America's Arts Industry Remained Stable in 2011, National Arts Index Finds

The National Arts Index, an annual measure conducted by Americans for the Arts of the health and vitality of the arts industry in America, has found that engagement with and participation in the arts increased in 2011, even as public funding for the arts fell.

According to the index (149 pages, PDF) — which leveled off in 2011 at a score of 97.0, down from a revised 2010 score of 97.2 — live performances of popular music, symphony, opera, theater, and dance were seen more than 132 million times in 2011, up from 122 million in 2010. In addition, arts employment remained steady, while the number of Americans volunteering at arts organizations jumped 11 percent, from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2 million in 2011.

The report also found that technology continues to change the way Americans consume the arts. Digital downloads of music accounted for 41 percent of total music industry sales in 2011, with Pandora and Spotify representing an additional 15 percent of recording revenues, while e-book sales, which increased at an annual rate of 55.7 percent between 2002 and 2007, jumped 176 percent in 2010 and remained steady in 2011. "[A]dvances in technology now provide Americans with more options for arts engagement," said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. "In fact, technological advances are driving a seismic shift in audience involvement and participation across all art forms. Arts organizations that fully understand how to properly use these tools have a much better chance of sustaining their current audience while simultaneously attracting new patrons."

At the same time, the report found that support for the arts from local governments fell 21 percent between 2008 and 2011, and that state arts agency budgets comprised just 0.04 percent of state general fund legislative appropriations. As a share of the federal domestic discretionary (non-military) budget, total arts funding dropped from 0.40 percent to 0.28 percent, between 2002 and 2011. The report also found that federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011 fell to $155 million, the first decline in NEA funding in a decade. A further reduction to $75 million — a level not seen since 1974 — has been proposed for 2014 by the House subcommittee that oversees NEA funding.

"America's arts industry firmly demonstrated its resilience, having survived and maintained societal relevance during the worst economic downturn in generations," said Lynch. "To ensure continued relevancy and to sustain its role as a venue of creativity and innovation, the arts sector must continue to keep its finger on the pulse of the rapidly changing communities that it serves and evolve with them toward future prosperity."