The Artists’ Labour Market

  • Bruno S. FreyEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Economics book series (BRIEFSECONOMICS)


Not all artists are poor, but the inequality of incomes is marked. On average, artists receive lower incomes than people in other occupations. A few superstars earn high incomes. This leads to great inequality among artists. Artists with high incomes are often among the best artists. Various determinants of artists’ earnings have been identified. Talent, or creativity, is very important, but belonging to a well-established artistic network, training in a prestigious school and luck also matter greatly. Artists are considerably more satisfied with their work than non-artists, mainly because they are intrinsically motivated and enjoy autonomy.


Artists’ incomes Awards Superstars Winner-take-all markets Celebrity Rich artist Poor artists Starving artists Artistic networks Intrinsic motivation Creativity Happiness 

Related Literature

A basic contribution to artists’ labour markets is

  1. Throsby D (2001) Economics and culture. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Major insights into the unequal distribution of income among artists include

  1. Frank RH, Cook PJ (1995) The winner-take-all-society: why the few at the top get so much more than the rest of us. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Rosen S (1981) The economics of superstars. Am Econ Rev 71(5):845–858Google Scholar

Awards are discussed in

  1. Frey BS, Gallus J (2017) Honours versus money. The economics of awards. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Artists’ happiness is empirically analysed in

  1. Trine B, Fjællegaard CB, Frey BS, Steiner L (2013) Happiness in the arts—international evidence on artists’ job satisfaction. Econ Lett 121(1):15–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Steiner L, Schneider L (2013) The happy artist: an empirical application of the work-preference model. J Cult Econ 37(2):225–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar

A general discussion of happiness research is given in

  1. Frey BS (2018) Economics of happiness. SpringerBriefs in Economics, Springer International Publishing, ChamGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CREW - Center for Research in Economics and Well-BeingUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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