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 740,000 such solo artists in 2013.

Additional Information: Counties with indicator value = 2,475. Average county indicator value = $13,920 Median county indicator value = $12,430.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

International cultural tourism proves recession-proof. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more.  The U.S. Dept of Commerce reports that the percentage of int’l travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17% to 24%), while those including concerts and theater performances have increased five of the past seven years (13% to 17% since 2003).