Jobs up, but is income keeping pace?

The number of positions in music and performing arts grew at a faster rate in the past five years than the Australian workforce, according to recent analysis of the 2016 Census by Queensland University of Technology researchers.

Jobs up, but is income keeping pace?


‘The creative economy is in better shape than it’s ever been in, with jobs in creative services growing at three times the rate of the overall workforce,’ said QUT Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham who led the research.

However, while performing arts jobs grew at an average annual rate of 1.9 per cent, income in the sector fell by an average of 0.4 per cent a year.

Professor Greg Hearn, Director of Commercial Research and Development at QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty, said it was difficult to know the reason behind the fall in income.

‘The stats don’t answer the “why” question. But it could be a couple of factors,’ he said.

‘First, the stats only include a person’s main occupation, so it only includes those artists for whom their arts practice is their predominant occupation. And we know many supplement their income in other ways.

‘Second, music—especially contemporary music—has been greatly affected by the digital revolution, perhaps more than the visual arts. It has been challenged by streaming services although that is recovering now. Also, Australian musicians are facing stronger global competition.’

QUT’s research showed that almost 600,000 people worked in Australia’s creative economy, distinguishing between employment increative services (advertising and marketing, architecture and design, and software and digital content) andcultural production (film, television and radio, music and performing arts, publishing and visual arts).

The figure includes support professionals who work in the creative industries, as well as ‘embedded’ creatives who work in sectors outside the creative industries such as finance, government, hospitality, education and manufacturing.

Professor Hearn said of the 31,000 cultural production workers embedded in other industries, about one-quarter of them are likely to be music and performing arts practitioners—that is, between 5000 and 7000 people.

He said many of these practitioners were arts educators, although some were also employed in government, publishing and construction industries.

Jobs in creative industries now account for nearly 4 per cent of the Australian workforce.

In the four cultural production segments, the number of jobs grew in the film, television and radio, and the music and performing arts sectors, but fell in publishing and visual arts.

‘This is good news for the performing arts,’ Bethwyn Serow, AMPAG’s Executive Director, said.

‘Our own AMPAG data shows that the major performing arts companies employed more than 10,000 people in 2016—2978.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees up 153.7 FTE on 2015.

They provided employment and artistic opportunities to more than 8007 artists, creatives and technicians, resulting in 2139.5 FTE, which is slightly up on 2015,' she said. ‘This represented 56.3 per cent of MPA's total expenditure in 2016.'

Unsurprisingly, the QUT census analysis found that creative occupation incomes in the creative services industries were higher than those working in cultural production. Mean income across creative services occupations was $79,900, compared with cultural production occupations of $59,700.

‘The biggest driver of wage decline is really all about the labour market—that is, the number of jobs compared to the number of people seeking jobs,’ Professor Hearn said.

‘Performing arts has exhibited oversupply over a number of years.’

He also thought that publicly funded arts organisations could be under financial stress, which could also affect artists’ income.

In discussing the future of employment in cultural production occupations, Professor Hearn said he encouraged people to think about the whole span of their careers.

‘Many of our students do double degrees, for example, musicians marrying music with digital and programming studies. This can open up broader opportunities, allowing you to stick with your career passion.

‘We are not saying don’t have the debate. But we would encourage creative workers to explore a range of capabilities as well as their core artform.’

Australia’s creative economy: Factsheet 1 – An overview

Australia’s creative economy: Factsheet 2, Cultural production, creative services and income