Researched & written by: Meg Liffick

When you think of Seattle, two iconic figures may come to mind: Kurt Cobain and Bill Gates. On the surface these individuals couldn’t be more dissimilar. But as you dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that they actually share a single, critical trait: an innovative spirit. Creativity and a pioneering attitude are the fuel of Seattle’s economy, and understanding the convergence of Music, Arts, and Technology is critical to understanding the city.


As we explore Seattle’s creative economy, some critical questions come to mind:


What led to the unique culture that fostered Seattle’s international renown in both the arts and technology?

During most of the 20th century in Seattle, the low cost of living allowed for individuals to experiment without economic pressure. The ability to take risks combined with the region’s inherent entrepreneurial spirit from its days as a frontier town, led to an incubator for creativity.


What are the benefits of Seattle’s creative economy?

The current economy of Seattle is dependent on human capital and as such the city is invested in ensuring a high quality of life for its residents. The Arts are critical to the lifestyle and vibrancy that young, affluent, highly educated tech industry workers expect in their chosen community.


For many arts organizations the tech industry not only brings philanthropic support, but also a positive symbiotic exchange of inspiration, knowledge, and resources that would not be possible in other communities. Some examples of this exchange include:


What are some key lessons for Indianapolis as we grow as a tech community and as a cultural community?

  • The creative economy is born from a freedom to take risks, both financially and culturally. 


  • Opportunities for cross-industry collaboration and creative exchange are critical to the strength of a creative economy.


  • The tech industry was initially fostered by the same innovative climate that fueled the successful Art and Music scene. However, some argue that today, a residual effect of the massive success and growth of the tech industry is the infusion of traditional corporate values into the city’s culture. To many, Seattle has shifted from a city that once valued risk and non-conformity to one that is much more restrained.


  • The influx of tech dollars in the last two decades has dramatically increased the cost of living in Seattle and made it difficult for many artists to live in the area. As such, there has been an exodus of musicians and visual artists in recent years. The disparity between the incomes of those who work in the tech industry and those who work in the arts industry has created a social divide within the creative economy. 



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