It's not exactly news that the economic situation has been pretty grim lately -- turn on the tube or crack a newspaper and you're sure to be greeted with yet another story of fiscal woe. Yet most of these reports don't talk about artists, many of whom were already struggling to make ends meet before the Great Recession.
This article in New York Times is different in that it puts creators front-and-center. The article includes data from a new survey showing that more than half of American artists experienced a drop in income from 2008 to 2009. The study was commissioned by non-profit artist-support organization Leveraging Investments in Creativity in collaboration with Princeton Survey Research Associates International and the Helicon Collaborative, a non-profit consulting firm.
More than 5,300 practitioners in fields like painting, filmmaking and architecture participated in the online survey, a larger response than expected, providing a detailed look at the state of the country's artists, a group that the Census Bureau numbers at more than two million.
Many of the findings - that working artists tend to work day jobs to support themselves; that more than a third don't have adequate health insurance; that musicians and architects tend to do better than writers and painters -- simply provide statistical support for what artists themselves have long known.
According to the article, some artists have taken the attitude that, "I live in a recession all the time, so this downturn has really not been so different for me." Sadly, this is probably true for many more creators who did not take part in the survey.
FMC has long advocated for "a musicians' middle class" where artists could afford to support a family, pay a mortgage and purchase so-called "luxuries" like health insurance. We're not there yet, which why we need your help to run programs like the Health Insurance Navigation Tool, or HINT, which provides free, confidential advice to artists seeking to learn about their health insurance options.
FMC has been active on this issue since 2002, when we conducted a nationwide survey of musicians and found that an astounding 44 percent of survey respondents did not have health insurance -- more than twice the average of the general US population. The cost of coverage was clearly a leading factor for survey respondents, but musicians also face structural problems that are unique to the creative class. Our study showed that some musicians work extra jobs just to afford or obtain coverage, requiring them to juggle a music career with full-time employment in order to maintain benefits. Others give up, crossing their fingers that they won't get sick or injured, while still others brush health insurance off as a "luxury" that only employees of large corporations can acquire.
In response to these findings, FMC launched HINT in 2005 as a resource to help musicians cut through the clutter and make sense of their options. HINT doesn't sell insurance, but instead provides individualized information to working musicians, for free. If you're a musician, visit the HINT website to peruse a wealth of free information and/or schedule an appointment to speak to one of our health insurance experts, who also happen to be musicians.
FMC is also planing to conduct research into musicians' revenue streams. We figure that it's really important to know how and where artists are (or aren't) being compensated in order to better understand the new realities faced by performers, songwriters and composers. Stay tuned for more info on that project. And do try to keep that hammer away from your piggybank. . .