Musicians with or without Day Jobs

In today’s edition of You’ve Cott Mail, there’s a piece which focuses on artists and their day jobs. The piece discusses the recent Arts Data Profile #3 by the NEA which surveyed 60,000 households to extrapolate an estimate of full time and part-time artists in the US as it relates to a studies about what constitutes being an artist.  This was something I explored in my post about Andrew Watts piece and my follow up to that regarding part-time musicians being the historical norm.


The study (by sociologists Jennifer C. Lena and Danielle J. Lindemann. Lena) raised similar questions to the Watts’ piece on a facebook wall post of the Slate piece:

The question of who, exactly, is an artist — what that word means, who defines herself by it — has always been a tricky one. All sorts of surveys purport to the tell us the number of artists in the US, from the government census to independent initiatives, but the terms of the discussion have never been entirely clear. Are artists self-defined? Must they make money off their creative work (a certain amount)? What kinds of creative work count? Can you be a professional artist if you spend 30 hours a week doing something besides making art?

And attempts to address those questions as their abstract states:

In this study, we explore the ‘‘professional artist’’ as the outcome of an identity process, rendering it the dependent rather than the independent variable. In their responses to the 2010 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey (N=13,581)—to our knowledge, the largest survey ever undertaken of individuals who have pursued arts degrees in the United States—substantial numbers of respondents gave seemingly contradictory answers to questions asking about their artistic labor. These individuals indicated that they simultaneously had been and had never been professional artists, placing them in what we have termed the ‘‘dissonance group.’’ An examination of these responses reveals meaningful differences and patterns in the interpretation of this social category.

I actually took the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) survey when I first heard about it last October but hadn’t realized that “the SNAAP survey specifically state[d] that teachers do not qualify as artists, a distinction to which a number of respondents object.” And it’s interesting what distinctions the NEA Arts Data Profile might make (I haven’t read the whole thing yet).  But as it states:

Most analyses of artist employment refer to workers in primary artist occupations. (The primary job is defined as one at which the greatest number of hours were worked.) In 2013, 2.1 million workers were employed as artists in their primary occupation.

In that same year, however, an additional 271,000 workers held second jobs in artist occupations.

And that “Musicians make up the largest category of secondary-artist jobs, with 84,000 in 2013,” and that:

Unemployment has decreased in the last year for artists overall, but only very slightly, from 7.3% to 7.1%. On the whole, the group remains stuck at a higher unemployment rate than all US workers, and finding jobs remains especially difficult for actors, dancers and choreographers, announcers, and photographers.

Which we can contrast with the roughly 70% unemployment of musicians during the Great Depression or the Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows that folks claiming to be full time musicians plummeted by 45.3% between August 2002 and August of 2011. It will be interesting to see how much musician employment has recovered since 2011.

Which brings up the question I asked in a previous post:

So my question here would be, if pop music is so relevant and sustainable why is it that almost no one is really making a living at it?  Not that many were making a living doing it in the past, it’s just that more people are reporting now that they aren’t.  Another question would be why aren’t the folks touting the new models for Classical Music of relevancy and sustainability bringing up these issues?

But you won’t see these discussions brought up by the crisis folks because it does nothing to bolster their stance to have evidence that practically all forms of entertainment are showing the same economic and structural issues that they’re purporting is endemic to Classical Music.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s