Producers make $102,860? Composers $63,560? Otis report on jobs and pay

The Hollywood sign looms behind an award statue conferred by the Screen Actors Guild. Employment in film and television is part of what's covered in the recently issued Otis Report on the Creative Economy.
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Employment in Los Angeles County’s creative industries rose by 6,000 jobs in 2013 after more modest gains the two previous years, according to the latest annual Otis Report on the Creative Economy.

But with 355,600 workers on payrolls, the county’s creative sector remained 37,600 jobs below the 2008 level -- a winnowing of about 10% of the creative workforce since the Great Recession.

The report, released Wednesday, is sponsored by Otis College of Art and Design in L.A. and compiled by economists from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. who use government data from federal and state agencies.

The pinnacle of wonkery in the Southern California arts scene, the Otis Report provides a potential tool for advocates pushing for better funding of the arts, or for legislation that would benefit the entertainment industry or other creative pursuits. It aims to portray creative work as a fundamental drive shaft of the region’s economy, rather than a spare tire.

The report compiled figures on jobs and pay from 2013 for a dozen creative industries that include not just arts and entertainment but also advertising, publishing and three manufacturing and product sales fields: fashion, furniture and toys. Thus defined, the report said, creative sector payrolls accounted for 406,900 jobs in L.A. and Orange counties in 2013 -- 12.5% of the region’s economy as a whole.


Wages for creative employees in the two counties totaled $33.5 billion -- $30.4 billion in L.A. and $3.1 billion in O.C.

Orange County, a far different landscape than L.A. because it isn’t a force in the entertainment or manufacturing industries, saw a loss of 400 creative-sector jobs in 2013, down to 51,300. That left creative employment in O.C. about 17% below the 2008 total of 61,700.

The decline for 2013 ran counter to overall job growth of 2.5% in Orange County. In L.A., a 1.7% employment increase in the creative industries matched job growth in the county economy as a whole in 2013.

The report’s authors forecast better things ahead -- a combined gain to about 415,000 creative jobs in the two counties between 2013 and 2018 that would, nevertheless, leave creative payrolls nearly 40,000 jobs below 2008 levels.

The Otis Report notes that with creative sector employers reducing their workforces since 2008, self-employment has risen -- up about 10% in L.A. County to 137,000, and up 9% in O.C. to 24,000. (The self-employment figures are for 2012 rather than 2013.)

Because some of the self-employed also show up on payrolls as they try to cobble together a living, their numbers can’t simply be added to payroll employees to produce a combined workforce total.

Of the 58 categories of work Otis has identified across 12 creative industries, only a dozen showed any growth in L.A. between 2008 and 2013. And only five added 1,000 jobs or more over that span.

The industries covered in the report range from industrial design and art galleries, with 400 and 800 payroll employees in L.A., respectively, to the mammoth but nevertheless downsized movie industry, which listed 101,800 people on its payrolls in 2013.

Film jobs were down about 8% from 2008, when the industry had 110,400 workers on payrolls. But there was a glimmer of recovery in 2013, with a gain of 1,300 jobs, not quite making up for the 1,600 that had been lost in 2012.

Despite losses, the film industry continued to account for more jobs in L.A. County than the next four creative categories combined.

Film, television, radio and the recording industry -- the main components of the entertainment industry, as defined in the Otis Report -- lost 10,400 jobs between 2008 and 2013, with the movies down 8,600 workers.

Broadcast television is the only entertainment category that has added workers in Los Angeles since 2008. It accounted for 11,400 jobs in 2013, up about 24% over the five years -- a gain of 2,200 jobs. But what broadcast TV gained, cable television lost, cutting 2,100 jobs over the same span -- a decline of about 32% that left the cable workforce at 4,600 in 2013.

Jobs in the performing arts -- L.A. County companies devoted to live theater, dance, music and other kinds of performance -- declined 12% between 2008 and 2013 -- a loss of 700 jobs that winnowed employment to 5,100. Museums added 100 jobs over the same period, employing 3,900 people in 2013.

More Angelenos have been describing themselves to the IRS as “independent artists, writers and performers” -- a broad category of freelancers that can include art conservators, costume designers, fashion models and journalists as well as movie stars, film directors and visual artists. There were 11,300 of these independent creators in L.A. in 2013, up about 11% from 2008.

Being an agent or manager for such folks -- and for workers in other sectors, such as athletes -- was a growing job description. L.A. harbored 7,600 agents and managers in 2013, a five-year gain of about 21%.

The Otis Report documents just how badly print media have declined as a large share of the advertisers and readers switched to online media. Newspapers, magazines and book publishers shed 37% of their L.A. County workforce between 2008 and 2013, a loss of 4,200 jobs that left the sector with 7,200 employees in 2013. Print publishing has been overtaken by Internet publishing and broadcasting, which added 1,600 jobs from 2008 to 2013, up to 8,300.

Out of 70 “creative occupations” in L.A. County for which earnings figures were available, only five paid a six-figure median salary.

They were advertising and promotions managers ($133,320), art directors ($130,700), marketing managers ($129,190), software designers ($114,980) and producers/directors ($102,860). About 45,000 people in L.A. County fit those job descriptions. Median means half the workers in a job make more and half make less.

In Orange County, 11 occupations paid a six-figure median -- and college and university arts and liberal arts teachers accounted for the discrepancy.

Teaching architecture pays a median of $66,590 in L.A. County and $124,830 in O.C. In fact, seven of the eight teaching categories for which figures were available for Orange County paid a six-figure median. In L.A. there were no six-figure wages among the nine teaching categories. (Library science teachers came closest, at $96,050; teachers of art, music and drama made $70,320 in L.A., with no figure available for Orange County.)

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, an economist on the team that wrote the Otis Report, said it’s probably not a case of Orange County institutions of higher learning being all that lavish toward their faculty. Instead, she said that L.A. has far more colleges and vocational schools than O.C., and they probably employ a larger share of part-time faculty whose earnings would skew the median wage downward.

Other examples of median earnings for creative work in L.A. County:

Writers and authors, $95,810; film and video editors, $85,800; architects, $81,380; librarians, $71,350; curators, $65,350; music directors and composers, $63,560; fine artists, including sculptors, painters and illustrators, $58,370; graphic designers, $52,440; camera operators in film and television, $49,290; reporters, $37,490.

Film projectionists are the creative sector’s worst-paid workers, at $21,660. No earnings figures were available for actors, dancers, choreographers or musicians.

Public television station KCET has scheduled an hourlong broadcast about the Otis Report on March 24 at 8 p.m.

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