The Role of Culture in Determining Employment in the Arts

There’s a great story about Bob Dylan that says he ran away from home 17 times and was brought home 16 times. While it is mostly just an anecdotal tale told for fun it does tie in nicely to what I’m disusing for this week’s post. Last week I did a post [see here] about the number of people in the UK and Ireland that worked in the arts, recreation, and entertainment sector . I noted that the percentage level of participation in this sector was larger in the UK than in Ireland but I didn’t really have any explanation for as to why, but this week I think I might, culture.

Dylan’s story of running away from home so many times to become a musician is brilliant because it does shed light on a very ubiquitous characteristic among artists, they’re usually very independent individuals. They don’t mind busking around the world living out of a suitcase instead of going to college with all their friends to better their employment prospects. So, it would make sense that cultures with greater levels of individualism might have more people in employment in the arts.

It just so happens that an index to capture levels of individualism in different cultures was created by sociologists Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. They analysed the survey responses of individuals all over the globe in different countries and used these responses to create a metric for how individualist or collectivist different countries were. This metric is refereed to as the IDV metric and if a country has a high IDV value this indicates a high level of individualism which is explained below:

“Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him- or herself and his or her immediate family.”

Whereas a country with a low IDV value would indicate a high level of collectivism within the culture which is explained below:

“Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.”

When we look at the IDV values of Ireland and the UK we do see that the UK has a higher score. In addition to this the UK also has a larger percentage of it’s workers engaged in employment in the arts, recreation, and entertainment sector in 2019. We can also see that countries with lower IDV scores like Lithuania and Greece also have lower percentages of their workers engaged in employment in the arts, recreation, and entertainment sector in 2019.

IDV Tables

This observation is interesting but wider analysis would definitely be needed to infer that levels of IDV within different cultures impact the number of people who choose to become artists or entertainers. However, this does bring in a decent question as to whether the culture we are from affects our professional choices to some degree. Us Irish are quite happy to accept our “good craic” stereotype while abroad on holidays, or sporting events, or music festivals, but I wonder would we be willing to accept that our culture also helps influence the careers we end up pursuing?

This post is dedictaed to the memory of Gerard Hendrik Hofstede who unfortunately passed away this year on the 12th of Febuary. If you are interested in keeping up with more analysis of the Irish music industry, please give Music Economics a like on Facebook.

By Daragh O’Leary

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