a-n The Artists Information Company—written evidence (CRF0050)


House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee inquiry “A creative future”



About a-n The Artists Information Company


a-n The Artists Information Company[1] is the largest artists’ membership organisation in the UK with over 28,000 members. We support artists and those who work with them in many practical ways, acting on behalf of our membership and the visual arts sector to improve artists’ livelihoods.


In 2020 the company celebrated its 40-year anniversary, having grown from a grassroots 500-copy-a-month newsletter in 1980, to a magazine, online platform, and now a professional membership organisation focusing on our members’ needs and acting on their behalf to improve artists’ livelihoods.


a-n plays a significant role leading change in the visual arts sector as evidenced by the Paying Artists[2] research and campaign initiated in 2014. This led to the development of the Exhibition Payment Guide, widely endorsed as the industry standard. Work is underway to refresh the Exhibition Payment Guide and replace it with a new, comprehensive Artists Payment Guide to reflect a changing visual arts sector, the complexity and breadth of artists labour, and creative practice.


a-n is informed by and actively listens to our membership and stakeholders. Working in partnership with 68 higher education institutions a-n supports the transition from student to professional visual artist.


a-n invests in artists as leaders to create a stronger visual arts sector. a-n’s Artists Council is a diverse-led advisory body, made up of 15 artists from across the UK with a wide range of practice, networks and experience. 2022/23 marks the fifth year of a-n’s partnership with Clore Leadership,[3] providing leadership training for Artists Council and a-n Clore Visual Arts Fellows.


In response to the pandemic, increased precarity for freelancers, and the needs of visual artists, since March 2020 we have distributed over £2.5million in hardship funding and bursaries to artists and visual arts professionals (such as art technicians, art handlers, conservators).


a-n is the UK committee of the UNESCO International Association of Art[4] (IAA), a member of Culture Action Europe[5] arts council and a Sector Support Organisation for the visual arts funded by Arts Council England. In 2021 we helped to establish the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Visual Arts,[6] acting as the Secretariat with our partners DACS and CVAN.



Inquiry Questions


  1. Which areas of the creative industries face the greatest potential for disruption and change in the next 5–10 years, and what impact could this have?  a) What changes are expected in the way creative/cultural content is produced; the way audiences are engaged (for example through digital or immersive experiences); and the way business models operate?


The following response looks at the opportunities in the global art market, creating content for different platforms, audience digital consumption of creative content, NFTs and the demand for immersive digital art experiences, and emphasises the need to protect visual artists and ensure that they receive proper payment for their creative work including resale payments, copyright and licensing fees.  This will require artists to be aware of their rights, be able to seek expert legal advice, contracts, and be supported to collect payments. This work is currently undertaken by a-n The Artists Information Company and DACS.


Global Art Market – Digital economy

Art Basel and UBS produce an annual report on the global art market.[7]


Following its biggest recession for 10 years in 2020, the global art market recovered strongly in 2021, with aggregate sales from dealers and auction houses estimated at $65.1 billion, up by 29% from 2020, with values also surpassing pre-pandemic levels of 2019.


The US market retained its leading position, shifting up slightly to 43% of worldwide sales by value. Greater China was the second-largest art market with 20%, while the UK slipped back to third place at 17%. It is important that the committee considers how the UK can retain it’s market position and the correlation between future investment in artists to create innovative work that utilises the latest technology, will help to achieve this.


The online market continued to expand in 2021, growing by 7% to reach an estimated $13.3 billion. Online sales accounted for 20% of sales in the art market, double the level of 2019 (9%).


Outside of the art market’s $65.1 billion in turnover, NFTs saw substantial growth in 2021. External sales in these two categories on NFT platforms on the Ethereum, Flow, and Ronin blockchains have grown from $4.6 million in 2019 to $11.1 billion in 2021.


The value of sales for art-related NFTs expanded over a hundredfold year-on-year reaching $2.6 billion. In 2020, the bulk of art-related NFT transactions by value (75%) were primary sales, but, in 2021, the context changed dramatically, with value concentrated on resales (73%). These highly liquid and continuously trading NFT marketplaces have attracted very speculative buyers, and on average, art-based NFTs are bought and resold within around one month (versus the average resale period on the art market of 25 to 30 years).


The growing interest in digital art is evident, particularly for younger collectors. Over half of the high net worth collectors surveyed (56%) in the report were planning to buy digital art in 2022, and this was highest for millennial collectors (61%), and in Taiwan (71%), Singapore (62%), and the UK (61%).


Digital remains a pivotal topic. The total value of online sales continued to grow, indicating that e-commerce is here to stay.


a-n The Artists Information Company supports artists to engage with the market and works in partnership with DACS, who collect and distribute royalties to visual artists and their estates through Payback, Artist's Resale Right, Copyright Licensing and Artimage. It is important as technologies expand that artists creative work is protected and they receive payment for this work.


Changing Art Practices

There is a trend for immersive experiences and artists working with specialists from other disciplines to create new works as exemplified by Teamlab, an international art collective, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world teamLab [8]


Other examples are the Van Gogh Experience Van Gogh London Exhibit: The Immersive Experience[9] and sell out exhibitions such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms | Tate Modern[10] which also correspond to the rise in the use of social media and desire for visitors to create content for their personal use and platforms. It is possible that in the future a large portion of artists incomes will be made up of copyright and licensing fees and they will need specialist support to enable them to engage in this emerging market.


Audiences and supporting creative content

A YouGov survey published by DACS, June 2022[11] finds that 81% of people say that accessing culture (music, art, books, films, images, podcasts, and TV) through a digital device is important in their daily lives.


In one of the biggest shifts in how people access culture in a generation, three-quarters of respondents reported accessing cultural content more than 3 times a week in their home via tech such as tablets, laptops, phones and e-readers. Significantly, 63% of people surveyed are downloading cultural content for free, with 44% paying for content 1-2 times a month.


The survey ‘Accessing and valuing cultural content’ provides greater understanding of how digital devices and technology are helping reduce levels of cultural exclusion but this is coming at a cost to creators such as artists, performers, writers, and musicians that are not paid fairly or at all when they create cultural content that is shared.


With over 30% of the UK workforce – equivalent to more than 2.1m people – working in the cultural and creative industries contributing an annual £116bn to the UK economy, the results published show public support for new ways to pay creators for the work they make. 72% per cent of people support artists, performers and creative workers being paid when their work is shared digitally, whilst 67% of respondents supported the government being open to new initiatives, which would help sustain the UKs cultural and creative industries.


As the cultural landscape shifts and more people are downloading and watching cultural content through their devices, it is significant that only 5% of people surveyed think that every creator is paid for their creative work that is available online to be streamed, shared, or downloaded. However, 77% of our survey respondents are keen that technology companies be open to new initiatives to support creators of works that they access via shareable tech.


Caroline Dinenage MP, said: “As the UK rebuilds post-pandemic and we seek to cement the UKs reputation as a creative economy for all, it is time that we look at how to collaborate across industries to ensure everyone and every sector can thrive in the long term. It is important that government looks at workable and sustainable opportunities that Europe and the rest of the world have put in place that the UK could feasibly replicate to ensure our country remains at the forefront of the global creative economy.”


Gilane Tawadros, Chief Executive, DACS said: “Most British artists earn less than the minimum wage, and many were locked out of the cultural recovery fund as freelance workers. As the UK seeks new ways of investing in and growing its economy post-covid and post-Brexit, it is time to ask how government and industry can collaborate, and how cultural creators can share in the success of our technology companies.”


‘Accessing and valuing cultural content’ was conducted in June 2022.


Visual Arts Sector

Visual arts will face particular disruption as it is currently structurally underfunded in comparison to other art forms. Cuts in funding for visual artists and the visual arts sector, or standstill funding which is a cut in real terms, will impact further. The cost of living and energy crisis combined with inflation will not only impact individual artists it will also impact museums, galleries, schools, universities and other employers of artists. Artists and freelancers working in visual arts are the first to lose work as evidenced in our survey Covid-19 impact survey - a-n The Artists Information Company.[12] The results are a stark reminder of precarity in the arts. Artists have long been asked to navigate and shape-shift through a complex set of structures, relationships and arrangements that are both global and local. What starts in the studio as a mostly solo creative practice is reliant on a thriving visual arts sector, audiences, relationships and connections. When these break down so does the ability to sustain creative practice and work.



  1. What skills will be required to meet these emerging opportunities and challenges?


Support for Artists and Freelancers working in the Visual Arts Sector

a-n The Artists Information Company delivered £2.5m (private/public funds) to visual arts and freelancers working in the visual arts sector in small grants to enable the recipients to continue to develop their businesses and creative practice in the pandemic. The grants enabled visual artists and freelancers working in the visual arts sectors to make change, with many using the grant for digital innovation: website development, software and technology to support their businesses/ creative practice, and online courses to improve digital sales. Here is an example A Q&A with…Daksha Patel, artist working with scientific systems to visualise and map the human body - a-n The Artists Information Company.[13] Small-scale grants of up to £2,000 specifically for skills, equipment, software and website development will significantly benefit visual artists and freelancers working in the visual arts sector to enhance their businesses and creative practice. a-n The Artists Information company is set up to deliver small grants and would be able to manage and evaluate this on behalf of the Government.[14]



  1. What actions are needed from the Government and local authorities to ensure there is an appropriate talent pipeline equipped with these skills?  a) How can this be sufficiently flexible to take account of the pace of change in the sector?


Government needs to provide support and effective funding for arts courses at higher education. It is also important to hear government advocating for the value of arts education and the development of creative skills and behaviours in relation to employability and economic value. The over-promotion of STEM as the most economically viable and valuable subjects for young people and for economic growth ignores the importance of the creative industries – as well as the significant growth in the number of people contributing to the sector as freelancers, the self-employed and sole traders.


The Creative Industries contributed £116bn in GVA in 2019 and supports 1 in every 16 jobs (DCMS 2019). This success has been built upon the UK’s world leading arts education and its entrepreneurial graduates. Arts education is fundamental to the lives of the next generation of artists and designers


Cuts to arts courses at HE will limit the availability of places on arts courses and result in fewer courses being offered. This will have a detrimental impact on the UK’s ability to retain our world leading position, attract inward investment through our cultural capital and our share of the global art market. The UK art market thrives due to a well-developed infrastructure of commercial galleries, public museums and galleries, and most importantly artists, of which the majority of the workforce have studied on arts courses.


Anticipated impact of prioritising STEM subjects

If the current trend to privilege STEM over arts subjects continues over the next 5 -10 years, the talent pipeline driving our creative industries will be compromised. An arts education drives creative thinking in all sectors. The World Economic Forum has identified[15] creativity as one of the top ten skills of the future therefore investing in arts education means investing in our future workforce regardless of which sector they enter. Creativity and an ability to ‘think outside the box’ that an arts education provides is already in great demand across the industry spectrum.


Cuts to higher education threaten the future of the creative industries

The widespread cuts in the arts higher education sector are likely to disrupt the talent pipeline driving the UK’s creative industries over the next 5 - 10 years. These cuts are already undermining the government’s Levelling Up agenda in areas that have been identified as Priority Places, in need of increased investment. For example, in June 2022 the University of Wolverhampton announced plans to cut 146 courses including performing arts, fashion, social sciences, interior design and fine art. Wolverhampton is a government-designated Priority Place and these cuts are likely to disadvantage future students in the area wishing to pursue a career in the arts.


a-n has partnerships with 65 HE institutions, supporting students through to graduation and becoming professional artists and art workers. We have deep knowledge, built up over 40 years, of the pathways and routes into the creative and cultural industries. Our members have studied on arts courses and many now work in HE institutions and by implementing cuts there will be large-scale redundancies in the HE sector that will impact on the livelihoods of artists.


We believe that Higher Education is a fundamental right of all people in this country and as Martina Mullaney, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Bolton has commented “students deserve the full art school experience, as any other sector would provide for their students.”


Keith Piper, artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Middlesex University proposes that setting the arts against sciences is likely to see “current and future prosperity as being located solely within the application of technology, with human creativity, problem solving and decision making becoming expendable.”


David Kefford, artist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire states that “our creative arts students are an integral part of the local community and play a key role in the wider arts ecology. They are the creative entrepreneurs of the future and without HE courses to nurture their talents society would be a poorer place to live.

a-n supports calls from CHEAD[16] (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) to:


  1. What actions are needed from industry to support the talent pipeline development? a) What actions are needed from organisations in the creative industries to prepare for and accommodate the requirements of the future workforce?


Kickstart/Creative Apprenticeships

a-n The Artists Information Company has taken part in the Government Kickstart and Apprenticeship Scheme and this was a positive experience for both employees and employer, however this scheme is no longer active. We would like to see more initiatives of this nature and for those to be supported by the Government for a longer period, fully funded, making the offer more valuable to those pursuing a career in the creative industries.


Long-term funding

Long-term funding is required to ensure that institutions can provide sustainable employment opportunities for arts workers. For example, training opportunities need to be followed up with paid internships, paid internships with career development support and entry level roles with progression opportunities.



  1. What role do innovation and research & development play in addressing the future challenges facing the creative industries? a) What actions are needed from the Government, funding bodies and sector organisations to support innovation, and research & development?


Fund Digital Research and Development

Ongoing development in digital and immersive experiences are essential to continuing and innovating engagement options for audiences unable to or less able to access or engage with in-person activity. Funding research and development in this area is essential to providing accessible and equitable cultural provision.


Support for practice-based researchers

Funding bodies should make it easier for candidates to apply for practice-based research positions, where their body of work can be assessed rather than their academic journey.


  1. How effective are the Government’s existing strategies at supporting the creative industries to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead?


The Cultural Recovery Fund benefited larger arts organisations rather than freelance workers. The average loss of income[17] for a visual arts worker during the pandemic was just over £7,000. Future programmes of support must be tailored to meet the needs of the freelancers, who make up 70% in the visual arts. Despite this, there is a lack of data on this significant proportion of the UK’s creative workforce. We need to develop a straightforward means of identifying and supporting freelancers in the arts.


Evidence from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre shows[18] that freelancers feel undervalued and misunderstood. This situation will persist over the next 5 - 10 years unless the government takes steps to better understand and support the creative industries’ freelance economy. As recommended by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre[19] (PEC), the APPG for Creative Diversity[20] and the Centre for Cultural Value, the Government should consider introducing a Freelance Commissioner to ensure resources are distributed more equally, giving freelancers better access to benefits such as sick pay and parental leave and to interrogate whether freelancers are overly relied upon in creative sector workforces.


To fulfil their potential the creative industries will need ongoing and new tax reliefs

Stimulating growth will be critical to the economy over the next 5 - 10 years. With the right investment, Oxford Economics projects[21] that the creative industries sector could recover faster than the UK economy as a whole, growing by over 26% by 2025 and contributing £132.1 billion in Gross Value Added – over £28 billion more than in 2020, and more than the financial services, insurance and pension industries combined. As an active member of Creative UK, a-n The Artists Information Company is calling on the government to reaffirm its commitment to existing Creative Industries Tax Reliefs – strengthening and extending reliefs that already leverage investment into the UK and introducing new reliefs where growth potential is strong.


a-n The Artists Information Company supports tax reliefs that benefit the visual arts sector.


The Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief has been successful

The Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief has provided[22] an additional source of unrestricted funding which visual arts organisations have been able to reinvest back into public-facing work, which has increased the benefit to the public. Tax reliefs work for the Creative Industries, which is why we join Creative UK in calling for:




  1. What lessons can the UK’s creative industries learn from other countries, and other sectors?


We need to develop new ways of working with Europe. Our recent research[23] into the impact of Brexit on the visual arts sector has led us to make the following policy recommendations. We need:




Universal Basic Income

Given the often precarious nature of freelance work in the visual arts, CVAN recommends the UK learn from international income schemes designed for artists in particular, including but not limited to the examples below.




The Smart Fund


DACS’ Manifesto for Artists[25] and CVAN’s research[26] have highlighted the devastating impact that COVID-19 had on artists. The Smart Fund[27] is a proposal for a collaboration between writers, artists, performers, technology manufacturers and government which could raise between £250 and £300 million a year to support the UK’s creative sector and provide a direct way for tech companies to invest in culture. Similar initiatives operate successfully in many countries worldwide, paying out over £930 million to creators and performers globally in 2018 alone.



September 2022



[1]              http://www.a-n.co.uk/ 

[2]              https://www.a-n.co.uk/paying-artists/ 

[3]              https://www.cloreleadership.org/ 

[4]              https://www.iaa-europe.eu/ 

[5]              https://cultureactioneurope.org/ 

[6]              https://www.visualartsappg.org.uk/ 

[7]              Art Market 2022.pdf (d2u3kfwd92fzu7.cloudfront.net)

[8]              https://www.teamlab.art/

[9]              https://vangoghexpo.com/london/

[10]              https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/yayoi-kusama-infinity-mirror-rooms

[11]              https://www.dacs.org.uk/getattachment/Latest-News/New-survey-shines-light-on-more-people-accessing-c/Accessing-and-Valuing-Cultural-Content-and-Creators-YouGov-Survey.pdf.aspx 

[12]              https://www.a-n.co.uk/research/covid-19-impact-survey/ 

[13]              https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/a-qa-withdaksha-patel-artist-working-with-scientific-systems-to-visualise-and-map-the-human-body/ 

[14]              https://www.a-n.co.uk/about/a-n-artists-bursaries-2022-23/?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=feature-block&utm_campaign=artists-bursaries-22-23 

[15]              https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them/

[16]              https://www.chead.ac.uk/

[17]              https://cvan.art/work-campaigns/arts-workers/

[18]              https://pec.ac.uk/policy-briefings/freelancers-in-the-creative-industries 

[19]              https://cdn2.assets-servd.host/creative-pec/production/assets/publications/Freelancer-policy-briefing.pdf

[20]              https://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/resources/reports/creative-majority-report-policy-recommendations-v2.pdf

[21]              https://creativeengland-my.sharepoint.com/personal/laura-jade_wearecreative_uk/Documents/Documents/Website/Creative%20UK%20Group%20-%20UKCI%20Report%202021%20(1)%20smaller.pdf 

[22]              https://www.yvan.org.uk/mgetr 

[23]              https://cvan.art/work-campaigns/international-connections/

[24]              https://artsinfopointuk.com/

[25]              https://www.dacs.org.uk/about-us/manifesto 

[26]              https://cvan.art/work-campaigns/arts-workers/

[27]              https://thesmartfund.co.uk/