The superstar economy

no flat screen for you

The distribution of artists' earnings is heavily skewed, much more unequal than in the population as a whole, between some who earn very, very much and those whose earnings are negligible (if not zero, in their search for free exposure). The economic analysis of 'superstars', pioneered by Sherwin Rosen, finds that when given a choice audiences will, by a great majority, buy from what is considered to be the very best, and so the very best capture the lion's share of the earnings. When are earnings likely to be most skewed? There are two main … [Read more...]

Dora’s amazing tax credit adventure

indeed

The New York Times Arts page reviews the new adventure of Dora the Explorer, now a little older, and starring in 'Dora and Friends: Into the City!', which apparently looks pretty suburban. And Dora's talking backpack is full of dollars, courtesy of New York state taxpayers. Variety reports: While states offering tax credits for filmmaking usually have their sights set on drawing movies that will showcase their locales, there is an increasing battle to draw post-production work, particularly in music scoring, animation and visual effects, … [Read more...]

Amazon and Orwell and Penguins (Updated)

weapons of mass destruction?

By now most everyone who follows artsjournal.com and the Amazon dispute has heard of its strange use of George Orwell in its (shockingly mishandled) dispute with the publishing sector. The New York Times reports: The freshest part of Amazon’s call to arms was the history lesson. It recounted how the book industry hated mass-market paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1930s, and said they would ruin the business when they really rejuvenated it. Unfortunately, to clinch its argument, it cited the wrong authority: “The famous … [Read more...]

Know when to fold ‘em

move on

There lies a contradiction within us. As teachers, mentors, coaches, friends, parents, we encourage people to pursue their dreams, to strive, persevere, don't give up. We reward and praise determination, the kid who 'sticks with it.' And we should - these are excellent qualities in a person, very worth fostering. But at the same time we know that there are circumstances when, in fact, the time to 'stick with it' is past, when the costs of continuing to strive for success, in a career path, an artistic pursuit, a relationship, vastly outweigh … [Read more...]

Sir Alan Peacock

Alan-peacock_2995991b

I was saddened to read of the death of Sir Alan Peacock, a most influential figure in the scholarship, and application, of economic analysis of the arts. The Daily Telegraph's obituary is here. I remember back to when I first began exploring the field of cultural economics, and his (then recent) book Paying the Piper was one of the first I picked up on the subject. Years later when the International Journal of Cultural Policy invited a group of us to write a short essay on the book that had most influenced us, that was my choice. … [Read more...]

Performance measures, indices and rankings

Let's not make an index

Ok, not a blog post title likely to set your pulse racing, but with so much discussion in the arts world the past few years on the uses of data, a caveat. It is brought to mind by a story from Money magazine (a branch of Time), which has tried to make inroads on US News turf, and do some college rankings. These new rankings are all about 'value for money' - what does it cost to attend; what is the payoff in salary. Whatever your thoughts on that focus, my issue is with how the rankings are constructed. Money's method is given here. The … [Read more...]

Strategic pricing for the arts

for what it's worth

I'm pleased to say my book on pricing in the arts has been released - Amazon link here, and Routledge link (including for ordering e-inspection copies) here. What's it all about? As I do  on this blog, I have tried to give arts managers, and students of arts management, a systematic way of thinking about setting prices, for museums, performances and festivals, whether commercial, nonprofit, or public sector. There is a substantial academic literature on the subject, but much of it is aimed at the economics profession rather than … [Read more...]

Summer books: Brad Stone’s ‘The Everything Store’

a difficult case

In the past few months there are few businesses that have come in for such vilification as Amazon.com - including in many of the stories and blogs here at artsjournal.com - and so Brad Stone's book, subtitled 'Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon', is timely, to say the least. It has been the subject of deep reviews by George Packer at The New Yorker, and Steve Coll in The New York Review of Books, and I recommend each of those. It is hard in this case to separate a review of the book and a review of Amazon itself (I don't think I'm the only … [Read more...]

The cost of owning an art collection

Hmm, Piketty says 5%

Scott Sumner reckons the cost to the City of Detroit in owning (or giving away to a nonprofit) the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts is about $185 million per year. He obtains this number not through looking at the cost of maintaining the collection, and paying the necessary personnel and building costs, but simply through foregone interest, assuming that cash invested in financial instruments could yield 5% return per year, and that the art could be sold for $3.7 billion. If we lower the assumed 5% and/or $3.7 billion, then the $185 … [Read more...]

Love of art and love of place

Jack's Creek, Clay Co, KY

Those of us who teach classes in cultural policy at some point always engage our students in the fundamental question: why is government in the business of subsidizing the arts? Only when we have really thought about the ends of the policy can we think clearly about the best means to those ends. And there might be many: conservation of cultural traditions; cultural institutions as local amenities for current and possibly future residents; tourism; instilling civic values through the arts, for example. Here I want to focus on just one: making … [Read more...]