Quick Study: July 15, 2021

Jo Reed:  Welcome to Quick Study, the monthly podcast from the National Endowment for the Arts.  This is where we'll share stats and stories to help us better understand the value of art in everyday life.  And I'm copiloting Quick Study with Sunil Iyengar.  He's the Director of Research and Analysis here at the Arts Endowment.  Good morning, Sunil.

Sunil Iyengar:  Good morning, Jo.

Jo Reed:  And I know there's a big UNESCO research report about the COVID-19 on cultural workers that you wanted to share.

Sunil Iyengar:  Yes I did.  Thanks Jo.  The report's called "Cultural and Creative Industries in the Face of COVID-19," it's an economic impact outlook.  We know Jo obviously that artists and arts organizations were among the most traumatized segments of the economy last year when the pandemic struck.  The NEA's reported a lot of figures about unemployment rates, about audiences declining and all that of course because of the shutdowns and the economic repercussions of the pandemic.  But here we have a report that estimates that worldwide in 2020 there was a 750 billion dollars contraction in the total economic value that cultural and creative industries normally generate and that was declined relative to 2019. 

]Jo Reed:  Seven-hundred and fifty billion?

Sunil Iyengar:  Yes, that's right.  And according to UNESCO, this figure translates to job losses exceeding ten million workers last year.

Jo Reed:  Extraordinary.

Sunil Iyengar:  Yeah, sobering.

Jo Reed:  Yeah.  So tell me, how was this report put together, how did they get their facts and their figures?

Sunil Iyengar:  Yeah, so they actually did a sweep of literature around the world really and covered I think 54 studies meeting their criteria for this systematic literature review.  And so together all the data estimates COVID's impact on cultural and creative industries in 20 mid to large size economies, so 20 mid to large size economies and in these economies the researchers note together that accounts for about 60 percent of the world economy. 

Jo Reed:  That actually just gives you an idea not only of the number of people that are employed in the arts or culture related sectors, but also the deep, deep impact COVID had on them.

Sunil Iyengar:  Yes.  And as I said a moment ago, we've been tracking at the NEA just in the U.S. alone understanding loss to box office revenue, lower attendance rates for particular performing arts, but also visual arts events and of course higher rates of unemployment for artists.  And so this has been obviously of serious concern to the sector and of course to funders like us for more than a year now.  For example, based on a U.S. study that came out last year, which was the Brookings Institution Study here in D.C., UNESCO estimates that there was a loss of between 20 percent and 30 percent lost to the gross economic value that the arts contribute to the U.S. economy.  So between 20 to 30 percent in the U.S. alone in terms of the economic loss and that was just a U.S. estimate according to UNESCO.  But now through the study we now see that look the total of course was much greater worldwide and we're talking again about a whopping 750 billion dollars in economic loss.

Jo Reed:  Sunil, let me ask you is it rather new to track cultural and creative workers as sort of a separate economic entity or has that been done for a while?

Sunil Iyengar:  So to me this is what generates a lot of potential interest, we have not consistently as the U.S. tracked cultural and creative workers across the board.  Now the NEA working with the Bureau of Economic Analysis part of the Department of Commerce tracks arts and cultural industries, but that doesn't include all what we might consider creative industries, of course you can be creative in many different professions in many different walks of life.  What's interesting here is this report looks at what the U.S. data shows, but it also looks of course all around the-- as I said, about 54 studies were brought into this meta review.  And it really identifies cultural and creative workers and industries as a separate dynamic segment of the world's economy, so one that's not worth tracking just in the U.S., but in nations in every part of the globe.

Jo Reed:  And is there any glimmer of good news in this report other than we're tracking cultural workers only to find out they're being devastated?

Sunil Iyengar:  Yeah.  Well so I do think what's helpful here in the report is they did a series of case studies, international case studies that show up at the end of the report that showcase digital innovation across cultural and creative industries.  Now we all know those of us whether we're in the arts or not how much we've had to rely on web streaming services for our entertainment and other sources, digital sources when we couldn't attend as many live in person events.  But what this report does is it shows that so called niche streaming services that is focused on more specialist and/or culturally diverse content appears to have prospered in their words since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  So I think there's a lot of work to be done to understand how are these so called niche streaming services that arts organizations have innovated during the pandemic, how are these services doing in terms of reach, accessibility, are they bringing in new audiences so to speak into the arts, are they hitting different cultural traditions, how capacious are these platforms and how will that translate into in person attendance for example when things start to open up again in full force.

Jo Reed:  Well we'll all be keeping our eye on that.  Sunil, thank you so much and I'll talk to you next month.

Sunil Iyengar:  Thank you, Jo.  Pleasure.

Jo Reed:  That was Sunil Iyengar.  He's the Director of Research and Analysis here at the National Endowment for the Arts.  This has been Quick Study.  The music is "We Are One" from Scott Holmes Music.  It's licensed through Creative Commons.  Until next time, I'm Josephine Reed.  Thanks for listening.

In this episode of Quick Study, we discuss an international study of COVID-19’s economic toll on creative and cultural industries worldwide.