Policies for boosting arts demand

Demand expansion hand drawnPolicies that encourage arts demand can return balance to an oversupplied Australian arts sector and fix many of the ills of Australian cultural policy.

Policies for boosting arts demand, the second of my articles for Culture360[1], expands on my ideas for rebalancing an Australian arts sector that is showing the classic signs of oversupply.

As evidence of oversupply, I present data showing increasing levels of creative arts practice and declining relative incomes of professional artists. The policies that dominate Australia’s cultural policy system tend to work to boost supply, so they are likely to aggravate problems associated with oversupply, such as declining relative incomes. Policies aimed at boosting arts demand – ‘demand-side policies’ – can work to alleviate the problems. Continue reading

Modelling the economic impacts of cultural policies

Supply and demand curvesIn Policies for boosting arts demand I build on my argument that Australian cultural policy needs more demand-side policies. The case is based on the observation of recent data on the Australian cultural sector and some simple economic supply and demand modelling. This post supplements these articles by explaining the modelling process and reasoning that underpin them. This is a rough draft – I welcome comments or suggestions.

Recent data suggests that the Australian arts sector is grossly ‘oversupplied’. In the first decade of the century, Australian participation in creative arts work increased dramatically – in some arts activities it more than doubled or tripled! At the same time, artists’ relative incomes have declined. The Census, for example, shows that the full time incomes of artists dropped by $4,000 relative to other professionals. The figure below puts the two trends together to illustrate how dramatic the inverse relationship has been between involvement in creative arts practice and artists’ incomes.[1]

These are classic signs of a sector straining under the weight of labour supply: increases in labour supply tend to reduce wage rates, which is likely to be reflected in declining incomes. Australia’s cultural policies predominantly work on stimulating supply, and so are likely to have made matters worse. Continue reading

Estimating deadweight loss in arts funding

Deadweight loss in arts fundingA rough estimate puts deadweight losses in Australian arts funding at $3.6 million in 2009-10.

Crowdsourcing government arts funding argues that government funders could use crowdfunding to reduce deadweight losses associated with their arts funding.

This is a post script to explore how big those deadweight losses might be. A rough estimate for Australia puts deadweight losses in Federal arts funding at $3.6 million in 2009-10.
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Australasian edition of Cultural Trends

In 2010 I coordinated a special Australasian edition of Cultural Trends, the academic journal that ‘champions the need for better evidence-based analyses of the cultural sector.’

The special edition, which is in two parts, aims to expose to an international audience a selection of issues occupying cultural policy researchers and statisticians in Australia and New Zealand.

As well as coordinating the special edition, I drafted two editorials (pre-print drafts available below) in which I try to crystallise the state of cultural statistics and cultural policies in Australasia Continue reading

Encouraging the academy

Encouraging the academyAustralasian cultural policies would benefit from academics and researchers having more opportunities to publish, share their ideas and engage in cultural policy debate.

While writing an editorial for a special Australasian edition of the journal Cultural Trends (the second volume of which is due out soon), I had the chance to review the history of cultural policy in Australia and New Zealand. Looking back, I was struck by how much academic writing, research and debate took place in the ‘90s, when Australasia was enjoying what has been called a cultural policy ‘moment’.

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A poverty of inquiry

Imagine if the number of Australians playing sport doubled in five years. Would the Sports Minister go out to the media crowing about the success of sports policy? Most likely. What if research showed participation in a football code – say, Aussie rules – tripled over four years? Would the AFL shout this from the rooftops, exalting a new wave of popularity for Aussie rules? You bet. Why, then, when trends of this magnitude occurred in the arts, hardly a word was said?

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Cross-country comparisons of cultural statistics

Taxpayers money by Louisa Bufardeci

Image: Louisa Bufardeci

Cross-country comparisons are popular in cultural policy. This paper looks at how cultural statistics are used in the making of such comparisons. Analysts have identified a general ‘sloppiness’ in comparisons of cultural data between countries. This article documents some of the major problems in both data production and data presentation and provides a ‘checklist’ of good practice.

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An arts council by any other name

An arts council by any other nameThe literary journal Overland asked me to respond to an article in its September 2010 issue, Culture is bigger than the arts, in which Ben Eltham pleads for Australia’s cultural policy to be liberated from its stuffiness. Ben calls for cultural policy to adopt a wider notion of culture – one that  includes game design and all manner of ‘screen based art forms’ – and for policy to move on from supporting ‘elite’ arts.

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International networks and arts policy research

There is a growth of networks in the cultural policy arena. Many of these networks have been formed to share information and to engage in comparative documentation and research. The International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) is one such network, established with aims of consolidating the collective knowledge of arts councils and culture agencies, adding value to that knowledge, and improving the management and sharing of information on arts and cultural policy. Continue reading

Arts and cultural policy models

While I was at IFACCA, Sarah Gardner and I developed a model of arts policy that I find useful to keep in the back of my mind when thinking about the big policy issues.

We developed it so we could get our heads around the issue of arm’s length funding and the independence of arts support, although the model can be used in all sorts of ways when thinking about arts policy. The model appeared in the IFACCA D’Art research report The Independence of Government Arts Funding: A Review, and builds on a review of a range of policy models that I won’t reproduce here, but which can be read in the paper. The most famous of these models is Chartrand and McCaughey’s facilitator-patron-architect-engineer model, but as the review in the D’Art report shows, there are a number of other approaches to modelling the arts policy ecology.

The models suggests that the ‘machinery’ of cultural policy can be thought of as involving a mixture of five key elements:

  1. Domains, fields or policy areas that are considered “cultural” (eg. visual arts, performing arts, broadcasting, film);
  2. Instruments (eg. subsidy, tax incentives, ownership);
  3. Institutional structures (eg. ministry, department, arms length agency);
  4. Decision making processes (eg. peer review, bureaucratic decree); and
  5. Rules and customs that determine the interaction of the above elements.

I have adapted the model further into the diagram below (click to view full image).

Five element model cultural policy