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.
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).
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.
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 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).
 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.
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.
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|
The number of Australians involved in the arts and culture (including those working in a paid or unpaid capacity) increased from 2.2 million in 2001 to 3.4 million in 2007. The ABS 2007 Survey of Working in Culture and Leisure Activities found that 22 percent of the adult population conducted some arts-related activity as a part of paid or unpaid work (excluding hobbies).
Visual arts and craft activities were amongst the most common and fastest growing forms of involvement, although these were largely unpaid.
The most common types of cultural activities which formed part of a person's main job were design (230,700 people), writing (184,300 people), creating artworks with a computer (98,400 people) and designing web sites (83,300 people).
 Arts involvement defined by the ABS includes involvement in visual art activities, craft activities, writing, publishing, performing arts, music, radio, television, cinema or video distribution, designing websites, designing computer games and other interactive software, design, teaching, festival organising, art and craft show organising, government arts departments and agencies. Breakdown of specific areas of interest is shown in the figure below.
According to estimates by Throsby and Zednik, the average practicing professional artist spent over half their time on creative work (53 percent), a further 28 percent on arts related work and 20 percent of their time on non-arts work in 2007-08.
Around 20 percent of artists spent over half their time working on their principal creative practice, and 12 percent of artists spent all of their time working on it. Of the 45 percent that also spent time on non-arts work, two thirds would prefer to spend more time on arts work.
The average artist works around 41 hours a week. They spend 22 hours a week working on creative work in their principal creative practice, 4 hours on creative work outside their principal creative practice, 7 hours working in another paid occupation related to the arts, and 8 hours on paid work not connected with the arts.
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.
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. 
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.
 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
|All||Time spent > 38 hrs|
|Median income||Avg time (hrs)||Median income||Avg time (hrs)|
Figure 19 - Proportion of artists with a total annual income of $100, 000 or above
|$100, 000 - $149, 999||$150, 00 or more|
Australia’s 44,000 practicing professional artists earned a total estimated creative income of around $833 million in the 2007-08 financial year.
Figure 20 - Total size of creative income ($)
|Number of artists||44,100|
|Average creative income||$18,900|
Both male and female artists work an estimated 41 hours a week, however there are significant differences in the hours dedicated to creative practice and their creative incomes. Male artists spend about 50 percent of the time on their principal creative practice, while female artists spend around 44 percent of their time on their creative practice.
Although female artists spend only 12 percent less time on their creative practice than male artists, their median creative income is half that of male artists.
Figure 21 - Median artist income by gender
|Females ($ median)||Males ($ median)||DIfference (%)|
|Total arts income||$14,500||$21,600||49|
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.
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.
Based on statistics for selected industries published by the ABS, the creative and performing arts industry is bigger than the heritage sector, in terms of total income and industry value-added.  However, it is smaller than the broadcasting, printing and publishing industries.
Around 37,000 people are employed in the creative and performing arts industry, which is comparable in size to the motion picture industry, and high relative to the income of the sector.
The creative and performing arts industry grew in size between 2007-08 and 2009-10 across all metrics.
 As defined by ANZIC 2006. This includes industries engaged in performing arts operation, Creative Artists, Musicians, Writers and Performers and performing arts venue operation.
Industry value added (IVA) represents the value added by an industry to the intermediate inputs used by the industry. IVA is the measure of the contribution by businesses in the selected industry to Australia’s gross domestic product.
 Note that this is based on a single industry and so differs from Cunningham and Higgs’ analysis of the 2011 census (which takes into account a number of creative occupations and industries using the trident approach. See the report for more details).
Figure 36 - Industry metrics for selected cultural industries
|Employment||Total income |
|Industry value-added |
|Printing (including the reproduction of recorded media)||50,000||9,252||4,034|
|Publishing (except Internet and music publishing)||49,000||13,181||7,091|
|Motion picture and sound recording activities||36,000||6,752||2,157|
|Broadcasting (except Internet)||18,000||9,337||4,052|
|Creative and performing arts activities||37,000||3,501||1,441|
|Internet publishing and broadcasting||5,000||947||392|
|Library and other information services||1,000||209||107|
Relative to the number of people studying and practising music, employment levels in paid musician occupations are low.
Recent ABS figures show around 500,000 adult Australians were involved in writing song lyrics, or mixing or composing music, including digital composition in 2010-11. Around 950,000 were involved in singing or playing a musical instrument.
A proportion of these also had a tertiary qualification relating to their participation. Of those engaged in singing or playing a musical instrument, 176,100 said they had had a relevant qualification, and 37,700 have a qualification relevant to writing music.
Very few of these participants earned any wage or salary for their engagement. Further, most of those who did earned less than 25 percent of their total income in this way.
In the 2006 census around 7,800 people reported primary musician occupations such as instrumental musicians, singers, composers or music directors. This increased slightly to around 7,900 in the 2011 census.
Relative to the 12,500 thought to be currently practicing professionally, or the 60,000 of those registered with APRA | AMCOS, it is clear that considerable numbers of musicians are not working in musician occupations as their main job.
Looking at specific types of music practice suggests that composers/arrangers are the least likely to be practicing as their main job, whereas instrumental players are most likely to.
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.
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.
Practising professional musicians note some of the factors inhibiting their professional development are a lack of work opportunities, lack of financial return from creative practice, and a lack of time to do creative work due to other pressures and responsibilities.
With too few professional music opportunities, professional musicians and other artists undertake arts-related work (mainly teaching music) and non-arts related work to support their creative practice.
Their non-creative work generally generates higher financial returns than creative work (musicians generate 44 percent of their income from creative practice, despite devoting 52 percent of their working hours).
The 2006 Census found high and increasing levels of employment in music teaching relative to other music occupations, which remained stable in the 2011 Census.
In terms of the size of the labour market, this means teaching music is one of the best opportunities for finding work in music.
Unlike the musician population, two thirds of all music teachers are women, suggesting women are working as teachers as opposed to practising artists.
Whilst they face challenging financial conditions, Musicians are able to leverage their skills in other occupations and industries. Throsby and Zednik estimate that musicians and composers fare better than other artists, having higher annual incomes that have fared better over time (most artist incomes have not kept pace with inflation). Composers are one of the only groups to have increased their incomes over time in real terms.
Two-thirds of practising professional musicians and composers are able to cover their costs of living with their total arts and non-arts income (65 percent and 63 percent respectively) – compared with smaller proportions of other types of artists.
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.
Between 1997 and 2007, the number of people who do some kind of work (paid or unpaid) in the music industry has increased from 260,300 to 335,100 in 2007 (up 29 percent).
Work in the rest of the culture and leisure sector experienced even stronger growth during that timeframe.
Most of those involved in music industry work are live performers. In 2007 over 250,000 people performed music live, and a further 80,000 worked in another music-related role. The radio sector involved over 100,000.
The growing numbers of unpaid performers suggests that engagement in music is strong – despite no growth in the number of professional musicians.
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.
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.
Indigenous ‘arts and craft’ are important forms of creative expression for Indigenous Australians, with 17 percent of those aged 15 and over (almost 56,600) estimated to participate in 2008. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) also found that 5.7 percent of Indigenous Australians (15,950 people) received payment for making Indigenous ‘arts or craft’.
However, only 524 Indigenous Australians were employed in visual arts and craft activities as their main job according to the 2011 Census. These artists were more likely to be employed as painters.
This figure is lower than that found in the 2006 Census, when 676 Indigenous people were employed in visual arts and craft occupations as their main job.
In 2001, 26 percent of Indigenous communities had access to an arts or cultural centre, relative to 65 percent who had access to a sporting facility.