It is rare to meet people who feel they are well paid for their work or to find people who will admit to it, anyway. It is a particular rarity in the arts sector, and the AP salary survey (pp10-12) illustrates why. The findings reveal that all segments of the arts employment market have good cause to feel aggrieved that their pay packets do not reflect their skills and experience and that the chances of carving a good living out of a career in the arts are, at best, slim. Quite what can be done about the situation is another matter. The funding of the arts sector is dominated by the twin spectres of government arts policy and the political whims of local councillors. Furthermore, it is constrained by the received wisdom that arts organisations are not-for-profit entities, and that the best way for an organisation to increase its income is to set out its begging-bowl at the right doors. But unless these funders can be persuaded to re-distribute public expenditure in favour of the arts (not a likely scenario, given the warning sounds being issued by the DCMS about the current Spending Review), providing better pay for those working in the arts sector would result in cut-backs in service provision& and if youre not convinced, then consider the parallels in the current NHS crisis.
Pay in the sector is not unrelated to the trading structure of the employing organisations. In challenging the long-held assumption that the most effective legal status for an arts organisation is that of a not-for-profit company or charity, Jon Harris (p5) challenges anyone with a begging-bowl mentality. Were they not defined as charities, the majority of arts organisations in this country would be given the label of 'small businesses' (those that employ fewer than 50 staff) or micro-enterprises (fewer than ten staff). The value of their activities would be judged, not by panels of arts 'experts' evaluating their worthiness of regular funding, but by their ability to generate income (from as many sources as they can) to enable them to pursue their missions and satisfy their stakeholders. Attracting and retaining the staff who can help achieve this goal is critical to the survival of the organisation perhaps this would be the motivation arts organisations need to pay people what theyre really worth.
Liz Hill and Brian Whitehead