Artist Incomes - Creation - Overview

Artists spend 22 hours a week on their principal creative practice – and many would prefer to spend more

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Artists earned almost $1 billion in creative income in 2007-08

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 artists44,100
Average creative income$18,900
Total income$833,490,000


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


The income gap between arts occupations and the average Australian worker continues to widen in 2011

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).[1]

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).

[1] This data is a combination of full-time and part-time income. Full-time figures are shown in the chart below.


Artists believe technology will improve their earning potential

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.


Artists use the internet to create art

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.


Artists do other jobs to earn a living

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.


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.


Relative to those involved in music, there are few paid employment opportunities

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.


Music teaching is the biggest employment market 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.


Musicians leverage their skills in other industries to complement their creative incomes

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.


Number of songwriters, composers and musicians - Creation - Music

60,000 Australian songwriters and composers have registered a musical work

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.


Over 1,000,000 musical works have been registered in Australia’s song writing history

Both the number of members and the number of new works registered with APRA | AMCOS are growing each year. The number of Australian songwriters and composers registered as members has been growing at an average rate of 10 percent per year since 2005.

Over 80,000 new works were registered by Australian songwriters and composers during 2011 – up 20,000 on 2005 levels – an average growth rate of 4 percent per year. A further 14,000 were registered by publishers on behalf of Australian songwriters.

There are currently over 1,047,000 works registered by Australian songwriters in the APRA | AMCOS database.


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

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.


Competitiveness of Australian musicians - Global - Music
Tag : income

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).


Public funding - Support - Music

Public funding plays an important role in the creation of new musical works

In their survey of a sample of practising professional composers and performing musicians, Throsby & Zednik found that composers were more likely than performing musicians to apply for a grant and be successful.

Grants are often linked with the creation of new works, and Throsby and Zednik found that grant income is more significant for composers than for performing musicians. Composers’ grant and prize earnings represented 10 percent of all composing income. In contrast, for the performing musicians in the study, grants, prizes and fellowships represent just one percent of their creative income.

In terms of Australia Council funding specifically, Throsby and Zednik report that 11 percent of professional performing musicians and 22 percent of composers applied for Australia Council funding at some point during the five years up to 2009 – a smaller proportion than most other art forms. Despite this, the large population of musicians means the Music Board receives amongst the highest number of applications of any art form board.


Income and career development - Creation - Visual Arts

Visual artists earn amongst the lowest creative incomes, despite devoting more time to their practice than other artists

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

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.


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).


Arts and craft are the primary creative activity for Indigenous Australians, but main-job employment has declined

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.


Public galleries - Industry - Visual Arts

Commercial art galleries manage over 16,000 relationships with visual artists

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.[1] 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.

[1]   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.


Secondary market - Industry - Visual Arts

Growing numbers of visual artists are receiving royalties from copyright distribution

Almost all visual artists believe they have copyright ownership over any work they produce (92 percent). However, in 2009, Throsby and Zednik estimated that less than a third (28 percent) were members of a copyright collecting agency.


Viscopy currently represents over 9,000 Australian and New Zealand artists. New membership has been increasing over time, with a six percent increase in 2011-12. In 2011, Indigenous membership accounted for half of all Viscopy members.


In 2011-12, Viscopy distributed $1.7 million to members. Royalties were distributed to over 930 Australian and 440 international members in 2011-12 (compared to 800 Australian and 280 international members in 2010-11), with the average payment being $1,100.





Over $1 million in royalties have been distributed to almost 500 artists since introduction of the Resale Royalty Scheme in 2010

Since introduction of the Resale Royalty Scheme in 2010, more than $1 million in royalties has been distributed to more than 500 artists from the resale of over 5,000 visual arts works.

Viscopy reports that around 90 percent of distributions are to artists who are still alive. Over 60 percent of these artists were Indigenous.

With a few exceptions, the royalty payments generated by the scheme are relatively small: about 95 per cent of royalties paid to artists or their beneficiaries have been between $50 (the minimum amount) and $500. At the other end of the scale, the highest royalty generated to date by the scheme has been $50,000.




Sales of Indigenous visual arts and craft has decreased since the Global Financial Crisis, after several decades of growth

The visual arts sector provides a significant source of income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, particularly for those living in remote areas where employment opportunities are limited.

Figures compiled by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) suggest that the sector experienced strong growth over 1979–2007. However, since 2007, there has been a decline in the average revenue generated by Indigenous visual arts organisations, including remote arts centres.

Based on a review of financial reports lodged by the 101 corporations registered as making and selling Indigenous art, ORIC reports that between 2007-08 and 2010-11 the average revenue[1] generated by Indigenous visual arts organisations fell by 52 percent from almost $390,000 to $186,000 per organisation.

Whilst there is no conclusive information about the number of art centres, ORIC reports that this period saw a gradual decrease in the proportion of Indigenous organisations generating more than $500,000 in art sales revenue and an increase over time in the number earning no revenue at all.

Auction sales figures confirm that the total revenue generated through the public auction of Indigenous art fell 69 percent from $26.5 million in 2007 to just over $8 million in 2012 – a more marked decline than that experienced by other Australian art.

Declining sales in this area may be linked with the strong performance of the Australian dollar since 2009-10, which has affected the buying power of overseas visitors.

[1] Revenue from art sales refers to the amount directly generated from the sale of artworks, before expenses are taken into consideration.


Creative participation - Participation - Visual Arts

Visual arts and craft is the one of the most popular cultural activities in Australia, but paid employment opportunities are low

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.


Private sector support - Support - Visual Arts

Visual arts organisations generated $53 million in private sector support in 2009-10 – more than any other art form

In terms of philanthropy and sponsorship earnings, art galleries outperform other parts of the arts sector generating almost a quarter of total earnings.

In an AbaF survey of 318 arts organisations, it was estimated that $221 million in private sector support was generated by the arts in 2010-11. The visual arts generated $53 million of this amount.

Art galleries earn most of their support through philanthropic giving ($40 million), with sponsorship making up a smaller but still notable share ($11 million).

In contrast, visual arts, craft and design organisations participating in the survey were estimated to earn just $2 million in private sector support, and most of this was generated through sponsorship (increasing from $0.9 million in 2008-09 to $1.5 million in 2009-10).


Role of grant funding - Support - Visual Arts

Grants are an important source of creative income for visual arts practitioners

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.