Artists are now unemployed at about twice the rate of other professional workers. Approximately 129,000 artists were out of work nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the report – up 63 percent from the same period in 2007. The NEA estimated that the figures might have been worse had thousands of artists not left the workforce due to retirement, a desire to pursue outside opportunities, or general discouragement. And the forecast for the next few years is no brighter….
“There’s a reason for the severity of these numbers,” Mr. Iyengar said, referring to the NEA report as a whole. “Artists are entrepreneurs in terms of their employment character. They’re the equivalent of small businesses – they require a lot more investment up front. They’re already in a pretty precarious situation. And in a market like this, artists are really hit pretty hard.
Given such a situation, this next bit is a trifle weird:
Applications to college music schools are soaring — in some cases, more than doubling in the past five years. That’s for symphonic music, opera and jazz. Go figure.
Well, partly it’s because there are jobs in music that didn’t exist two decades ago: “Fields of study such as ethnomusicology, jazz improvisation and music administration have mushroomed in recent years. The professional music world has exploded in the era of video games, digital technology, YouTube, a massive cable-TV universe and other media.”
And it’s partly the result of colleges using that media — aggressive marketing of their music programs through the internet — that accounts for the enrollment figures.
All this growing activity has triggered a building boom among music schools, with both Northwestern and DePaul committing millions of dollars for new facilities, now on the drawing boards.
The students filling those programs say they are fully aware of the economic challenges they face, yet they’re undaunted, their belief in the enduring value of music encouraging them at a critical moment in their lives.