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Music & performing arts workers earnings declined to two-thirds of the national average wage, new report finds

Music & performing arts workers earnings declined to two-thirds of the national average wage, new report finds


First Music Contact (FMC) and Theatre Forum have released the results of their National Pay and Conditions Survey, which asked arts workers for input on work and pay in Ireland in the performing creative industries.

The resulting report, they say is “extremely alarming” for those who are dependent on making a living from arts in Ireland.

The topline findings:

  • Artists and arts workers in the Music and Performing Arts industries continue to negatively buck the national trend with a sharp decline in sectoral earnings, at just two-thirds of the national average wage. 
  • Music and Performing Arts have seen the sharpest decline in earnings of all sectors as had previously been forecast by advocacy groups and industry organisations. Worryingly, the pay gap is widening. Considering the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 7.8% in 2022 compared to 2021, the fall in average weekly earnings in the arts and entertainment sector means that artists and musicians are being left further and further behind. Contrast this with the uplift of 10.8% in the public sector and an average of 2% increase across the private sector. It appears that pay for musicians and artists has become detached relative to both public and private sector pay.
  • The average weekly earnings for the Arts and entertainment sector in Q4 of 2022 was €582.36, 65% of the average for all employees. This is down by 1.8% compared to the same quarter in 2021. Just two other sectors saw a fall. Accommodation and Food Services saw a4.5% increase.
  • National average hourly earnings for the arts and entertainment sector were down by 1.2% compared to the same quarter in 2021. All other economic sectors saw a rise.
  • 91% of established artists and workers in the music industry and 88% of individuals working in the performing arts sector earned less than the national average weekly earnings.
  • Although average weekly earnings in the arts and entertainment sector were down by 1.8% compared to the same quarter in 2021, the Consumer Price Index rose by 7.8%.
  • 11% of individual respondents to the performing arts sector survey and 9% of those from the music industry said they had received Basic Income for the Arts in 2022. On average, those from the performing arts received €5,581 from the scheme and those from the music industry received an average of €4,297.

The survey analysed the responses of 458 individuals and 128 enterprises, festivals, production companies and venues, considering the data provided by those working in music, performing theatre, dance, comedy, puppetry, circus, street arts and aerial arts. The survey featured a broad spectrum of respondents, representing all stages of career development, with 50% of participants based outside of the Dublin region. 

A PDF of the report can be accessed here:

Review of Pay and Conditions in the Performing Arts Sector and Music Industry 2022

On review of the survey, which was undertaken by arts consultant Heather Maitland, Angela Dorgan and Anna Walsh made the following joint statement: 

The results of the national Pay and Conditions Survey of the Music and Performing Arts Industries are extremely alarming. It is incredibly worrying that artists and workers in our sector are seeing decreased earnings while most other industries are experiencing positive uplift. This cannot sustain. 

What is crucial right now is increased financial support for local and national arts and cultural resource organisations, and those who make work with artists, who rely on Government investment to continue to produce arts by all, for all. 

We speak of promoting the concept of a sustainable career in the arts and music, but we are careening towards a tipping point where this working life is becoming untenable. Already many have left the sector as they cannot afford to work in it and can no longer cope with the stress of precarious working conditions and the impacts that has on their lives and, for many, their dependents. 

If we continue along this path, one which the arts community has trudged for decades, we will arrive in a cultural landscape devoid of diversity, where the artistic expression of the majority is silenced and access to arts is reduced significantly. Government cannot allow this to happen. 

One beacon of light on the horizon is the positive impact emerging for those who are part of the Basic Income for the Arts Pilot Scheme, introduced by Minister Martin in late 2022. The Irish scheme, the first of its kind worldwide, has seen much debate and discourse within arts, media, cultural and governmental circles internationally, and ensures a basic income for professional artists and workers to counteract their lower than average and intermittent pay.

Emerging qualitative evidence suggests that the stability of a small but guaranteed income during the working process of making and creating art and music is having a positive impact on health and wellbeing, as well as enabling modest personal investments in health insurance, pensions, and savings. These basics have been getting further and further out of reach for those working in arts and music. Basic Income allows people to work in the present, step towards self-sustainability and plan for their future and the future of their families.”

Angela Dorgan, FMC and Anna Walsh, Theatre Forum.

More about the report…

With the aim of benchmarking pay and conditions with other economic sectors, the Music and Performing Arts survey was devised to enable FMC, TF and other industry bodies and representatives to collaboratively advocate for positive change for the arts and music sector through evidence-based data. 

The survey also enables employers within the sector to compare their pay policies in the context of their organisational size and structure and the area of the sector in which they operate, leading to more accessible, structured pay scales within the industry. Establishing these benchmarks will encourage employers to review pay in hiring and commissioning, and will enable providers – artists, performers, and workers – to price their work more effectively. 

The information also provides the essential data-driven building blocks for the design and implementation of effective immediate, medium- and long-term state interventions and to build the employment framework that will support and sustain Ireland’s artistic and creative workforce.


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