Creative Workforce - Creation - Overview
Tag : careers

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.

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After strong growth in the 80s and 90s, Australia’s artist population has stabilised to around 44,000 practising professional artists

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.

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Arts graduates face challenging conditions entering the workforce, with the lowest employment prospects of any field of education

Few professional artists are fully employed or practising full-time (discussed in depth in the following section, ‘Artist incomes’), and arts graduates face correspondingly challenging conditions entering the workforce.

According to Graduate Careers Australia, just 48 percent of ‘Visual/Performing arts’ graduates are working full time four months after graduating - a lower proportion than all other fields of education reported in 2013.

The proportion has declined since 2007, when 67 percent of graduates were working full time. As shown in the graph below, the decline has been more marked than that seen for graduates in other fields.

Graduate Careers Australia also ranks ‘Art and Design’ as the 22nd field of education out of 23 in terms of starting salaries, just behind Pharmacy (pre-reg).

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Employment in arts-related occupations has almost doubled since 1996

According to Cunningham and Higgs’ analysis of Census data, there were 23,600 people employed [1] 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).


[1] 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.

[2] 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)

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Less than half of all arts professionals continued long-term in their chosen occupation

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.

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Australian artists are highly educated and complement formal training with other types of training and professional development

Australian professional artists are highly educated and have done various types of training to become a professional artist.

Two thirds of artists have completed a university degree, compared to only one quarter of the workforce in general.

However, artists do a variety of training to become an artist. While formal training[1] plays a key role, around half of artists have done private training (48 percent), learning on the job (53 percent) or been self-taught (52 percent).


[1] Formal training refers to training that leads to an award given by an institution such as a university, CAE, Institute of Technology, Teacher’s College, TAFE, Art/Craft/Design school, drama school, dance school, music school/conservatorium etc.

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The average artist spends four years on basic training – and continues training throughout their career

On average it takes artists around four years of training to gain a basic qualification in their principal artistic occupation. Although most practicing professional artists attain their basic qualification in 3 – 5 years, the time taken ranges (for example, 15 percent of artists take over 10 years).

Training continues throughout their career for many artists and most artists acknowledge that they improve their skills throughout their career through experience and learning on the job. Many of the professional artists surveyed by Throsby and Zednik were still engaged in some form of training. Over one third were still engaged in formal/private or other training (37 percent), 29 percent were engaged in teaching themselves and 35 percent were still learning on the job.

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Artist Incomes - Creation - Overview

Artists face insecure financial conditions, and some feel they lack the skills to manage their business affairs

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.

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Artists are versatile and engage in artistic practice outside their principal creative practice

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 (%)
Acting25973862117612
Directing1334339520838
Community & cultural development work971006711435
Composing or arranging1898100174125
Craft1531421002223
Dancing688119342
Choreographing4411672
Musical instrument playing265838138024
Singing1613322114424
Visual Arts3315361145101010014
Writing29281717511119100

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Many artists also apply their creative skills outside the arts

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

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Many artists have insufficient arrangements in place for their financial future

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.

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Funding Sustainability - Support - Overview

Grants provide a variety of benefits for early career artists

Australia Council longitudinal research explored the impact of grants for early career artists.

The research design compares those who have received Australia Council grants and those who have not. This allows us to better understand the impact of Australia Council grants, controlling for factors shared between these two groups such as the personal characteristics associated with making an application in the first instance, and any changes over time in the surrounding economic and social circumstances. However, it should be noted that any differences observed over time are likely to be due to both the impact of the grant and the influence of any pre-existing differences between successful and unsuccessful applicants. So that we can be more confident in our assessment of the role of the grants themselves, we ask artists directly about the impact of their grant, as well as observing changes in their career over time.

Overall, direct benefits reported by artists were feeling encouraged to continue as an artist and feeling more confident as an artist. Other notable impacts of Australia Council grants include giving credibility to the work or practice of artists, helping to develop artists’ own practice, and helping artists to develop networks and contacts with other artists.

Three years after receiving the grant artists who received Australia Council grants had made more career progress than artists who did not receive a grant. On average, they spend a greater proportion of time on their creative practice (47 percent compared to 43 percent for non-grant recipients) and report higher total income (average around $38,000 compared to $34,000 for non-recipients) and creative income (average around $14,200 compared to $11,700 for non-recipients).

They were more likely to have a career plan or strategy in place (81 percent had a plan in place compared to 73 percent of non-recipients), to have conducted a range of networking activities, and to do the type of artistic activities that characterise an establishing rather than an emerging artist (80 percent were categorized as an establishing artists compared to 75 percent of non-recipients).

Figure 75 - Comparison of recipients of early career artist grants vs. non-recipients on a variety of measures in year 3

Australia Council grant recipientsNon-recipients of Australia Council grants
Proportion of time spent on creative practice (%)4743
Proportion of income earned from creative work (%)3734
Confidence in future (mean rating out of 10)6.96.4
Artistic fulfilment (mean rating out of 10)6.76.0
Have a plan / strategy in place (%)8173
Been involved in interstate work (%)6144
Been involved in international work (%)4842
Engaged in establishing artist activity in last 12 months (%)8075

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Career prospects and earning potential - Creation - Music

In general aspiring musicians face small creative incomes and challenging career prospects

Whilst some musicians achieve financial success, incomes from creative practice are usually small, and few of those with music qualifications end up in musician occupations. Instead, many musicians adopt ‘portfolio’ careers, and leverage their skills in arts related industries such as music teaching.

Throsby & Zednik estimate the median creative income from creative work – that is, the mid-point of the range of creative incomes – is $7,000 for practising professional musicians and $8,000 for composers.

Musicians and composers said the most important factor advancing their professional development throughout their career was passion/self-motivation, followed by hard work/persistence and talent.

More musicians and composers indicated that talent was the most important factor, compared with other artist groups.

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Tag : careers

While women represent 45 percent of those with a music qualification and 50 percent of those that study music, they make up just 20 percent of those registered to receive royalties.

There are significantly more male songwriters and musicians in Australia.

Unlike the musician population, two thirds of all music teachers are women, highlighting different career paths for men and women in the music industry.

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Returns from performance and broadcast - Industry - Music
Tag : careers

There’s no denying the music business is big business, contributing to the Australian economy and employing tens of thousands of Australians.

But most artists earn small amounts from their creative work. Less than 200 musicians and composers earned over $100,000 from their creative practice in 2007/08 – and the median creative income for performing musicians was $7,200.

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Income and career development - Creation - Visual Arts

Large proportions of visual artists are emerging or mid-career artists

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.

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Visual arts practitioners are older than other artists when they establish themselves as artists

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.

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Visual arts graduates face challenging conditions entering the workforce

According to Graduate Careers Australia, just 53.9 percent of ‘Visual/Performing arts’ graduates are working full time four months after graduating – a lower proportion than all other fields of education reported.  The proportion has declined since 2007, when 66.9 percent of graduates were working full time. As shown in the graph below, the decline has been more marked than that seen for graduates in other fields.

Graduate Careers Australia also ranks ‘Art and Design’ as the 22nd field of education out of 23 in terms of starting salaries, just behind Pharmacy (pre-reg).

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