Unpaid Work in the Creative Labour Market: A Qualitative study of the circumstances surrounding Artists Unpaid Work

Anthony B. Holm

Student thesis: Master thesis


The creative industries are known for being a difficult field for artists to navigate. Income conditions for artists are marked by great income inequalities with a spectrum ranging from very high incomes and low or even unpaid incomes. Intangible rewards such as gaining work experience and the chance to network seems to be replacing paid work. In many cases, unpaid work has now become the norm within certain industries. The creative industries are nonetheless highly attractive for artists to enter and the creative labour market now shows a market where the labour supply clearly exceeds the demand. In this thesis I will investigate the reasons behind the existence of unpaid work in these industries and the factors that contribute to this phenomenon. The research is conducted through an explorative study, taking base in already existing theoretical and empirical research conducted on artist’s labour markets, their careers and earnings. These findings are supplemented with qualitative interviews conducted with three different groups of creative workers, Graphic Designers, Fashion Designers and Contemporary artists. The research and analysis show that institutional circumstances and government subsidy for artistic training leads to an excess supply of artists in the market. Furthermore, in Denmark, lack of regulation on minimum wage contributes to the availability of low or zero cost labour for companies. The excess supply of labour, the legitimization of unpaid labour in the creative industries, and the willingness of creative workers to work in unpaid positions equally fuel a continuing cycle that contributes to the phenomenon of unpaid work.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages86