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Research reflects difficult of making a living as a creative


New Zealanders employed in creative professions juggle jobs, and rely on safety nets to ensure they can put food on the table. But even that doesn’t break their passion for their artform.

Research released today by Creative New Zealand and NZ On Air is the first of its kind in almost 20 years, asking close to 1,500 people working in creative professions questions about their income, training, means of support and wellbeing to better understand barriers to sustaining a creative career.

A Profile of Creative Professionals finds the majority of creative professionals covered in the survey have difficulty making a sustainable living from their principal artform or creative practice.

Most rely on other sources of financial support such as another job or a partner’s income to survive, and most can’t dedicate as much time to their art or creative practice as they would like.

The survey by Colmar Brunton involved a range of artforms and creative practices supported through Creative New Zealand and NZ On Air, and included people who earned some income from their creative career in the financial year prior to the survey being carried out.

The median personal annual income for creative professionals in this survey is around $35,800 – compared to $51,800 for all New Zealanders earning a wage or salary or $37,900 for self-employed New Zealanders. However, when you take away other sources of income, the median income from creative work is only $15,000.

The highest paid creative professions in this survey were video game developers and the lowest paid were dancers. Despite their low earnings, creative professionals are highly committed to their sector – only three percent think they’ll leave the creative industries in the next five years.

“This research provides valuable insights into the challenges of making a living as a creative professional. It’s a useful marker as we work with the sector to support fair reward for creative work and more sustainable careers in the industry, and develop stronger arts and creative sectors for the benefit of all New Zealanders,” said Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright.

“We collaborated with Creative New Zealand on this research because we need a diverse range of people involved in creating the media content we fund, and we need to understand the barriers to pursuing a creative career for some,” said NZ On Air Chief Executive Jane Wrightson. “While our funding is for content outcomes, not designed to provide income at a personal level, we will be carefully considering what we can do to address issues this research raises for NZ On Air.”

The two agencies have agreed three joint priorities as a result of the research:

Fair reward – working towards:

• ensuring lower-paid creative professionals are paid in line with technical professionals
• lifting pay to the point where creative professionals start to feel it is a fair reward for their work.

Sustainability – working to make the careers of mid-career and established creative professionals more sustainable through more continuous creative endeavours.

Emerging creative professionals – working with the sector (including peak bodies and guilds) to find better ways to support creative professionals at the start of their career.

Career sustainability is complex terrain, and an area the Government has signalled an interest in. The next step in advancing this work is that each agency will engage with the creative communities it works with on the issues relevant to their funding work. This will include highlighting potential areas for future exploration, such as gender pay gaps.

NZ On Air has issued a discussion document relating to its areas of responsibility. Creative New Zealand recently signalled likely changes to its grants programme, to better support artists and arts organisations, and plans to advise on those changes in June. Creative New Zealand also plans to seek arts sector views on the research, and the wider issues it raises, following the release of a discussion document in July.

Full report – A profile of a creative professional
Summary report – A profile of a creative professional


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