We’re number two! Beta cities and the cultural economy
Given that not every city can be an alpha city in today’s global urban hierarchy, what options do beta cities such as Toronto or Chicago realistically have in the cultural economy? Put differently, if cultural capitals such as New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo play critically important roles in certifying and establishing new trends in theatre, fashion, and other cultural industries, how can beta cities compete? Recent research suggests that the spatial distribution of cultural industries strongly resembles one of urban hierarchy, where the institutions and infrastructure that support the production and diffusion of new products are largely concentrated in only a few world cities. The implication of this hierarchy is that there is a clearly defined top tier that lower ranked, beta, cities look to for inspiration as they seek to improve their standing. Comparative case studies of musical theatre scenes in Toronto and New York provide insights into an alternative functional perspective on urban hierarchies and the complementarities among cities. This approach makes a distinction between development and diffusion activities, thereby recognizing opportunities for beta cities as important sites for experimentation and innovation, supported by attributes that could be seen as unique (and localized) strengths in an increasingly global cultural economy. Keywords: beta cities, cultural economy, global and world cities, innovation and creativity, experimentation, theatre
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