The City of Dreams: A Look into New York’s Creative & Cultural Industries

By Cheyenne Koh Tat Huey, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

Last summer, a group of us embarked on a Business Study Mission (BSM) to New York, a place undoubtedly regarded as one of the world’s greatest and most creative cities.

Lonely Planet says it best, introducing New York City as an epicentre of the arts, a dining and shopping capital, and an iconic trendsetter – wearing many crowns and spreading an irresistible feast for all. With its bustling city life, colourful culture, a beautiful diversity of sights, sounds, people and food, all of us were hugely enthralled to be able to experience it firsthand. Moreover, as many of us have not been to the States before, the level of excitement was tremendous!


Times Square

Having the time of their lives at Times Square!


On a personal note, while there are many reasons to fall in love with New York, what I truly enjoyed and appreciated most is the infectious energy across all its districts. There is just so much creativity in the air, which manifested itself through NYC’s streets, its architecture and even with the commuters and buskers in the subway stations. The billboards, Broadway shows, galleries, museums, bars, restaurants, and lights at Times Square, were nothing like I’d ever seen before.

Prior to the trip, we also had tons of great opportunities to go on class visits to wonderful companies like Spotify Asia and The Walt Disney Company in Singapore, where we learnt about their successes, business models and value creation within the region. But it doesn’t quite compare to visiting the offices in the States – the very country where it all began.

In New York, we visited firms from varying industries (e.g. technology, consultancy, advertising, entertainment, music, etc.), such as The Barbarian Group, Fahrenheit 212,, Spotify NYC, Siegel & Gale, Huge, Beatrix and more. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to learn the ins and outs of how these firms develop such great works.

Albeit a short visit, it was a great chance to immerse in the working culture in New York. It is one thing to visualise huge collaborative spaces, open conversations, and unbounded ideation processes that allow these companies to explore their greatest potential and creativity; but another thing altogether to standing right in the midst of all the action.


The Barbarian Group

Hanging out at The Barbarian Group!



Groovin’ with the team at Spotify!


The teams that we were very lucky to be in touch with, all spoke with love, determination, and vivacity. One interesting attribute, which I felt was common across all these companies, was their innovation-driven mindset. They all believe that innovation and self-creation can bring differentiation, discovery, as well as the drive to fuel a shared goal. This, of course, provided me with a fresh, yet important perspective into how passion can be a huge enabler to producing great impact.

Looking back, BSM NY was probably one of the greatest adventures that I have gone on, and I would definitely live it all again in a heartbeat. Not only did I gain valuable lessons through this course, I’ve also built lifelong memories and forged brilliant friendships.

Before I end off, here is a little something from all of us, kindly put together by Robin!


Discover a Different U with our SMU undergraduate programmes.


[All photos featured courtesy of Sam Lee!]