The arts makes money just not for artists

The Revolution Part 1 – The facts about working in the arts in Oz

Lately in Australia there has been a lot of shit going down in the arts industry and it’s been getting me very hot under the collar. Our minister for education and training, Simon Birmingham, came out recently and made the call to cut subsidies to formal arts training based on an idea that such studies don’t lead to work and are merely a “lifestyle choice”. You can read my letter of objection here for some more insights. The actual facts are that the arts makes money and leads to work but somewhere along the line artists are often not being paid. So it’s time here on the blog to set the record straight on what is actually going on when it comes to working in the arts so we can be armed with the facts as we revolt against the attack on our industry. 

The Good Facts for the Arts Industry

One part of my extreme outrage at Birmo’s misinformed decision making, is that artists do work and a lot of those artists who work developed their skills through formal education and training. His funding cuts are based on an entirely innacurate assertion. The arts industry in Australia is thriving. Here’s some quick stats on it.
☞ In the 2013/14 financial year, 15.9 million Australians aged over the age of 15 attended a cultural venue or event, that’s 86 per cent of all Australians in that age bracket.
☞ Australian households spend $6.5 billion a year on arts­related goods and services, that’s more than they spend on dairy products or household appliances.
☞ 1 in 3 professional artists bring their creative skills to other industries on a paid basis contributing to the growth of a range of other Australian industries.
☞ The arts is responsible for more than 3% of the GDP.
☞ Cultural tourism attracts 3 million international tourists and 23 million domestic cultural and heritage tourists per year.

Plus if you live in other areas of the world, you can check out this awesome UNESCO study that also shows that this is a trend that’s happening in a lot of developing countries and developed countries. The arts has a financial value but the artist seems to somehow be the one missing out on making the money from their work.

The Not So Good Facts for the Arts Industry

The stats on what artists earn in Australia are, on the other hand, not that great. Most artists earn well below the poverty line directly from their art with only around 15% pulling enough to live off and even less than that making an abundant living from their creative work alone. Even artsworkers and beaurocrats are very lowly paid for their expertise. Somewhere along the line of service, artists are working without reaping the financial rewards. The stats are all there to prove that in fact there is work going on but the stats are also there to show it isn’t artists seeing their pockets lined.  This makes it awefully hard for arts graduates to ever earn enough to pay back their student loans, regardless of the financial value that is being reaped elsewhere.  Putting a bigger finnacial load on artists by removing subsidies can surely not be the answer for an industry already letting down it’s main asset, artists themselves.

The Solution

In my mind this situation can only be occurring because artists aren’t educated about charging properly for their art and consumers aren’t educated about paying properly for their art.  It’s time for the arts to get noisy about the value it brings and for artists to claim their renumeration.  Let’s put an end to a factless political argument and start cashing in on our thriving industry. It’s time to start a revolution!

Read part 2 of this blog – The Revolution Part 2 – We Have Value

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