Artistic labor markets are puzzling ones. Employment as well as unemployment are increasing simultaneously. Uncertainty acts not only as a substantive condition of innovation and self-achievement, but also as a lure. Learning by doing plays such a decisive role that in many artworlds initial training is an imperfect filtering device. The attractiveness of artistic occupations is high but has to be balanced against the risk of failure and of an unsuccessful professionalization that turns ideally non-routine jobs into ordinary or ephemeral undertakings. Earnings distributions are extremely skewed. Risk has to be managed, mainly through flexibility and cost reducing means at the organizational level and through multiple job holding at the individual level. Job rationing and an excess supply of artists seem to be structural traits associated with the emergence and the expansion of a free market organization of the arts.

Reviewing research done not only by sociologists, but also by economists, historians and geographers, our chapter focuses on four main issues: the status of employment and career patterns, the rationales of occupational choice, occupational risk diversification, and the oversupply of artists.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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