The Arts Are Getting A Bad Rap As A Result of The Cost of Living Crisis. We Must Stop Defining Them As Something That Is A Luxury

 June 27, 2024      

The crisis of cost of living hinders participation in culture. Australia’s federal culture policy, Revive recognizes and even recognizes.

The right to everyone Australians to enjoy access to the culture of their country (a right […] that is enshrined in article 27 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Australia is one of the signatories).

However, this right is being threatened due to the rising costs of living. This crisis affects people in many directions, impacting the community’s ability to access art and also the ability of organisations and artists to make it. capability to produce it.

Pressure To Be Pushed Up

The lengthy and increasing number of cancelled music festivals is just one example of how the living cost crisis is affecting the arts and culture sector in Australia that affects both the creators and consumers.

In the majority of cases the festivals have been canceled as a due to the increasing costs involved in the production of events which include the cost of travel and production as well as the possibility of unfavourable weather conditions and other insurance expenses that have driven costs to the point of unattainable.

The data released last year by the audience research firm Patternmakers revealed an increase in audience numbers from COVID levels. It was encouraging. However, it also showed the awe-inspiring impact the pressures of living costs had on the audience which, in the majority, acknowledged that finances were the primary obstacle to their purchasing tickets.

What Is The Impact of Spending On

Access to various forms of art and cultures is a fundamental right that research suggests helps strengthen communities and offers people various health benefits. Lack of access to these arts will be detrimental to everyone of us.

However, it is difficult for the industry to offer these benefits during an economic crisis that is in the wake of the more than 3 years COVID-related disruption as well as the impact that platformisation has on consumers (such as Spotify or Apple Music in the music sector).

These changes are evident across the sector – from music festivals to major institutions of the arts, to small galleries and companies as well as musicians, artisans and artists who work digitally.

The frenzied scramble to get Taylor Swift tickets last year showed that there was a an appetite for huge, high-cost events, it is inevitable that this comes with a price for Australian musicians.

In their report for 2021, Creativity in Crisis Researchers Alison Pennington and Ben Eltham presented a convincing argument for the need to impose Australian content quotas to be included on streaming platforms. This will create more jobs for local businesses and increase the number of people who have accessibility to Australian content.

A Compounding Crisis

Australian artists have faced difficulties after hardship in the last decade, from austerity policies, cutting the Australia Council and the effects of the plague and lockdowns. The latest data from research team members David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya demonstrate how grim the compensation for artists are.

The underlying cause of all this is an ongoing mistaken perception of the value of the arts and culture sector for the economic. This misattribution does not just negate the diverse, full and valuable value of the arts, but it can also lead to growth plans which further hurt the sector.

Festivals, for instance are constantly under pressure to surpass the numbers of last year. To be sustainable, we must find new indicators for success that are different that growth.

For those who are artists the crisis of cost of living can be a wellness crisis in its own right because the have a most likely be confronted with financial stress and housing as well as a lack of access to health services.

In this way it’s also a way of creating crises. Many artists depend on funding that is short-term through grants or fellowships to support their income. The higher cost of living may hinder them from achieving their the goals of their projects.

Artists create budgets for their projects together with grant applications that are, if lucky, are approved a few months afterward. Then, they are waiting for the contracts to become completed and then wait a bit longer until they receive their funding. In this period inflation could significantly raise the cost of the art-making.

They must then decide between not achieving the requirements of the project in the way it was originally funded or cutting their artist fee. This is the amount they earn for completing the work. If this occurs too many times, their wages could decrease to nothing.

Beyond the fact that artists must to be compensated to do their job, the instability also impacts the accessibility of the public to the arts.

What Can We Do?

Instead of focusing on the arts and culture sector by (unsustainable) growth plans and growth agendas, it must be seen as a part of the economic base. This implies that we recognize the importance of culture and the arts as fundamental elements of our society, the same as we would do with the health, education and telecommunications sectors.

It is about having sustainable goals for development and defining the arts as a service that benefits the people and the environment (and not large corporations).

Practically, we could begin by implementing programs for policy like the universal base services or the universal minimum incomes for artist, and introducing artist job guarantees, and whole-of-life evaluation frameworks that prioritize the artistic and cultural importance over their economic value. The new frameworks could be used to assess the results in the future.

Due to a lack in funding, COVID lockdowns and now the crisis of cost of living australia’s cultural and arts sector is in a rut. In order to bring it back to life, will require a swift revise of the collective understanding about what the sector means for us and whether we could afford living without it.