AVL Creative Sector: By the Numbers

May 16, 2018

Arts and culture are not just amenities–they are significant numbers that represent household incomes, livelihoods, and economic growth in the Asheville area.

This April, during the Asheville Area Arts Council’s 8th Annual Creative Sector Summit, local leaders presented a brand-new panel on the economic value of our creative sector, using data that, until this point, has never been compiled.

“Our hope is that this kind of data will help elevate the entire industry,” said Stefanie Darr, Executive Director of the Asheville Arts Council.

“It’s a critical piece of the infrastructure we need to continue supporting and developing our arts community,” said panelist Mike Marcus, the assistant director of the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design.

This innovative data is now available for the Asheville area through the purchase of the Creative Vitality Suite, a regional data snapshot report that gives the big picture of a region’s creative landscape.

The Asheville Area Arts Council, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Asheville, River Arts District Artists, and Center for Craft, Creativity and Design with UNC Asheville have all furnished this effort.

Creative Sector Overview

In total, there are 7,993 total creative jobs in Buncombe County, including 1,036 photographers, 769 musicians and singers, 752 writers and authors, 513 graphic designers, and 328 fine artists.

Since 2015, the industry earnings of creatives has increased by 8%, totaling $397.8 million.

Asheville is also ranked 1.25 on the Creative Vitality Index (CVI), which measures the health of the creative economy as it compares to the national index average of 1.

Case study on the music industry

“We have an active, fast-growing music industry and a concentrated, skilled workforce,” said Reiber. “This is a specialization that differentiates our region.”

In partnership with the Nashville Chamber, the Asheville Chamber’s Director of Economic Research Heidi Reiber used the Creative Vitality Suite to produce a case study on the music industry’s impact in the local economy. A graphic of the 2016 study can be found here.

From 2010-2018, the music industry core employment grew by a staggering 76%, totaling 778 jobs. The industry is led by musical groups and artists and musical instrument manufacturing. The job concentration in the musical manufacturing industry is 9.54 times the national average, providing 854% more jobs than the national average. The industry also generates $10 million annually in state and local tax revenues.

With consideration to peripheral industries such as education and religious services, the music industry adds $171 million to the gross regional product.

Data as a tool for artists

“This software will change our lives as artists in Asheville,” said local artist Wendy Whitson. “These numbers will put us on the map.”

With the Creative Vitality Suite, the arts community can quantify the impact and economic contribution of the creative sector in Buncombe County.

“Having these numbers will allow artists to galvanize the community around planning, support, advocacy, and education,” said Reiber. “They can use this data to recruit leaders and apply for grants that rely on data to show and tell the industry’s story.”