Moonlighting in the Arts, and Indie Bookstores

A NEW survey from the National Endowment for the Arts shows that alongside the 2.1 million people who work as “artists” (broadly defined) another 271,000 work as artists on the side. While not quite shocking, there’s some useful data in the report, including the fact that artists continue to be unemployed at twice the level of other professionals, even five years into an economic recovery.

From the Pacific Standard story:

The unemployment rate for people whose primary career fits into the “artist” category was 7.1 percent for 2013. That doesn’t sound so bad until you note that the overall unemployment rate for “professionals,” the broader category artists are grouped under, was 3.6 percent.

“Artists and designers were among the hardest-hit occupations (in the recent recession),” the NEA writes. “While both have halved the 10 to 11 percent unemployment rates they faced in 2009, neither is back to pre-recession employment rates of 1 to 3 percent.”

And while the numbers have improved since 2010, the unemployment rate for actors is still almost 32 percent.

The conclusion for some will be that with figures like that, moonlighting as an artist is the safer way to go.400px-École_des_beaux-arts_(from_the_live)

ALSO: Many of us worry about the closing of independent bookstores — their numbers are about half of what they were in the ’90s. But a Salon story argues that the long-term trends are in their favor. Here’s Andrew Leonard:

There is increasing evidence that the same digital transformation that has so dramatically reshaped the publishing industry, and driven millions of consumers online, also paradoxically rewards locally rooted authenticity. Our digital tools are steering us toward brick-and-mortar stores that promise a more satisfactory consumer experience than either chain stores or online emporiums can provide.

I should mention that while I admire Leonard’s work — he’s one of the best people writing about the impact of digital technology — I’m not entirely convinced that things will get better for indie bookstores. The evidence in my city, Los Angeles, is that things are not going in the right direction. This said, the piece is worth reading and thinking about. I’m entirely happy to be wrong on this one.

FINALLY: Speaking of books, I’ll be moderating a panel on Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on artists’ biographies. My panel, at 11 am, is “The Artist as Influencer,” and includes Beverly Walker (for her book Jack Nicholson: Anatomy of an Actor), William Todd Schultz (for Torment Saint, on musician Elliott Smith), and Ben Tarnoff (whose book The Bohemians, concerns Mark Twain and others in 1860s San Francisco.)

Hope to see CultureCrash readers there.

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