Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Business of the Arts is Rebounding

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Perhaps you've wondered how the arts are recovering from the depths of the pandemic. Or, if you've noticed a rebound, were curious as to how much it has been able to spring back.

Fortunately, the U.S. government does gather some data on this. They are collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), a part of the U. S. Department of Commerce. The unfortunate part (if you're a writer or media artist) is that BEA groups arts, entertainment, spectator sports, and even gambling together. That makes it difficult to extract data for your particular area of interest.

From the BEA website:

Arts, entertainment, and recreation (71) includes performing arts, spectator sports, museums, and related activities (711AS); and amusements, gambling, and recreation industries (713). Establishments in this industry produce, organize, and promote live presentations; as well as operate facilities related to sports, recreation, amusement, gambling; and other amusement or recreation services. NAICS 711-712 are included in industry 711AS.

NAICS stands for the North American Industry Classification System which is used by U. S. Government statistical agencies to identify, track, and report activities by industry.

From the following graph, you can see that the gross output of arts, entertainment, and recreation has not yet matched pre-pandemic values, but have increased by about $100 billion since their low point and appear to be trending upwards. Nominal Gross Output* stood at $248.4 billion at the end of 1st quarter of 2021 (last date statistics are currently available). Chained dollars (orange line) are adjusted for inflation based on a base year, currently 2012.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, [“BEA Industry Facts,”] news release (Jun 24 2021 12:00AM),

You can use their interactive tables for GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to eliminate the gambling and recreational portion, but that is about as detailed as you can get. You can see, however, that the numbers are going up since the dark days of 2020. That's a hopeful sign. You can also see that this is smaller than the amount designated as
gambling and recreational. Gambling is big business these days.

  • Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Industry Economic Account Data: GDP by Industry,” (accessed [August 25, 2021]).

You can also see that the Value Added* by the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries is recovering, though not as much as one might hope.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, [“BEA Industry Facts,”] news release (Jun 24 2021 12:00AM),

What does all this say to the small writer, artist, or poet?

It does show that the arts industry is recovering, but still has a long way to go. It is trending upwards by all measures, so things look to be getting better for those working in the arts. The numbers won't include everything, however. If you have a tiny income from the arts, it may not be reflected in the data as there are cut-offs where small businesses are not required to report. Some of this may be brought in through other channels, but it doesn't pull in all of the numbers from the gig economy. And that can be substantial.

The fact that the entire industry seems to be recovering should be looked upon as an optimistic sign. In a few months, we can check the number again to see if the trend continues.


* Nominal Gross Output is defined as the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy. It is principally measured using industry sales or receipts, including sales to final users (GDP) and sales to other industries (intermediate inputs).

** Value Added is defined as the gross output of an industry less its intermediate inputs. It is the contribution of an industry to gross domestic product (GDP). Value added by industry can also be measured as the sum of compensation of employees, taxes on production and imports less subsidies, and gross operating surplus.

© 2021 K. R. Smith All rights reserved