Hill Strategies Research on the Situation of Artists

In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: Four reports examining different aspects of the working lives of artists, including a Canadian study on the education of artists, a series of reports from the United Kingdom on the situation of visual artists, a report on Quebec song, and a series of American reports on the earnings of musicians and composers.

Click the link within each summary below to read the full report.

Educating Artists

An analysis of the educational backgrounds of working artists and the labour market activities of arts program graduates in Canada

Hill Strategies Research Inc., June 2015
Author: Kelly Hill
Based on the 2013 National Graduates Survey and the 2011 National Household Survey, this report examines the labour force situation of arts graduates and the post-secondary education of artists in Canada.
Looking at the 326,300 Canadian workers 25 years of age or older who have graduated from post-secondary visual and performing arts programs, the report finds that they have a range of occupations. Of note, 11% of visual and performing arts graduates worked as artists in 2011, and “another 20% worked in other occupations within the broad category of arts, culture, recreation, or sports”. Important proportions of visual and performing arts graduates worked in sales and service (18%), business, finance, and administration (14%), management (11%), and in education, law, social services, and government (also 11%).
The report finds that the 134,500 artists 25 or older have a “diverse array of educational backgrounds”, with 28% having “graduated from a post-secondary visual or performing arts program”. In addition, 6% of artists graduated from an education program, and the same number graduated from communications and journalism. Five percent of artists graduated from business, management, and marketing.
The report indicates that there is limited “overlap between working artists and arts graduates”, given the fact that 11% of visual and performing graduates are artists and 28% of artists are arts graduates.
Another key finding of the report is that there are “signs of underemployment of recent arts and communications graduates” when compared with other graduates:

  • Only 36% of arts and communications graduates have a job that is closely related to their studies, compared with 58% of all graduates.
  • “23% of arts and communications graduates worked at a job with gross annual earnings below $20,000, compared with 10% of all graduates.”
  • “Arts and communications graduates are much more likely than other graduates to be employed in sales and service occupations (22% vs. 13%).” 

Despite their labour market challenges, “72% of recent arts and communications graduates would choose the same program of studies again. This is only slightly less than the percentage of all graduates (76%).”

Paying Artists: Valuing Art, Valuing Artists

DHA Communications, 2013 to 2015
Unlike some other countries, including Canada, visual artists in the United Kingdom do not have a standard fee structure for exhibiting in public galleries. The “Paying Artists” campaign, which is attempting to change that, has produced a number of research reports.
A 2013 survey of 1,061 artists was conducted and summarized in a report on “Phase 1 Findings”. As with all online surveys where individuals self-select whether to respond, the responses may not provide a statistically representative sample of all U.K. visual artists.
The survey finds that 71% of respondents are female. In terms of career phase, 45% of respondents consider themselves emerging artists, 37% mid-career artists, 14% established artists, and 3% students.
Regarding their income from their practice (before expenses), 8% of artists reported no income, and another 64% reported less than £10,000 of income (roughly $20,000 in Canadian dollars). Another 17% of artists earned between £10,001 and £20,000 ($20,000 to $40,000 CDN), and 7% earned between £20,001 and £30,000 ($40,000 to $60,000 CDN). Only 4% of artists earn more than £30,001 ($60,000 CDN) from their practice. Concerning sources of income for their practice, the survey finds that artists rank commissions most highly, followed by teaching, sales, and exhibitions.
About one-half of respondents (51%) earn 25% or less of their overall income from their art or craft practice.  In other words, many visual artists “earn significant proportions of their income from other activities outside their practice”.
Regarding the importance of exhibitions, the survey found that “the most important functions of an exhibition from an artist’s perspective are to raise the profile of their work across the visual arts and to provide a vehicle for sharing their work with the public”. The number one barrier to exhibiting work is that it is “too expensive”.
A 2014 report (“Securing a Future for Visual Arts in the U.K.”) finds that “71% of artists exhibiting in publicly-funded galleries received no fee for their work. In fact, 59% did not even receive payment for their expenses”. The report also indicates that “63% of artists have had to turn down requests from galleries to exhibit their work because they cannot afford to do so without pay.”
A 2015 survey (“Paying Artists Consultation Report 2015”) examines the views of artists, curators, and gallery representatives on the payment of artists, how to improve fee negotiations, and how fees could be calculated.

A Portrait of Quebec Song

(Un portrait de la chanson québécoise)
Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, January 2013
Author: Philippe Renaud
Prepared for a 2013 Forum on Quebec Song, this French-language opinion piece attempts to stimulate reflection on the state of Quebec song and French-language song in particular.  Raising important questions, the article examines topics such as internationalization, technological change, touring, training, and funding. The article argues that “these days, much imagination is required to develop new sources of revenue” for singers, songwriters, and music groups.
The article briefly explores the connection between song and Quebec identity, posing the question whether Quebec songs affirm “national identity” or whether Quebec identity drives artistic expression. The article cites statistics showing that English-language song occupies an important share of the Quebec market for recorded music and live shows. Reaching international markets is an important consideration for many music acts, and a number of Quebec groups have chosen to sing in English in order to reach a larger international market.
The digital revolution has changed the market for Quebec music, with many consumers opting for digital downloads rather than physical recordings. Statistics cited in the article show that Quebec music occupies a much larger share of physical recordings (51%) than digital albums (32%) or digital songs (6%) sold in the province. The article touches on issues of copyright and the monetization of recorded works in a digital era.
The article questions whether current training frameworks are adequate to ensure that musicians understand the complexities of the music industry and to ensure that others (managers, touring managers, publishers, etc.) are able to help artists earn a living from their music.
Finally, the article examines sources of funding for Quebec music and musicians, including the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (the Quebec arts council), the Canada Council for the Arts, the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (Quebec’s agency for assisting cultural industries), Musicaction / Factor, and the Radio Starmaker Fund. The article asks whether Quebec song is underfunded compared with other elements of the cultural industries.

Artist Revenue Streams

A multi-method, cross-genre examination of how US based musicians and composers are earning a living

Future of Music Coalition, 2012
This series of reports examines the revenues of musicians and composers in the United States based on an online survey (5,371 respondents), in-person interviews with more than 80 musicians, and six case studies of musicians' financial records. While the survey sample is very large, the online methodology (where individuals self-select whether to respond) may not provide a statistically representative, randomized sample of all U.S. musicians.
The report highlights the revenue streams available to many different types of musicians, including songwriters, composers for film and TV, touring band members, jazz musicians, orchestra musicians, members of classical ensembles, and hip hop artists.
The reporting is provided on a series of web pages, which outline the largely “middle class existence” of many U.S. musicians. “The average personal gross income for the past twelve months of all survey respondents was $55,561 [USD, roughly $75,000 in Canadian dollars]. This number includes income from all sources, which could include other jobs (music related or otherwise), pension payments, investments, and so on. This is slightly higher than the US population.”
Sixty-five percent of responding musicians and composers are male, while 60% hold a music industry or conservatory degree. Similar numbers of respondents spend at least 36 hours a week making music (40%) and derive all of their personal income from music (42%).
The website notes that “the vast majority of artists rely on an ever-shifting composite of income sources based on their compositions, sound recordings, performances, brand, and their knowledge of their craft”. In fact, more than one-half of respondents earn income from at least three different roles in the music industry, including composing / songwriting, recording, being a “salaried player” in an orchestra or ensemble, performing live, performing at recording sessions, teaching, and producing. A separate section of the website breaks down the roles into 45 specific revenue streams for composers and musicians.
The website explores the “myth” that touring revenue is a substantial component of all musicians' incomes. In fact, 42% of survey respondents received no performing income in the previous year. Overall, “income from live performances accounted for 28% of survey respondents’ income in past 12 months”. Live performance was most important for country musicians (45% of total income), rock musicians (42%), jazz players (38%), and rap / hip hop / urban music performers (36%). Performance revenues for many classical musicians was captured separately, under “salaried player" or “freelancer". When salaried player income is added to live performance income, 47% of respondents' incomes can be largely attributed to live performance.

Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

©2019 BC Alliance for Arts + Culture. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy