Creative Workforce - Creation - Overview

The artist population is less culturally diverse than the wider workforce

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 backgroundArtists from English-speaking background
Proportion of artists8%92%
Median creative income$5,300$7,400
Median total income$33,000$35,000


Most artists practice in metropolitan areas, and regional artists earn less than those living in capital cities

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 artistsActorsCACD practitionersComposersCraft practitionersDancersMusiciansVisual artistsWriters
% That live regionally311728293412194947
More negative effect253210512327253117
No effect131910731826813
More positive effect614880417454496070


There are notable differences in the gender balance of artists practising in each artform

Throsby and Zednik estimate that just over half of artists in Australia are female (51 percent) and 49 percent are male. In comparison, there are more males in the total labour force than females (55 percent males versus 45 percent females).

The gender split across art forms varies substantially, with a higher proportion of females among dancers (76 percent), community cultural development workers (72 percent), and craft practitioners (79 percent). Composers and musicians are more likely to be male (73 and 68 percent).


Artist Incomes - Creation - Overview

Female artists earn lower creative incomes

Both male and female artists work an estimated 41 hours a week, however there are significant differences in the hours dedicated to creative practice and their creative incomes. Male artists spend about 50 percent of the time on their principal creative practice, while female artists spend around 44 percent of their time on their creative practice.

Although female artists spend only 12 percent less time on their creative practice than male artists, their median creative income is half that of male artists.

Figure 21 - Median artist income by gender

Females ($ median)Males ($ median)DIfference (%)
Creative income$5,000$10,300106
Total arts income$14,500$21,60049
Total income$26,900$40,60051


Attendance and Engagement - Participation - Overview

Young people are more creatively engaged in the arts than other Australians

Young people (aged 15-24 years old) had higher levels of creative participation with the arts than other Australians. Almost two thirds (65 percent) creatively participated in the arts in the previous 12 months, compared to 44 percent for the rest of the population. This trend of higher participation was present across all artforms.

The Australia Council arts participation survey findings suggest that education played a role, with young students more active in creative participation than young employed persons.


Some groups have lower arts participation

Research shows that people with disabilities, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people from lower socio-economic groups and older Australians (65+) continue to have lower participation rates than other Australians.

The figure below illustrates the size of these groups and their participation levels relative to the Australian population. It shows that:

  • Those with a long term illness or disability are the furthest away from the average Australian in terms of arts participation
  • Low creative participation is a particular issue for older Australians (aged 65+)
  • ·Low attendance is a particular issue for those with long term illness or disability, or whose main language is not English
  • Males have only slightly lower engagement, but account for the largest underrepresented group (i.e. half the population).

In practice some of these factors overlap, and so we find more than half of those over 65 years have a household income of less than $40k, and a quarter of this group have a serious illness or disability.

Figure 55 - Participation rates among key demographic segments

GroupCreative Participation %Attendance %Receptive Participation
(including reading) %
All Australians487194
Household Income under $40k445890
Main language not English405989
Primary School highest qualification436083
Long term illness or disability495988
Over 65 years396290


Australians in regional areas participate just as much, but in different types of arts events to those in metropolitan areas

Creative participation in the arts has increased significantly amongst regional Australians, from 39 percent in 2009 to 49 percent in 2013. This is now at a similar level to Australians living in metropolitan areas (47 percent). In particular, creative participation has risen for Visual Art and Craft (32 percent, from 21 percent in 2009) and Music (20 percent, from 14 percent in 2009).

Although receptive participation in regional areas remains largely unchanged at 93 percent, from 92 percent in 2009, there has been a significant decrease in receptive participation of Visual Arts & Craft (33 percent, from 38 percent in 2009) and Theatre & Dance (32 percent, from 39 percent in 2009).

Regional Australians are more likely to attend Indigenous arts and craft, dance and music events. This is reflected in regional attitudes towards Indigenous arts with a quarter of people having a strong interest compared to 20 percent in metropolitan areas.


People from a non-English speaking background are less likely to participate in the arts

People with a non-English speaking background are less engaged with the arts than the broader population. The participation rates for people whose main language spoken at home is not English are lower than the wider Australian community:

  • 5 percent lower in terms of receptive particpation
  • 8 percent lower in terms of creative participation.

·’Playing the arts game’ shows language to be the key factor in terms of multicultural engagement (as opposed to being born overseas or having parents born overseas). Those born here but with at least one parent born overseas showed similar levels of participation to other Australians.

The ABS found that those children born overseas in an English speaking country were most likely to have attended at least one cultural venue or event (82 percent), compared to children born in Australia (71 percent) and children born in countries where English is not the main language (67 percent).

Children born overseas (63 percent) were somewhat more likely to visit a public library than children born in Australia (51 percent). Children born in Australia (39 percent) or overseas in an English speaking country (45 percent) were more likely to attend a performing arts event than children born in countries where English is not the main language (23 percent).


Over one third of children creatively participated in an arts activity in 2012

More than one third of children aged 5 to 14 years (980,700) participated in at least one organised cultural activity (playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, drama or organised art and craft) outside of school hours.

The proportion of children dancing in 2012 (15 percent) has increased since 2006 (13 percent), while fewer children are now playing a musical instrument (18 percent in 2012 compared with 20 percent in 2006).

Nearly half of all female children (47 percent) participated in at least one organised cultural activity, compared with 24 percent of male children. Dancing was the most popular activity for females (367,400 participants), followed by playing a musical instrument (261,400 participants). Playing a musical instrument was the most popular activity for males (228,800 participated).

The proportion of children reading for pleasure has decreased from 75 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2012. Female children are more likely to read for pleasure (77 percent) than male children (65 percent). Female children were also more creatively involved in recreational art and craft (54 percent participation) than male children (33 percent participation).

Figure 54 - Children’s participation in leisure activities outside of school

Participation rate2006 %2009 %2012 %
Organised cultural participation
Playing a musical instrument202018
Organised art and craft7
Participation in recreational activities
Recreational art and craft43
Reading for pleasure757271
Skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter4954
Bike riding686064
Watching TV, DVDs or videos979796
Other screen-based activities8385
Homework or other study838281


Career prospects and earning potential - Creation - Music

Growing numbers are studying music – and some musicians establish themselves at a young age

The ABS reports that 37,100 people aged between 15 and 64 had a music qualification[1] in 2009 - up from 31,100 in 2007. This exceeds the number of people with a qualification in drama/theatre (16,500), fine arts (28,000), photography (16,100), and craft (15,700).

The majority of the 5,175 full-time equivalent students studying music at the end of 2010 were enrolled in performance or creation (with smaller numbers studying musicology, music technology or music teaching).

Over 18,000 young people under 30 years of age currently have registered works with APRA, and Throsby and Zednik’s research shows that young people can establish themselves as professionals at a young age. They estimate professional performing musicians (excluding composers) are on average 26 years old when they become established – the youngest of all artists.

[1]   Non-school qualification – referring to educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education


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.


Surprisingly few women are engaged in music creation and performance

There are significantly more male songwriters, composers and musicians in Australia, compared with the gender distribution seen in other art forms.

Women represent just 20 percent of songwriters and composers registered with APRA, and Throsby and Zednik estimate women represent just 32 percent of musicians and 27 percent of composers currently practising professionally.

Comparable proportions can be seen in agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, and wholesale trade.

Whilst women represent 45 percent of those with a music qualification and 50 percent of those studying music, based on these statistics as few as 20 percent are likely to register a work they have written.


Tag : demographics

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.


Number of songwriters, composers and musicians - Creation - Music

There is a large cohort of professional musicians currently practicing

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[1] estimates there were approximately 12,500 singers and instrumental musicians that met one of four criteria[2] 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.

[1]   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.

[2]   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.


Performing industry - Industry - Music

Performances by Indigenous artists are held in a minority of licensed live music venues

Analysis of APRA licensing returns suggests that performances by Indigenous artists were held in almost 30 percent of hotels and clubs during 2004-05.

The proportion of venues with Indigenous performances also varies from state to state. Over the three years to 2006, APRA returns show that 37 percent of venues in NSW held performances by Indigenous artists, compared with less than 1 percent of venues in Tasmania.






Attendance - Participation - Music

Popular music audiences are younger than other arts goers

Attendees of music events are significantly younger than attendees of other arts events (68 percent being aged 15 to 24 years).

Popular music audiences are significantly younger than other music audiences. Popular music audiences were generally in the 15-24 age group (84 percent), while many classical music audiences were aged 65 years and over (42 percent).




Profile of professional artists - Creation - Visual Arts

Visual artists often practice outside urban areas – and most believe it has a positive effect on their practice

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 area493431
More positive effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice607461
No effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice 8313
More negative effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice312325


Women are more likely to create visual arts than men

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:

  • Photographers
  • Picture framers
  • Illustrators.


Income and career development - Creation - Visual Arts

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.


Attendance - Participation - Visual Arts

Visual arts are particularly popular among older age groups

In general, attendees of visual arts events are significantly older than attendees of other arts events (47 percent being aged 55 to 64 years).

  • Painting, drawing and street art are the most popular type of visual arts, attended by  50-60 percent of all age groups
  • Sculpture and photography is enjoyed by around a quarter of all age groups
  • Attendance at craft events increases from one in five 15-24 year olds to one in three of those over 65


Attendance at art galleries is on the rise and there is an opportunity to build attendance further

In 2009-10 over 4.5 million Australians aged 15 years and over visited an art gallery (26 percent of the Australian population).

This represented a significant increase (14 percent) in the participation rate in 2005-06.  A greater proportion of Australians are visiting galleries once or twice per year (66 percent) with one in 10 visiting galleries six times or more.

The proportion of Australians who visited a gallery once a year has risen from 8.3 percent in 2005-06 to 10.4 percent in 2009-10.

There is an opportunity to continue building engagement with these visitors and grow attendance.