How to Get a Product Job in the Creative Industries

What is ‘The Creative Economy’?

The creative economy is described by The UN as an evolving concept which builds on the interplay between human creativity and ideas and intellectual property, knowledge and technology. Essentially it is the knowledge-based economic activities upon which the ‘creative industries’ are based.”

Colloquially, the creative economy/creative industries are known in many places as the arts. They’re the “non-essential” businesses, in that they serve the higher tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

If you’ve just read that and you’re shouting “what do you mean the arts are non-essential?! They’re absolutely essential!” congratulations. That’s just the passion and fire you need to get a product management job in the creative industries.

Where do product managers fit in?

It’s a stereotype that there’s no space for artists in the tech industry. That companies like Facebook and Google just need coders and other techies. But like all industries, the tech industry has a great need for diverse talents, and hundreds of different types of roles are available.

The same can be said for the creative industries. The perception is that you need to be an artist, or a writer, or maybe a marketer. But these companies run on tech, both internally and to provide their customers with content. And where there’s tech, there’s usually a product manager running around making sure it’s all being built properly!

An Overview of the Creative Industries:

There are so many creative industries to choose from, and on the surface many of them may not seem to have much to do with tech. But nowadays, everything has to do with tech!

To make it simple, and give you a jump-off point, we’ll give you a brief overview of what the major creative industries are, the kind of products that PMs would be building within them, and some of the major-player companies in that space.

It’s worth noting that many of these companies have internal products that serve their operations. So even if a company doesn’t offer a digital product to their audience/customers, there may be product management opportunities behind the scenes.

Note: the companies listed here are for example purposes only. We cannot guarantee that they are currently hiring product management roles

Cultural and Heritage

The cultural industries are a less-known subset of the creative industries, and include organizations working in the heritage sector. This may be on a global scale such as UNESCO, or on a local scale such as English Heritage and The Met. A role in this field requires a love of preservation as well as education.

Perfect for: Lovers of heritage, culture, and education. If you’re passionate about the preservation of your country’s heritage, or you’ve got a real thing for fine art, this is the industry for you.

What you’ll be doing: Many museums have online collections to manage, as well as virtual tours and events. Many cultural organizations that manage a variety of physical heritage sites have membership plans that involve owning a huge amount of customer data.

Companies: UNESCO, The Louvre, The British Museum, The Met…pretty much any major museum in the world!

blue and white ceramic tile flooring

Design

Design tools are absolutely blowing up! Particularly the online collaborative kind. As well as the traditional all-the-bells-and-whistles design tools like Photoshop, tools that democratize design and make it accessible for non-designers are creating waves in the industry.

Perfect for: Product Managers with a design background will do especially well here, as they’ll be uniquely positioned to understand the user.

What you’ll be doing: The role of a product manager in product-led design companies will be the same as at any other digital product company. You’ll be working closely with designers, engineering, and the rest of the development team to launch a product that makes sense for users. The only difference is that your customers will likely be designers too!

Companies: Figma, Adobe, Sketch, Canva

Fashion and Beauty

When you think ‘fashion’ the first thing that comes to your mind may be eCommerce. Online stores dominate the digital fashion industry, so any PM with eCommerce experience should be able to make the transition relatively easily.

Perfect for: Fashion conscious PMs. Or, at least those who are able to empathize with the fashion conscious! (No one expects you to turn up to the office in full Balenciaga!) In 2021, PMs who care about the challenge of making fashion more sustainable and less fast will have a wide range of opportunities to choose from.

What you’ll be doing: eCommerce in fashion and beauty has the interesting challenge of trying to get the customer to fully visualize what the product they’re buying will look like. We all know the pain of ordering what you think will be a bomb outfit, only to try it on and realize you look like a sack of potatoes. Perhaps you’ll be the PM who finally finds the solution to this infuriating problem. The opportunities for innovation in the fashion space is huge.

Companies: Sephora, Farfetch, Girlfriend Collective, Zalando

assorted clothes in wooden hangers

Film & Entertainment

This is the industry that needs no introduction! Who amongst us isn’t guilty of the occasional uncontrollable film/TV binge? It’s an industry that was completely disrupted by online streaming, and perhaps you’ll be the product leader at the forefront of the next big innovation.

Perfect for: Film and television lovers of all kinds

What you’ll be doing: At most streaming companies, you’ll either be working in the backend on things like infrastructure, or you’ll be overseeing the front-end user experience. Companies like Netflix are famous for testing, testing, and then testing again. So be prepared to be constantly diving into the unknown and constantly experimenting.

Companies: HBO, Disney Streaming Services, Amazon Prime, Netflix

Gaming

In 2020, the global gaming industry was valued at $167.9 Billion USD, and that number is only set to grow. (We all remember how quickly the Nintendo Switch sold out in 2020!)

Perfect for: Those who are able to understand games from a player’s perspective make the best product managers, otherwise the learning curve can be very steep! Whether you like swiping at jewels and candy on your phone, or you’ve plugged more hours than you care to mention into japanese RPGs, you’ll find a space for yourself in the gaming industry.

Check out: Hey! Listen! Here’s How to Be a Gaming PM

What you’ll be doing: The tech that the gaming industry runs on is unique, but the product manager function remains the same. You’ll be working with all kinds of roles that only exist in gaming, such as level designers. While you’ll need to learn to speak their language, and you should get to grips with how game design as a process works, you don’t need to be able to build games to help others build games. You’ll still be wielding the usual PM skills (stakeholder management, prioritization, etc).

Companies: EA, Nintendo, Ubisoft

gaming room with arcade machines

Music and Podcasts

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like music or diving into a good podcast? This is another industry that was totally revolutionized and disrupted by online streaming. While Spotify and Apple Music continue to dominate the market, newer companies are popping up every day and serving new customers in new ways.

Perfect for: Spotify and Apple Music are the go-tos, but those looking for an opportunity to challenge the giants will thrive in this industry. Post-pandemic, concerts have either halted or moved to virtual spaces, so those looking to contribute here will find a myriad of opportunities.

What you’ll be doing: This industry serves two main groups, audiences and the artists they love. You may be working on products that help the two groups connect more easily, finding ways for creators to collaborate, or finding ways to democratize the music/podcast making process for those who don’t have access to studios. Opportunities for innovation and problem-solving are endless in this space.

Companies: CDBaby, Buzzsprout, Deezer

News & Broadcast Media

Despite what you might have heard, we’re not quite in a post-truth era (…yet?) and broadcast media and news outlets are still going strong. With so many free news outlets out there, how can traditional media make the switch to digital whilst maintaining revenue streams? How can you step into a 200-year-old company and go about digitizing them? That’s what working in product in the news industry is all about.

Perfect for: Those who care deeply about freedom of information, unbiased coverage of events, and freedom of speech.

What you’ll be doing: News and Broadcast Media companies are multi-layered, and you could be working on any number of things. It could be anything from streaming huge sports events around the world, figuring out how to filter out those who have TV licences/those who don’t, and creating solutions for combating the global fake news problem.

Companies: Forbes, BBC, Warner Media, Al Jazeera

Check out this great talk from Forbes’ Head of Product, Nina Foroutan:

Publishing

Perfect for: Product Managers who are obsessed with books, of course! The stories we love are intensely personal. As a reader, you’re able to get into the head of your customers and understand the user experience they’re looking for as they search for the next steamy novel or epic saga. Magazine publishing also comes under this brand, so maybe you watched The Devil Wears Prada and want in on the action!

What you’ll be doing: As well as needing enormous internal systems to create the millions of words worth of content they produce, many publishers also offer digital content to their audience. Product teams in the publishing industry need to find ways for readers to consume content in a way that feels as seamless and natural as picking up a paper magazine.

Companies: Condé Nast, Amazon Kindle, Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury

How to Hack the Product Management Interview

Even though all of the roles available in the creative industries are incredibly varied, the main principles behind hacking the product management interview are the same. And luckily we have a whole bunch of resources to help you do just that!

And don’t forget, we’ve got a whole playlist full of advice from top product leaders on how to master the product management interview on YouTube. Try this one out:

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