Artist Incomes

Less than 20 percent of artists worked full time on their creative practice and they earned around $22,500

In 2007-08, the median total income of an artist was estimated by Throsby and Zednik to be around $35,900 and the median creative income was $7,000. However, 17 percent of artists worked full time on their creative practice (more than 38 hours per week) and the median income increased to $22,500. Of those artists working full time, the average time spent on their creative practice was 51 hours per week.[1]

In comparison, employees in other occupations earned higher median incomes of $43,300 for all employees, $61,700 for professionals and $77,500 for managers.

Artists have not shared in the rising trend in real (inflation-adjusted) incomes that has been experienced across the workforce at large. Throsby and Zednik report that creative income for artists remained relatively stable from 2000-01 to 2007-08, whereas general workforce incomes showed an increase of around 16 percent on 2000-01 in real terms.

Few artists meet their minimum living costs with their creative income alone. Indeed, only 55 percent of artists reported that they earn enough from all their sources of income to meet their basic needs.

Across artforms, the creative income of artists who spent more time working on their creative practice is notably higher than artists who also spent time working outside their creative practice to generate income. Musicians, composers and dancers who were able to double the number of hours worked on their creative practice earned around five times the median creative income. However, working more hours does not always translate to more money as craft practitioners received similar median creative incomes regardless of hours worked. [1]

Around 4 percent of artists earned a total annual income of over $100,000. Around one in ten composers earned a total annual income over $100,000.

[1] Calculated using Artists Survey 2009 data from Throsby D and Zednik A, 2010, ‘Do you really expect to get paid? An economic study of professional artists in Australia’.

Note: > 38 hrs are unweighted creative incomes 2007-08 (q51a) by hours per week (2009) spent on creative practice (q11a). Excludes artists whose total income exceeds $250,000 (q54a)

Figure 18 - Median creative incomes (2007-08) and average time spent on creative work by art form

AllTime spent > 38 hrs
Median incomeAvg time (hrs)Median incomeAvg time (hrs)
All artists$7,00022$22,50051
CACD practitioners$14,60022$60,00047
Craft practitioners$10,00027$13,00051
Visual artists$4,50028$19,20053

Figure 19 - Proportion of artists with a total annual income of $100, 000 or above

$100, 000 - $149, 999$150, 00 or more
All artists12
CACD practitioners3-
Craft practitioners24
Visual artists45