Throsby and Zednik's economic study of professional artists in Australia found that just over one third of artists had at some time used their creative skills in industries outside the arts and most had done so on a paid basis.
Throsby and Zednik estimated that there were 44,100 practising professional artists in Australia in 2009. Overall artist numbers have remained relatively stable since 2001, after strong growth between 1987 and 2001.
The number of actors, dancers and writers has increased over time, while the number of craft practitioners has decreased over time.
NSW and Victoria have the highest estimated numbers of practicing professional artists. However, the proportion of artists in each state is in line with the population breakdown.
According to Cunningham and Higgs’ analysis of Census data, there were 23,600 people employed  in artist occupations (such as authors and painters) and 69,270 people employed in arts-related occupations (such as music teachers and jewellery designers) as their main job in 2011.
A further 31,000 people were employed in other occupations within the arts industries (such as stage managers and video editors).
In total, they estimated that there were almost 124,000 people employed overall in the arts as their main job, including both full time and part time workers.
An estimated 14,820 new arts jobs were created from 2006 to 2011. On average, arts employment has been growing by around 2.6 percent annually since 1996, which is faster than the growth in employment overall (1.9 percent). Much of this growth is in arts-related occupations, which saw 8,190 new jobs between 2006 and 2011 (representing 55 per cent of all new arts jobs).
 The term ‘employed’ is used inclusively and synonymously with ‘work’, as many in the arts are self employed or employers, rather than employees. It also includes all those employed whether on a full time or part time basis.
 The 1996 and 2001 census were categorized using ANZSIC93 for industry of employment and ASCO v.2 for occupation. The 2006 and 2011 census, were coded using the classification ANZSIC93 and ASCO v.2. Whilst most classification effects on time series employment are minor a more significant discrepancy arises because of the addition of two industry classifications that are relevant to the arts (Arts Education and Other Specialised Design)
Analysis of the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset, 2006-2011 highlights the difference in staff retention rates between arts professionals and other professional occupations.
Looking at those people employed in professional occupations in 2006 who were still working in the same occupation in 2011 shows staff retention rates of arts professionals is the lowest at 35%. In contrast, Health (71%) and Education (64%) professionals have the highest retention rates with around two thirds of people still working in those occupations from 2006 to 2011.
The low arts rate may be influenced by factors such as lower average incomes of professional artists compared to general workforce and the part-time and freelance nature of work.
Throsby and Zednik found that the majority of practicing professional artists were born in Australia (78 percent), a slightly higher proportion than in the general labour force (73 percent). Artists who were born outside of Australia were mainly from the UK and Ireland, continental Europe, New Zealand and Asia.
There are a lower proportion of people of non-English-speaking background among artists (eight percent) than among the wider workforce (16 percent).
Most artists with a non-English-speaking background felt that their background has a more positive than negative effect on their creative practice (60 percent). Only 15 percent thought that their non-English-speaking background had a more negative than positive effect.
However, artists from a non-English speaking background earn a lower median creative income than artists from an English speaking background. Throsby and Zednik suggest that this may be partially due to a greater proportion of non-English speaking background artists working as visual artists and craft practitioners – artforms that incur greater expenses related to their art practice.
Figure 10 – Employment and income of artists from a non-English-speaking background
|Artists from non-English-speaking background||Artists from English-speaking background|
|Proportion of artists||8%||92%|
|Median creative income||$5,300||$7,400|
|Median total income||$33,000||$35,000|
Throsby and Zednik estimate that 31 percent of practising professional artists are located in regional or remote areas of Australia. The distribution of artists reflects the Australian population, although artists are slightly more likely to be located in capital cities than the general labour force.
Actors, dancers and musicians are more likely to live in an urban area, while almost half of writers and visual artists live in regional areas. Throsby and Zednik suggest that this is related to the location of work opportunities, with a higher concentration of performing arts organisations in urban areas.
There was a shift in the location of writers and visual artists to the regions between 2003 and 2009. In 2003 a quarter of professional writers lived outside the capital cities, in 2009 it was about half.
Regional artists earned 30 percent less than those living in capital cities. This is partly because those artist professions that are relatively better paid such as actors and musicians are more likely to live in the cities. However, regional artists also showed stronger income growth than those in capital cities.
Living outside a capital city was generally viewed positively by artists located regionally. However there are differences across artform. Regional composers were more likely to view their location as more negative than positive. Regional writers, craft practitioners and community cultural development workers reported notably more positive effect of living regionally than other artists.
Figure 11 - Effects of living outside a capital city on creative practice
|All artists||Actors||CACD practitioners||Composers||Craft practitioners||Dancers||Musicians||Visual artists||Writers|
|% That live regionally||31||17||28||29||34||12||19||49||47|
|More negative effect||25||32||10||51||23||27||25||31||17|
|More positive effect||61||48||80||41||74||54||49||60||70|
Analysis of the 2011 Census by Cunningham and Higgs highlights the income gap between main job art workers (average annual income $44,000) and the workforce in general (average annual income $54,000).
While the income of main-job arts workers rose by 0.8 percent per year between 2006 and 2011, the general workforce income increased by 1.4 percent. This means the income of those employed in the arts as their main job has continued to fall further behind the rest of the workforce.
Part of the reason for this income gap may be that those working in the arts are more likely to work part time in their main job. However, the gap exists for full time workers also. For example, median full-time income of arts workers was $51,740 in 2011, compared to the workforce median full-time income of $57,820.
Within the population of arts workers there are also differences. Those in artist occupations earned a lower median full-time income ($40,660) than those working in arts related occupations ($53,560) or those in other occupations in the arts industries ($53,720).
 This data is a combination of full-time and part-time income. Full-time figures are shown in the chart below.
According to Throsby and Zednik, artists are optimistic about new technologies. Almost nine in ten artists believe that technology will open up more creative opportunities in the future (85%), with 60% of them thinking it was likely or very likely for new technologies to improve their income earning potential.
A number of professional artists were using the internet to create art in 2009, mainly to create collaborative or interactive art with other artists, or to create artistic work using social networking websites.
On average, practising professional artists spend over half of their time on their creative work (53 percent), but earn less than half of their total income from their creative practice (45 percent).
In contrast, they spend around 20 percent of their time on non-arts work, but generate around 32 percent of their income this way.
Throsby and Zednik found that insufficient income from their creative practice was a key factor preventing artists from spending more time on their desired arts occupation.
According to Cunningham and Higgs’ analysis of the 2011 Census, one third of the general workforce was employed part time (32 percent). In comparison, well over half of those working in artist occupations in their main job were working part time (59 percent) and 4 in 10 of those working in arts-related occupations were part time (41 percent).
Around half of people working in main-job artist occupations were working freelance/own account worker (47 percent). Those in arts-related occupations were more likely to be working as employees (66 percent). However, in comparison, 89 percent of the general workforce work as employees, highlighting the greater contingency in the work situation of arts workers.
These levels are consistent with findings from the 2006 census report.
Throsby and Zednik find a high incidence of freelancing in the professional artist population (72 percent). This is higher than the 47 percent of main job artists that were working freelance/own account worker in the 2011 census, highlighting one of the key differences between professional artists and those working in artist occupations in their main job.
Around nine in ten composers (93 percent), craft practitioners (92 percent), writers (88 percent) and visual artists (87 percent) work on this basis.
On the other hand, only around four in ten actors (43 percent) and community arts and cultural development (CACD) practitioners (42 percent) work as freelance or self-employed artists.
Around half of artists practicing in a freelance/self-employed capacity feel that they have good business skills to manage the business side of their creative work. A further third felt their skills were adequate, and 14 percent felt their skills were inadequate.
Australian artists are ‘multi-talented’ and engage in a number of creative occupations outside the area of their principal creative practice throughout their career.
The table below shows the variety of work artists have been involved in. For example, although only 17 percent of artists are writers in their principal creative practice, almost 3 in 10 artists have been involved in a writing occupation throughout their career. Similarly, while only 2 percent of artists are composers in their principal practice, 18 percent have done composing or arranging throughout their career.
Figure 28 - Artistic involvement in various arts occupations at any point during artist's career
|All artists (%)||Actors (%)||CACD practitioners (%)||Composers (%)||Craft practitioners (%)||Dancers (%)||Musicians (%)||Visual artists(%)||Writers (%)|
|Community & cultural development work||9||7||100||6||7||11||4||3||5|
|Composing or arranging||18||9||8||100||1||7||41||2||5|
|Musical instrument playing||26||5||8||38||1||3||80||2||4|
Throsby and Zednik found that just over one in three artists had ever used their artistic skills in some other industry outside the arts.
Of those artists that had used their skills outside the arts, over four in ten have applied their skills in government, social and personal services, while around third have applied them to the wider cultural and related industries and one in ten have applied their skills to the non-cultural industries.
The specific occupations that artists apply their artistic skills to vary based on their creative practice. Of those artists who have applied their creative skills in industries outside the arts:
- 41 percent of writers have worked as copywriters, editors, journalists
- 41 percent of visual artists and 39 percent of craft practitioners have worked as designers, drawers, illustrators
- 31 percent of dancers have worked as fitness instructors
- 30 percent of actors have worked as a corporate trainer/actor
Throsby and Zednik estimate that 14 percent of artists had no arrangements in place for the future, such as superannuation, investments etc. Among those that did have some sort of arrangement for the future, only 40 percent believed that the arrangements would adequately meet their needs.
CACD practitioners and Dancers were the least likely to have adequate arrangements in place, whilst musicians and writers had the highest proportions who thought their arrangement would be adequate.
Around 60,000 Australian songwriters and composers have registered a musical work with the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) during their lifetime and are eligible for royalty payments.
These songwriters and composers are found in all parts of Australia, following a similar geographic distribution to the Australian population. Two-thirds live in metropolitan areas – and most are registered in NSW or VIC.
Throsby and Zednik estimate there is a large group of performing musicians currently practicing at the professional level. Their 2009 survey of members of some music organisations estimates there were approximately 12,500 singers and instrumental musicians that met one of four criteria of a practicing professional artist, and approximately 900 composers.
The practicing musicians surveyed in Throsby and Zednik’s research were found to be older than other artists and the wider workforce, with an average age of 50 years in 2009.
Many of these musicians (almost 40 percent) identified themselves as ‘established but working less intensively than before’.
Collectively musicians and composers represented the largest group of practicing artists in the study. Throsby and Zednik’s research shows little growth in their number over time, compared with other artforms. The findings suggest fewer younger musicians are practicing professionally in this way.
 Throsby and Zednik derived their sample of ‘practising professional’ musicians from the membership of the Australian Music Centre, Australian National Choral Association, Musicians Union, Qmusic and the Song Company.
 Practising professional artists were defined as people who are permanently living in Australia, and who either: have had an artistic achievement in their artform in the last five years (for details of what constitutes an artistic achievement for each artform see the recruitment questionnaire on the website of the Australia Council for the Arts), or have been engaged in the last five years in creating a serious and substantial body of work in their artform, or have undertaken full-time training in their artform, or have received a grant to work in their artform.
Japanese artists are big in Japan, but US and British artists are big in Australia.
Our market favours international acts, with just 16 Australian artists making the Top 100 singles in ARIA’s End of Decade Singles (2000-2009).
According to Throsby and Zednik, around half of all visual artists (49 percent) and a third of all craft practitioners (34 percent) are located in a regional or remote area. In comparison, 47 percent of writers, 12 percent of dancers and 19 percent of musicians lived in a regional or remote area.
On average, living outside a capital city was viewed positively by regional and remote practitioners. Craft practitioners were amongst the most positive of any artists, with 74 percent agreeing the effects were more positive than negative.
Table 1- Proportion of visual arts and craft practitioners located regionally and effects on creative practice
|Visual arts practitioners (%)||Craft practitioners (%)||All artists (%)|
|Proportion located in a regional, rural or remote area||49||34||31|
|More positive effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice||60||74||61|
|No effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice||8||3||13|
|More negative effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice||31||23||25|
Significantly more women practice visual arts than men. This gender balance is reflected throughout different parts of the visual arts sector – from children’s participation, to hobbyists and the professional sector.
Throsby and Zednik estimated in 2009 that almost two thirds of professional visual artists and four-fifths of craft practitioners were women (63 percent and 79 percent), relative to 51 percent of all artists.
The Census figures for visual arts occupations show more women are employed in visual arts occupations than men (55 percent to 45 percent), with the exception of sculptors (68 percent men).
In visual arts related occupations (including design, art teaching and picture framing) the gender balance depends on the occupation. Women are more likely to be employed in occupations such as:
- Art teachers
- Fashion designers
- Interior designers.
Men are more likely to be employed in occupations such as:
- Picture framers
Within their principal artistic occupations, very few visual arts practitioners work as ‘employees’. Throsby and Zednik found that 87 percent of visual artists and 92 percent of craft practitioners operate as freelance or self employed individuals.
Throsby and Zednik point out that a substantial majority of artists therefore face insecure working environments for their artistic work, forgoing the sorts of benefits that employees customarily receive, such as sick leave, maternity leave, and employer’s superannuation contributions.
Some visual arts practitioners believe they lack adequate skills to manage their business affairs as a freelance artist, and almost a quarter have no arrangements in place for their future financial security (such as superannuation schemes).
Throsby and Zednik found that visual artists are more likely to say they are ‘beginning/starting out’ or ‘becoming established’ than other artists.
Craft practitioners are more similar to other types of artists, in that larger proportions say they are ‘established’ or ‘established, but working less intensively than before’.
Both visual artists and craft practitioners believe the most important factors inhibiting their professional development are:
- Lack of financial return from creative practice
- Lack of time to do creative work due to other pressures and responsibilities.
Visual artists were less likely to say that a ‘lack of work opportunities’ was the most important factor, compared to other artists.
Australia’s 12,800 visual artists are well educated, with 90 percent undertaking formal training to become a professional artist.
Creative training is also valued outside the core arts sector: 20% of visual artists apply their artistic skills in creative industries such as advertising, design and architecture, and 20% apply their artistic skills in non-cultural sectors such as health.
Visual arts practitioners place a greater emphasis on formal training than other professional artists, with 90 percent of visual artists and 87 percent of craft practitioners undergoing formal training to become a professional artist, compared to 77 percent of all artists. They are also the most likely of all practising artists to be still engaged in training, with a third indicating they are still in the process of establishing their careers.
More than two thirds of visual artists saw formal training as the most important type of training contributing to their professional career as opposed to private training (emphasised more by musicians) or learning on the job (emphasised more by writers).
 Formal training is defined as training that leads to an award given by an institution such as a university or TAFE.
The visual arts practitioners surveyed by Throsby and Zednik were, on average, older than other artists such as actors and dancers.
The average ages of visual arts and craft practitioners at the moment of their establishment was 36 and 34 respectively, which is older than all artists (31 years).
The average age of a practising professional visual artist was 50 years, while craft artists were slightly younger at 46 years of age.
All types of artists face challenges meeting their minimum income requirements, but visual artists earn amongst the lowest incomes of any artists, despite being one of the most highly educated groups in the workforce.
In 2009, the average visual artist spent 42 hours a week across arts and non-arts work, and earned $34,900 from all sources.
Visual arts practitioners spend longer hours on their principal artistic occupation each week compared to other artists (28 hours vs. 22 hours).
The gap between the time they actually spend on creative work and the time they would prefer to spend is smaller in comparison to other artists.
However, this investment of time is not reflected in the earning patterns of artists. Visual artists earned an estimated median annual income of $4,500 from their creative work in 2007-08. This is two-thirds of that earned by the other artists ($7,000) and less than half of the median creative income of craft practitioners ($10,000).
All artists earn less than similarly-educated professionals in other industries. Cunningham and Higgs found that that the mean full-time annual income of those in arts occupations was 16 percent lower than para-professionals and advanced clerical occupations.
Full time visual arts practitioners (including painters, sculptors, potters etc.) earn a median income that is between $14,600 and $24,600 less than that earned by the average workforce.
Visual arts practitioners often work in the wider cultural industries, and earn most of their income outside the core arts sector
Income earned by visual artists from their core creative work is well below the income required to meet their basic needs. Like other artists, many visual artists work in other occupations and/or rely on family or other kinds of financial support.
Throsby and Zednik found that compared with other artists, visual artists earn proportionally less in arts-related fields such as teaching arts, earning only $5,500 from this work. Instead they rely more on non-arts related work (eg graphic design, hospitality) to be able to support their artistic practice, earning a median non-arts income of $15,800 annually. Visual artists and craft practitioners are more likely than other artists to work in wider cultural and related industries, such as advertising, design and media industries.
In 2009, the ABS reported that almost 77,000 Australians aged 15 to 64 had a non-school qualification in ‘visual art and crafts’.
Of those qualified in visual arts and craft, 36 percent had a qualification in Fine Arts, with other common qualifications including Photography (21 percent) and Crafts/jewellery-making/floristry (20 percent).
Whilst adopting a wider definition of ‘visual art and craft’ than other sources, these figures confirm that significant numbers of Australians are qualified in visual arts. The ABS estimates that the number qualified in ‘visual art and craft’ is similar to ‘architecture and urban design’, and above the performing arts.
When compared with estimates of those practising professionally, these figures suggest that many visual arts graduates go on to careers in other industries.
 Non-school qualification refers to educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education.
The ABS estimated that there were 514 commercial art galleries operating in Australia during 1999-2000. This included 31 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) art centres and 483 other commercial art galleries.
These galleries provided over 16,000 on-going ‘representations’ for visual artists. The average number of artists represented by ATSI art centres was 93, compared to 29 artists for other commercial art galleries.
In 1999–2000, commercial art gallery businesses had total sales of artworks of $218 million. Two thirds of this ($145 million) related to commission income from the sale of works on behalf of others. One third related to sales of works owned by the gallery.
Represented artists shared in over $100m in commission income generated through the sale of their artwork by commercial galleries in that year. That is equivalent to over $6,000 per represented artist.
The ABS reports that in 2007-08 commercial art galleries charged a higher average commission for the sale of Indigenous visual artworks (40 per cent), compared to the work of non-Indigenous Australian visual artists (29 percent) and those from overseas (17 percent) in 1999-2000.
 Artists represented on an ongoing basis are defined as the number of artists who have an agreement with a commercial art gallery to represent them by regularly displaying or promoting the sale of their artworks. This figure includes double counting as a commercial art gallery could represent more than one visual artist. As such it is not a representation of the total visual artist population.
1.2 million kids do arts and crafts for fun, and almost 2 million adults make crafts like woodwork, jewellery and ceramics.
Creating visual arts and crafts is also the most popular form of creative activity by Australians, with one in five participating.
This makes craft more popular than Twitter, which has 1.2 million users in Australia.
Just over one in five Australians created visual arts and craft (22 percent) in 2009. These individuals were engaged creatively in visual art or craft work every five to six days.
Of these, two fifths creatively participated in craft or photographic work (as an artistic endeavour) every five or six days.
Digital and video art creators participated more frequently in the production of work (every four to five days).
In 2012, over 43% of children aged 5 to 14 did arts and craft as a recreational activity outside of school hours.
Similar numbers of kids visit museums and galleries each year (43%), making visual arts one of the most common way children engage with the arts.
Arts and craft’ were among the most common creative activities for Australians in 2010-11. Over 2 million people participated in some form of visual arts activity, and around 1,916,600 participated in some form of craft activity.
For example, almost 1.25 million Australians participated in sculpting, painting, drawing or cartooning (including digital pieces), while over 1.5 million were involved in textile crafts, jewellery making, paper crafts or wood crafts. In comparison, around 950,900 were involved in singing or playing an instrument, and 840,800 were involved in writing any fiction or non-fiction.
Although females are more likely to participate in both visual arts and craft activities, this difference is notably larger for craft activities – 74 percent of participants involved in craft activities are female, while 56 percent of participants involved in visual arts activities are female.
Most involvement in visual arts and craft is unpaid, with around 100,000 participants in sculpting, painting, drawing or cartooning (including digital pieces) earning some form of payment from their participation. Photography and filmmaking or editing fares slightly better with around 122,000 of those involved earning payment from their involvement.
In 2011-12, the Australia Council invested a total of $15.7 million in the visual arts and craft sector.
Of this, $4.9 million in funding was provided by the Visual Arts Board to support a range of activities including the creation of new work, the presentation and promotion of contemporary visual arts and craft, and professional development for practitioners.
The Arts Organisations Division administered $8.7 million funding for 39 visual arts organisations during 2011-12, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Association for the Visual Arts.
Almost $1 million was provided to young and emerging visual artists through the Art Start program.
A further $500,000 in funding for visual arts and craft was provided through the Arts Development Division to support the development of visual artists, curators and organisations. In particular, through the Arts Development Division, the Australia Council supported the representation of 42 Australian artists at international art fairs, including the Venice Biennale.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board provided $277,000 in grants funding, including for new work and for skills and arts development.
Key projects included the 18th Biennale of Sydney’s All our Relations showcase of more than 220 works by over 100 Australian and international artists, and Hatched – Perth Institute of Contemporary Art’s annual survey of the best of Australia’s art school graduates.
According to Throsby and Zednik, an estimated 57 percent of visual artists and 60 percent of craft practitioners applied for a grant, prize or other funding between 2004 and 2009. This is higher than most other art forms (e.g. 24 percent of musicians, and 49 percent of dancers applied for a grant, prize or other funding). An estimated 1 in 3 visual artists (35 percent) and 2 in 5 craft practitioners (41 percent) were successful in their applications over the course of 5 years.
Earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships are a particularly important source of income for visual artists, making up an estimated 10 percent of their creative income. Although craft practitioners are among the most successful grant applicants across the artforms, earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships only make up 4 percent of their creative income since their creative income is higher.