Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Practice, Entrepreneurship and Subjectivity in Artist Identification with Applications to the Covid-Era

Weber, Cameron and Zhen, Ying and Arias, JJ (2022): Practice, Entrepreneurship and Subjectivity in Artist Identification with Applications to the Covid-Era.

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How we define an artist and how we use census and survey data to study artist behaviour is a cornerstone of cultural economics. Frey and Pommerehne (1989) list eight criteria for identifying an artist, from time spent on and income derived from art-making, to reputation and recognition, organizational membership and professional qualifications. We take a radically subjective approach where we use only the last of their categories, artist self-identification, to attempt a theoretical advancement in art economics. Concurrent with the professionalization of economic science at the university and positivism in economic policy emerges a quantitative focus on production in labor markets (Tribe 2022). This seems a Procrustean bed for cultural economics in that artists tend to be self-directed, entrepreneurial and self-employed and when they do work for others, do so only as a second “job” in order to support creative practice (Throsby 1994). This is not a labor market model where income is maximized and redistribution is needed for fairness. There is an over-supply of art, subsidy may not be necessary as may create moral hazard (Benhamou 2003). We use Max Weber (1919)’s original notion of avocation (substantive value) versus vocation (instrumental value) and determine that it may be wrong to fit art-making into the categories of mainstream industrial and labor economics. For our book Artists and Markets in Music (Routledge 2023) we are currently conducting two complementary surveys to understand how musicians have altered their social practice and craft during the covid-era. One survey is of Grammy-members where the criterion for being an artist is to make one’s living at music and follows-on a 2018 survey (Krueger 2019). The second is a grassroots snowball survey where the criterion is self-identification as a musician. The two different surveys might help us to test differing relevancies for the SAD production function in music as proposed by Samuel Cameron (2015, 2016) as well as further identifying market heterogeneity as discussed in Throsby 1994

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