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Australia Council research reveals decline in artist’s incomes

November 13, 2017

Newly released research from the Australia Council for the Arts shows that the income levels of practising professional artists in Australia declined by about 4% between 2008 and 2015.

The new report, Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia, shows that in the 2014/15 financial year artists earned an average gross income of $48,400 - 21% below the Australian average, with the economics of creative life particularly challenging for women.

The report by Professor David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya, which examines the economic conditions faced by practising professional artists in Australia and their increasing value to society and the future of work, reveals that artists’ incomes from creative work have decreased by 19% since 2009.

It is the sixth such study carried out independently over 30 years by Professor Throsby at Macquarie University, with funding from the Australia Council.

Among the report’s other findings, it notes that there are 48,000 practising professional artists in Australia - a number that has remained relatively steady since the 1990s.

This figure includes 15,400 professional musicians; 8,600 visual artists; 7,900 actors/directors and an equal number of writers; 3,000 craft practitioners; 2,300 dancers and choreographers; 1,700 composers, and 1,200 community cultural development artists.

Of these 48,000 professional artists, 51% of them are women, with the average female Australian artist earning a much lower income from her practice compared to her male peers – $15,400 versus $22,100 in the 2014/15 financial year.

Thorsby and Petetskaya note “the income gap between men and women is wider in the arts than the average gap across all industries in Australia. This gap appears to be especially evident for female writers, visual artists and musicians.”

The report finds that digital disruption is also impacting on the arts, both positively and negatively, as many artists embrace new technology. Almost seven in 10 artists regularly use technology in the process of creating art, and 27% use the internet to create collaborative or interactive art with others (up from 14% in 2009).

Four in 10 artists are selling work online through their own site (41%) and the same proportion are selling through a third party’s site (39%).

Australia Council Chief Executive Tony Grybowski (pictured above) said that the arts have a critical role in navigating accelerated technological and social change as a nation.

Given that this new research highlights the challenges of maintaining a viable career as a professional artist in Australia, Grybowski said that action is needed to ensure the immense value artists provide to our culture, identity and economy is not further compromised.

He explained “if we want Australian stories to keep being told and Australia’s diverse artistic talent to succeed locally and internationally we must consider the support structures, protections and remuneration of Australian artists.”

The research highlights that artists’ skills and capabilities are also considered to be among those least likely to be automated and increasingly sought in the workforces of the future. Artists are well placed to respond to accelerated technological and social change. Artists imagine new possibilities, embracing experimentation and disruption - maintaining the crucial connection to what it means to be human.

Professor Throsby said the study highlights ongoing and increasing challenges to ensuring artist careers continue to be sustainable in Australia, adding “artists are highly skilled professionals with a passionate commitment to their craft - but too often they are expected to work for love not money. The digital environment presents new opportunities and challenges for artists.

“There are more ways to connect with audiences and distribute work, but also greater exposure to unauthorised exploitation of ideas and labours.”

Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia also reveals that disparities in representation and income persist: 9% of artists identify with disability and 10% as having non-English speaking background, compared to 18% and 19% respectively across the Australian population. Female artists earn 25% less than male artists overall, and 30% less for creative work. Artists with disability earn 42% less overall than artists without disability, compared to 8% in the last survey.

Almost eight in 10 artists (77%) mix creative practice with other work, in arts-related roles and outside the arts. Half (51%) apply their creative skills in other industries, up from 36% in 2009. Much of this is due to necessity rather than choice, with 66% of artists stating they would like to spend more time on their creative practice. However, it also suggests opportunities for arts practice to take new and varied forms, and underlines artists’ transferable skills and interdisciplinary thinking - abilities considered vital for innovation and future workforce needs.

A willingness to obtain new skills is considered essential as workforces prepare for jobs that have not yet been imagined. Artists embody a sense of lifelong learning, with seven in 10 (at all career stages) still engaged in training (72%, up from 39% in 2009).

Over half (51%) of artists work across more than one art form, up from 43% in 2009. Some crossovers are more predictable (47% of composers also play music or sing), and others less so (28% of dancers also create visual art).

One third (33%) of artists report having received payment through a copyright collecting society, more than double the 15% in 2009. Around a quarter (26%) report their copyright has been infringed in some way, and 21% their moral rights. Increased audience expectations for free content, and opportunities for misappropriation and unauthorised exploitation, pose significant challenges to artists’ rights and livelihoods.

Artists draw on a range of structures and entities to support creative work - 30% report applying to the Australia Council between 2010 and 2015, 26% to state and territory governments and 24% to arts organisations.

The results of Making Art Work are based on responses from almost 1,000 Australian professional artists surveyed during late 2016 and early 2017.

For more information go to www.australiacouncil.gov.au

1st November 2017 - ARTS AND SPORTS INDUSTRIES THE FASTEST GROWING JOBS SECTOR IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA 

12th September 2017 - AUSTRALIA COUNCIL PROVIDES $6.1 MILLION FOR ARTS PROJECTS 

10th May 2017 - FEDERAL BUDGET CONFIRMS RETURN OF AUSTRALIA COUNCIL ARTS FUNDS

18th October 2016 - RESEARCH REVEALS ALARMING FINDINGS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH OF AUSTRALIAN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY WORKERS

9th June 2016 - ABS ECONOMIC ACTIVITY SURVEY SHOWS OVER 200,000 EMPLOYED IN ‘ARTS AND RECREATION SERVICES’

18th January 2016 - STUDY SHOWS EXPOSURE TO THE ARTS PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH

17th October 2015 - 15-YEAR RESEARCH PROJECT REVEALS THE ESSENCE OF HAPPINESS 

10th July 2009 - PERFORMING ARTS FUNDING SET TO DECLINE?


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