Australian artists are struggling more than ever to make a living from their creative practice. 

The Artists as Workers report found professional artists earn an average income of $54,500 per year, 26 per cent below the workforce average. 

Co-author of the 2024 report Katya Petetskaya said while artist income has increased with inflation, it hasn’t changed in real terms. 

“The income of artists hasn’t changed much since the 80s in real terms,” Ms Petetskaya said. 

The report highlights the latest findings in the longitudinal landmark study that began in the 1980s. 

The series tracks the working conditions of artists, providing information about their artistic practice, income, career development and pathways, and their broader working lives.  

Almost half of artists earned under $10,000 per year from their creative work, and only 15 per cent of all artists made more than $50,000 from their creative work in the 2021-22 financial year.

Wollongong musician Eli Steinhauer left uni to pursue music full-time and says every day is “terrifying.”

“Last week we played a sold-out show of 160 people,” Eli said. 

In total, the band made $200 which gets split six different ways, so we roughly got $35 each.”

The report revealed a quarter of artists believe their future financial security arrangements will be adequate. 

Wollongong musicians Eli Steinhauer (Image: Supplied)

One in five artists are likely to meet the minimum income needs for their creative work alone, whilst four in five say they need to access their savings or superannuation to maintain their art practice. 

However, Eli does not have the capacity to accumulate savings when he is struggling to afford everyday essentials.

“I currently don’t have savings,” Eli said. 

“Buying property isn’t even a consideration when you can’t afford groceries.”

 

In the 2021-2022 financial year, over half of all registered artists surveyed sought external funding in order to continue their creative practice.

Less than 10 per cent of artists work full-time on their creative practice – down from 23 per cent in 2016 – with the majority taking up other work to maintain job security and support their art. 

“These artists work in other jobs to support their art practice,” Ms Petetskaya said.

“This doesn’t mean they work these other jobs to make a living.

“It means that artists have to supplement their artistic practice through another job.”

Eli said despite his hardships, there is nothing compares to performing live.

“We still get to play music to a crowd of fans, which there’s nothing like int he world,” Eli said.