Artist Careers Research
A strategic priority for the Council is to support, sustain and creatively develop artist careers, from emerging careers to established ones.
Over the past 30 years recognition of the cultural, social and economic contribution of artists to Australian society has grown. Sadly, this has not translated into higher incomes for Australia’s artists, relative to other occupations. This research found that artists’ incomes as a whole are not keeping pace with the rest of the workforce.
There is a high level of uncertainty associated with the work of artists. So most artists do a range of paid work in both arts and non arts related jobs in order to make a living. This research found that less than half of artists income comes from their creative work, with the rest earned through arts related or non arts work. As in many countries, the majority of Australian professional artists do not get huge financial rewards for pursuing their art practice. Rarely do people become professional artists for the money. They are driven by their passion and commitment to art.
Two pieces of research commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts offer a comprehensive picture of the working lives of Australian artists.
- Do you really expect to get paid? An economic study of professional artists in Australia (‘the artist survey’). This study is the fifth in a series commissioned by the Australia Council and conducted independently by Professor David Throsby from Macquarie University. Anita Zednik was the co-author of this study.
- What’s your other job? A census analysis of arts employment in Australia (‘the census study’) analyses data from the past three Australian Population Censuses. This study was undertaken by Peter Higgs of the Centre for Creative Industries and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) under the leadership of Professor Stuart Cunningham.
An economic study of professional artists in Australia('the artist survey')
The careers of practising professional artists across all major art forms (except film) are profiled in this report. It is based on interviews with professional artists and includes data on their numbers, incomes, achievements and challenges.
A census analysis of arts employment in Australia
('the census study')
This study analyses data from the past three Censuses. It includes a new measure of the size of total employment in the arts by including all relevant occupations and industries. It also gives a picture of artists working in non-arts industries. This analysis is based upon peoples ‘main job’ reported in lead up to the Census.
Participate in the discussion: view and add comments below
Meet the artists
Sydney, New South Wales
Harpist, music teacher, mother.
'My advice is: always have a plan B. That’s what I say to my students. Always know that there is something you can fall back on. I think its great to try whatever it is that you aspire to... but always have a plan B.’
Sydney, New South Wales
Artist/painter/tattooist. Small business owner and part-time teacher at the National Art School.
‘I teach half a day a week, enough to keep my hand in… I love teaching but I don’t want to become too (institutionalised).’
Inner West, Sydney, New South Wales
Author, Federal Government public servant.
‘Even if you have a publishing deal that pays you in instalments like mine did, well, unless you’re independently wealthy, you basically have to have a paying job elsewhere.’
Performance project director, warehouse manager.
'I enjoy the balance between working in the warehouse and making art. The warehouse and driving the delivery van give me the headspace to come up with ideas for projects and problem solve projects I’m working on at the time. If I only made art I think I would burn out very quickly.’
Research summaryAccess here a 14-page summary of the artist careers research that includes key findings and facts. Read about:
- How did we get the numbers?
- How many artists are there?
- Who are Australia’s artists? (age, gender, cultural background, disability)
- How much do Australian artists earn?
- How do artists earn their income?
- What kind of skills do Australia’s professional artists have?
- What are the issues facing artists?
- Commentary and international comparisons
Professor David Throsby
Professor of Economics,
David Throsby has been Professor of Economics at Macquarie University in Sydney since 1974. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, the OECD, FAO and UNESCO, as well as many government organisations and private firms. In 1990-1992 he chaired three of the Prime Minister's Working Groups on Ecologically Sustainable Development. In 2008 Professor Throsby was selected to take part in the Prime Minister's Australia 2020 Summit as a participant on the Towards a Creative Australia panel.
Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham
Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Board Member of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
Stuart Cunningham is Distinguished Professor, Queensland University of Technology, and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. This centre draws on contributions across the humanities, creative arts and social sciences to help build a more dynamic and inclusive innovation system in Australia. He is one of Australia's best-known media scholars with a special interest in policy.
The Australia Council acknowledges the invaluable work of both Professor David Throsby and Professor Stuart Cunningham and their respective teams in delivering this comprehensive update on our working artists.
Contact usFor more information please get in touch with:
Director Research & Strategic Analysis
Stu St Hill 8:42pm on 17 Aug 2010
Wayne Katz 1:01am on 07 Sep 2010
Linda Marr 4:13pm on 07 Sep 2010
Svetlana Zhukova (Australia Council) 9:36am on 09 Sep 2010
mark Richards 11:47am on 24 Sep 2010
SEO 12:02am on 11 Oct 2010
Helen Omand 4:12pm on 11 Oct 2010
Matthew Dewey 7:43pm on 01 Nov 2010
Danielle Clode 11:36am on 18 Nov 2010
Ness 9:01am on 08 Dec 2010