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Creatives in Ireland’s music and performing arts sectors are earning less than two-thirds of their counterparts in other industries, according to the findings of a new survey.

Karla Chubb, Sprints

Ruth Medjber

A review of pay and conditions in Ireland’s performing arts sector and music industry has found creatives are experiencing a sharper decline in earnings than in any other sector.

The Review of Pay and Conditions in the Performing Arts Sector and Music Industry 2022 found the average weekly earnings in the arts and entertainment sector in Ireland in the last quarter of 2022 was €582.36, equating to 65% of the average (€900.26) for employees across all sectors.

This represented a drop of 1.8% when compared to average weekly earnings from the last quarter of 2021. Across Ireland, three of nine sectors reported a drop in average weekly earnings, with the arts and entertainment experiencing the steepest. In comparison, public sector workers saw an increase of 10.8% in their wages, while private sector workers had an average increase of 2%.


At an individual level, the survey found 91% of established artists and workers in the music industry and 88% of those working in the performing arts sector earned less than the national average weekly earnings.

Meanwhile, the majority (79% of performing arts organisations and 65% of music industry enterprises) of arts and culture businesses that needed to recruit in the last quarter of 2022 reported encountering difficulties filling full-time, part-time, casual and freelance roles.

And the report predicts the trend could worsen, as 32% of respondents to the performing arts survey and 34% of respondents to the music industry survey said they are very or extremely concerned financial pressures will force them to leave the sector in the next six months.

The report, written by arts consultant Heather Maitland, was commissioned by two arts bodies in Ireland, First Music Contact (FMC) and Theatre Forum (TF).

A joint statement from FMC CEO Angela Dorgan and TF Director Anna Walsh called the findings “extremely alarming”.

“It is incredibly worrying that artists and workers in our sector are seeing decreased earnings while most other industries are experiencing positive uplift. This cannot sustain,” they added.

“We speak of promoting the concept of a sustainable career in the arts and music, but we are careening towards a tipping point where this working life is becoming untenable. 

“Already many have left the sector as they cannot afford to work in it and can no longer cope with the stress of precarious working conditions and the impacts that has on their lives and, for many, their dependents. 
“If we continue along this path, one which the arts community has trudged for decades, we will arrive in a cultural landscape devoid of diversity, where the artistic expression of the majority is silenced and access to arts is reduced significantly. Government cannot allow this to happen.”

Basic income a ‘beacon of light’

Dorgan and Walsh called an ongoing pilot of basic income for artists in Ireland – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – a “beacon of light on horizon”.

Of the 458 individual respondents to the survey, 11% of performing arts sector respondents and 9% of music industry respondents said they received Basic Income for the Arts in 2022.

Those from the performing arts received an average of €5,581 from the scheme and those from the music industry received an average of €4,297. 

“Emerging qualitative evidence suggests that the stability of a small but guaranteed income during the working process of making and creating art and music is having a positive impact on health and wellbeing, as well as enabling modest personal investments in health insurance, pensions and savings,” Dorgan and Walsh said.

“These basics have been getting further and further out of reach for those working in arts and music. Basic Income allows people to work in the present, step towards self-sustainability and plan for their future and the future of their families.”

Ahead of Ireland’s Budget 2024 announcement, which is expected at the start of October, First Music and Theatre Forum plan to continue making the case for the retention and extension of the Basic Income scheme and funding increases for artists and arts organisations.