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Counting Games

I always look forward to reports that present a statistical summary of the arts in one form or another, so the past few weeks have provided me with a wealth of numbers to contemplate. The first such report that caught my eye was Guidestar’s report, “Nine Things You Might Not Know about U.S. Nonprofits“. It is overwhelming to read that there are more than 2.3 million nonprofits, only 1.5 million of which are registered with the IRS as tax-exempt. And there has been lots of growth in recent years, with the nonprofit sector growing faster than government or business sectors in terms of number of people employed and wages paid.

And then I read about a recent NEA research report done in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that tells us that arts and cultural production contributed $704.2 billion to the U.S. economy, a 32.5 percent increase since 1998. Moreover, people are spending more on performing arts now than they were 15 years ago. For those of us in the nonprofit sector, these numbers are initially quite heartening.

It turns out, however, that those numbers are for commercial and nonprofit spending combined. In fact, the fastest growing industry from arts and culture over this period was in the area of “other information services,” which includes internet publishing and broadcasting. Sound recording is the second greatest growth area.

There is no denying that the nonprofit sector is growing rapidly. But in the world of arts and culture, it seems the for-profit industries are the ones leading the way in terms of growth. Where will this trend take us?

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