Does culture’s share of GDP matter?

what's your share?

I don't see how it does. Americans for the Arts sees it differently - writing about the recent Bureau of Economic Analysis accounts, they write: Much has been written about the truly mind-bending sum of $698.7 billion in industry expenditures—a substantial contributor to the economy that supported 4.7 million jobs in 2012 and represented 4.32 percent of GDP. How big is $698.7 billion and 4.3 percent of GDP? If the arts and culture in the U.S. was a state, its $698.7 billion would be larger than the Gross State Product for 45 out of 50 … [Read more...]

Arts organizations and the quest for data

what are the data telling us?

There is an interesting interview from TRG Arts regarding the benefits to arts organizations from hiring someone to manage data. Heather Kitchen, Managing Director of Dallas Theater Center* says: When I began as the chief administrative person at a theater 25 year ago, even a large regional theater did not have a computer driven ticketing package. As time evolved, and we moved past Lotus 123 spreadsheets for tracking ticket sales, I observed and appreciated the power of accurate data and how it could be a powerful tool - not a decision maker, … [Read more...]

A Policy for the Arts: The White Paper of 1965 (updated with a link)


During the past few weeks the British art world has been marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Policy for the Arts: The First Steps, a White Paper authored by Member of Parliament Jennie Lee, presented to Parliament on behalf of the Labour government of the time (on twitter, check #ArtsPolicy50 for a number of links to various commentaries). Unfortunately I know of no version of the paper online, which is a shame (readers - please share a link if you have one?). The paper is concise: 16 pages of text, no glossy pictures of … [Read more...]

On the return to public investments in museums

maybe this time?

Arts Council England has released a new report that seeks to quantify the 'economic impact' of museums. It estimates that to be £1.45 billion. That doesn't matter much - there are no insights to be gained, no policy implications, from the estimate's being £1.45 billion or £2.07 billion or £1.03 billion. Still, ACE thought that funds spent on producing this report were useful for something, useful enough to justify the opportunity costs in reduced funding for artists and arts organizations - maybe there will be a follow-up study that explains … [Read more...]

Superstars have always been with us

not actually Taylor Swift

Paul Krugman takes a look at top earnings amongst musicians, and the 'superstar' effect - the idea that the vast share of consumer spending on music will go to a very small number of performers, since they can reach very large audiences through recordings and broadcasts (see my previous post here). He writes: What makes this an interesting story for music is that what technology gave, it is now taking away: digital, streamed music is hard to monetize, so that artists are forced back on live performance. So you might expect to see some … [Read more...]

Price discrimination, time and money at the theatre

did you pay, or come early?

Mixed Blood Theatre of Minneapolis has an interesting pricing model, which they call 'radical hospitality': Radical Hospitality erases economic barriers in pursuit of building a truly inclusive, global audience. Whether a patron is a long-time Mixed Blood attendee, a new immigrant living in Mixed Blood’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a person with low income or disabilities, a college student, or someone who has never been to theater, he or she will be welcomed, free of charge—with radical hospitality. How does it work? There are two ways to … [Read more...]

Minimum wages in the cultural sector: the case of Borderlands Books

here's how my wage is set to go up

Borderlands Books, of San Francisco, will be closing its doors. Brick-and-mortar bookstores face a tough market situation, and those that are paying San Francisco-level rents even more so. But according to the owners, the straw that broke this camel's back was the mandated increase in the minimum wage. From Borderlands blog: In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in … [Read more...]

Who bears the burden of auction house fees, buyers or sellers?

beast of burden

Blog neighbour Lee Rosenbaum writes today about increases in premiums Sotheby's auction house, speculating that Christie's will soon follow suit. She writes: Here are Sotheby’s new charges (with old ones in parentheses), effective Feb. 1: Buyers will be charged 25% of first $200,000 (previously $100,000) of the hammer price; 20% of amount above $200,000 to $3 million (previously above $100,000 to $2 million); 12% of excess over $3 million (previously $2 million). Let’s look at a specific example of how this will work: If your winning bid … [Read more...]

The benefits of price discrimination

good seats bad seats

An interesting piece in The Guardian today on the design and pricing of seating in theatres, that the efforts to make all seats 'good' seats has made it more difficult for those on a budget to attend performances. Iain Mackintosh writes: We need to unravel the connection between seat prices and auditorium design. In the first theatre building boom, at the end of the 18th century, hundreds of playhouses were built with a top-to-bottom price ratio of eight to one. In the second, at the end of the 19th century, many more were built, including the … [Read more...]

New research from the NEA

what are the data telling us?

New research on arts participation and economics has been released by the National Endowment for the Arts. I won't try to summarize everything there, just a few comments: Two of the reports are on participation: one asks about who participates in what, the other asks people about why they participated. The data will be interesting for researchers willing to dig: what relationships are buried in those survey numbers beyond what is on the surface? I see each of these reports as a spark to future studies. For example, although the … [Read more...]