Fact: The Arts Industry Is Bigger Than Agriculture

Time to Raise Our Voice — Made Easy Right Here

Arts and culture is a larger portion of the nation’s GDP than transportation, warehousing, or agriculture. Arts Advocacy Day is March 12 and 13, which means it’s time for us to make some noise about this.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that the arts and culture sector is a $763 billion industry that directly employs 4.9 million arts workers. This represents 4.2% of the nation’s GDP — a larger share of the economy than transportation, warehousing, or agriculture. To put a finer point on it, in 2015 (the most recent reporting year), the arts added four times more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.

When I learned these facts, I about fell over because we so rarely talk about our industry this way. This isn’t talking about “art for art’s sake.” And it’s not just about saving the NEA, which admittedly doesn’t give enough money to any of us to put us under if eliminated. It’s about raising our voice and speaking in a language that resonates with our elected officials and policymakers. The message is that this industry has a too-big-to-be-ignored economic impact on our nation while creating millions of jobs, and Arts Advocacy Day is designed for us to make some noise about it.

Below is shareable content for your social channel of choice. Share today for Arts Advocacy Day, and then next time someone talks about farming subsidies or transportation infrastructure, chime in that the arts and culture sector is a larger portion of our nation’s GDP than either of those. They’ll probably fall over, too.




For the readers who are wanting the next post full of California Symphony experiments and data, we have several projects and tests we’re running this season whose results I’ll begin sharing soon!

About the Author

Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director, California Symphony
Aubrey Bergauer defies trends, and then makes her own. In a time when most arts organizations are scaling back programs, tightening budgets, and seeing declines in tickets and subscriptions, Bergauer has dramatically increased earned and contributed revenue at organizations ranging from Seattle Opera to the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival to the California Symphony. Her focus on not just engaging — but retaining — new audiences grew Seattle Opera’s BRAVO! Club (for audience members in their 20’s and 30’s) to the largest group of its kind nationwide, led the Bumbershoot Festival to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue, and propelled the California Symphony to expand its audience by 70% and quadruple the size of the donor base.

A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, for the last 15 years Bergauer has used music to make the world around her better, through programs that champion social justice and equality, through marketing and audience development tactics on the forefront of trends and technology, and through proving and sharing what works in the rapidly changing landscape of funding, philanthropy, and consumer behavior. If ideas are a dime a dozen, what separates Bergauer is her experience and record of execution and impact at institutions of all sizes. Praised for her leadership which “points the way to a new style of audience outreach,” (Wall Street Journal) and which drove the California Symphony to become “the most forward-looking music organization around” (Mercury News), Bergauer’s ability to strategically and holistically examine and advance every facet of the organization, instilling and achieving common goals and vision across what are usually siloed marketing, development, and artistic departments, is creating a transformational change in the audience, in the office, on the stage, in the community, and is changing the narrative for the classical music industry.

“The Steve Jobs of classical music.” (Observer) Working to change the narrative for this business.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store