The Economics of Artists' Labour Markets

Paper number: 95/22

Paper date: August 1995

Year: 1995

Paper Category: Discussion Paper


Ruth Towse
University of Exeter


The purpose of this paper is to summarise the data from recent surveys of artists of various kinds in the UK - performing and creative artists and craftspeople - and to analyse the way that artists' labour markets work. Topics covered include a discussion of the problems of defining artists, the supply behaviour of artists' earnings and training issues. The conclusions are that survey results show consistency as between different sectors of the arts labour market. Artists work long hours, are highly trained but typically earn less than other comparably educated workers; training does not seem to perform a screening function nor a human capital one in the arts.

This paper was commissioned by the Arts Council of England as one of a series of Discussion Papers. I am most grateful to Andrew Feist, Senior Policy Analyst and to Jane O'Brien of the Arts Council for their valuable comments, criticisms and editing.

JEL Classification Nos: Z1, J44
Keywords: Artists' labour markets; Cultural economics

Corresponding Author: Ruth Towse, Department of Economics, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4RJ, Great Britain, Tel: (44) 1392 263217, fax: (44) 1392 263242, email: