Independent artists are one of the most vivid pieces of evidence that the arts are thriving in any location. Solo artists, regardless of artistic medium or discipline, are very often both the fuel and the spark of a local arts scene. Many artists are also entrepreneurs, launching their work into the world through their own studios, performance spaces, and readings. Overall, we think of the presence of solo artists as a marker of a community’s capacity to deliver the arts. However, more than their presence is needed to show that there is not only capacity to provide the arts; it also needs demand by arts consumers . One indication that there is arts demand is the abilities of individual artists to generate revenue streams for themselves

The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) is a system of 1,800 codes for classifying businesses into different industries. The Local and National Arts Index reports use a set of 44 NAICS codes that we selected as the best representation of arts and culture from those 1,800 codes. The Census Bureau provides county-level tallies of establishments, employment, and payroll in the County Business Patterns web site. The Bureau also provides data on the number of “non-employer” businesses in many NAICS codes including total revenues of these self-employed, non-employer artists. These would turn into smaller net earnings after the costs of the artistic endeavors are subtracted . By way of context, 2012 median earnings for all workers in artistic occupations were $52,388, as shown in the National Arts Index.

This indicator estimates the average revenues for each of the solo artists of a county. They are identified as solo artists by non-employer establishments in four-digit NAICS code 7115, which describes “Independent artists, writers, and performers.” Nationally, there were 730,000 such solo artists in 2012.

Additional Information: Counties with indicator value = 2,479. Average county indicator value = $13,800 Median county indicator value = $12,800.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

U.S. Share of World Creative Goods Trade is Rebounding! Overall, America’s role in global cultural trade declined steadily from 2002 through 2009, but we have seen a rebound in 2010 and 2011. Almost all of this is due to exports, which change more—both up and down—than imports in the U.S. Trade surpluses are good news for the U.S. economy!