Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 7: Artists’ Labour Markets
Françoise Benhamou Artists and cultural workers constitute a very heterogeneous and a priori non-standard population. Everyone keeps in mind a long list of starving artists, and a series of artists who died unknown before becoming superstars on the modern art and cultural markets. This chapter examines two questions: how can we describe cultural employment (and who should be considered as an artist) and are there some characteristics of employment in the cultural field that might justify a unique and unconventional theoretical framework for its analysis? Since decisions on labour markets play a major role for the crucial question of the selection of talent, this chapter also emphasizes the question of developing labour market policies towards supporting cultural employment. Cultural employment: a wide spectrum of jobs There are many methodological questions. The conclusions of empirical testing of hypotheses about the characteristics of employment vary according to sources of data. Censuses are most reliable for well-known reasons (exhaustiveness and possibility of comparisons over time). In Europe, they generally rely on what the individuals declare as their main job. Since individuals often engage in several occupations inside or outside the cultural sphere, they are considered as artists in accordance with their own reporting of their main income sources during the Census period. The US Census identifies artists on a controversial criterion: the job in the previous week. Nevertheless, many studies use Census data (among them Santos, 1976; Filer, 1986; O’Brien and Feist, 1995). Researchers also use surveys. Despite their more limited scope,...
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