Performing Arts

Performing Arts

Industry Outlook

The performing arts industry in the United States is a $44 billion business, according to a report by the market research group IBISWorld. The report included actors and dancers but not musical artists. Growth was slow in the industry from 2011 through 2016, with only 1.8 percent annual growth in that time period due to the sluggish economy and federal and state budget cuts. American Theatre reported that during the economic recession, local government support for the arts dropped by 18 percent, and state funding fell 27 percent. When there is less disposable income, spending on arts and entertainment is reduced. The industry has had slow growth since 2016, and IBISWorld projects some growth to continue through 2024, depending on the strength of the economy.

The coronavirus pandemic caused major disruptions in the performing arts industry in 2020, which carried over into early 2021. Nationwide quarantining policies to prevent large gatherings and protect the public's health constrained performing arts activities. Live performances as well as film and television productions were postponed or cancelled. A report by the National Endowment for the Arts, in collaboration with several other federal agencies, stated that the nature of many of the performing arts sectors entail the gathering of people, a disadvantage during the coronavirus outbreak. The entire performing arts sector was affected by the pandemic, with a steep decline in revenue that lead to a steep climb in unemployment. Many performing arts companies increased their fundraising efforts to sustain their businesses. Federal, state, and local governments also initiated relief plans to aid struggling nonprofit arts organizations and workers during the pandemic. Many performing arts organizations expanded their technology and offered virtual and on-demand performances, as well as performances outdoors and in large spaces with limited audience members, in efforts to keep afloat. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 will bolster the economy and open the doors to live performances and increases in film and video production activity.

Dancers will have little or no employment growth through 2028, according to the Department of Labor. Most of the job opportunities will be with smaller dance companies and with companies that hold professional dance competitions. More jobs may also be available with touring dance companies. Opportunities will be best in large cities like New York, Las Vegas, and Chicago. The DOL predicts that dancers may also find work with theme parks, in television and movies, and as judges in dance competitions. Many people are interested in working as professional dancers and choreographers, however, so competition for most dance jobs will continue to be intense. Dancers who have attended well-know dance schools or conservatories will have an edge in the job market.

The U.S. musical groups and artists industry is a $7.2 billion business, as reported by IBISWorld. This industry includes musicians, recording artists, and songwriters who perform in front of live audiences and/or in recording studios. Over the years 2015 to 2020, the industry had 1.4 percent annualized market size growth. The musical groups and artists industry is expected to have slow growth through 2024, according to In addition to peoples' incomes growing at a slower rate from 2019 to 2024 when compared to income growth from 2014 to 2018, there are now a wider variety of cost-effective options for consuming music.

Employment growth for musicians and singers is how little or no change through 2028, according to the Department of Labor. Competition for jobs will be fierce. Orchestras, operas, and other musical companies usually have difficulty getting funding, so there is usually minimal employment growth with these types of groups. Nonprofit music organizations may offer more opportunities for work, but during economic recessions they too face challenges in getting funding. The growth of digital downloads and streaming platforms has made it easier for people to access music recordings and performances. It’s also made it easier for musicians and singers to publicize their work, to gain more fans, and boost attendance at their live performances.

There will also be little or no change in employment for actors through 2028. The DOL predicts 10 percent job growth for actors, which is faster than the average. Video on demand and online television and streaming services are creating new content and production companies will need actors for these shows. Slow employment growth is expected for actors who work in performing arts companies though. More job opportunities will be with large theater companies, which have more stable budgets than those of small and medium-sized theaters. Actors will continue to face intense competition for roles. For stage roles in particular, actors who have a bachelor’s degree in theater may have the better chances of landing work than those who don’t.

Michael Kaiser, former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, predicted that the performing arts industry will continue to face challenges in the coming years, per an American Theatre article regarding his book Curtains? The Future of the Arts in America.

According to Kaiser, “The arts are not unpopular—they have simply grown too expensive.” To offset the production and personnel costs, performing arts companies continue to raise their ticket prices, which further limits the number of people who can afford the tickets. Kaiser predicts that by 2035, more people will be streaming live events in their homes rather than attending them in person; this will be due to the continued growth of digital delivery methods as well as the continued increase in ticket prices for live performances. The article pointed out that, “The numbers already bear [Kaiser] out: More people watch an HD-broadcasted production of the Royal Shakespeare Company in one night than go to Stratford in a year.” Demand for large-scale productions will be strong in the future, however, and large, well-known organizations will continue producing shows to meet this demand. The best bet for small and mid-sized performance arts companies to survive is to be creative and produce interesting shows, stay flexible and open to technology, and pay attention to young audiences.