where their subsidiary branches and wholly-owned companies were located. This information was gathered from, and where needed, research on the individual company’s website. Each city where an office was located was given a score of 1 and added together to give the final score. The list of cities and their scores are listed here. Below is a map of the cities that scored 3 or more (for reasons of clarity).

It is worth considering the consequences of this hierarchy in light of the methodology used. First, as can be seen, there is very much a North American bias to these cities which comes about from the nature of the companies used in this methodology. The majority of the top global companies are media conglomerates and software companies (the top 5 being Microsoft, Time Warner, Viacom, Comcast and Walt Disney) and the large number of small to medium sized firms and freelancers that populate the creative economy are not represented. However, it can be said that while these global firms do not represent the ‘whole’ of the creative industries globally, they are the most accurate portrayal of those global, trans-national companies which produce and deal in products that are considered ‘cultural goods’ (Scott, 2004, 2005; Lash and Lury, 2007). And as they represent a large proportion of global trade in these products, their inter-city connectivity data can provide valuable information regarding the cities and regions of interest to the global firms in contemporary creative industry activity. So, in using these firms (which are predominately based in the US) then this data set will have a tendency to skew toward a North American bias, as many of these firms will have offices in cities across the US before they branch out overseas.

With this in mind, we can see from the map and the list of cities, that New York, Los Angeles and London form a triumvirate of cities in the creative industries. Other notable cities include San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta; and the cities with any significance that occur outside the North American region are Paris and Tokyo. The lack of other regional cities in the UK is significant, with Birmingham the next highest with a score of only 3.

This data is designed to provide an overview of the world city connectivity of the creative industry, and while it is a ‘snapshot’, this exercise could be repeated at regular intervals in order to provide temporal aspect to the data, which will highlight which cities are increasing their creative industry internationalisation practices through their global firms.


  1. Neil Cocker · May 7, 2009

    If we were to take web and screen (i.e. TV and film) out of the equation I wonder what other cities would come into the mix of creative industries. The real “buzz” cities globally for me seem to be Brisbane and Birmingham (UK). They’re the ones that seem to be making the right noises about the future of the CI’s. However, that could just be the result of having a small cluster of dedicated activists in those locations.

    Interesting stuff! :)

  2. Oli Mould · May 7, 2009

    Cheers – and yes you’re right, the data was skewed toward the software and film and TV lot, hence LA being top of the pile (and probably one of the most uninspiring cities in terms of creative industries!!) The problem is of course the availability of data – there is simply not enough on the small to medium firms and where there is, it is not disaggregated into cities. It’d be great to have an index of city ‘buzz’ – that’ll be the next project!

  3. Pingback: Media Centres in the World Economy « Allan Watson – News & Research

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