Arts quango Creative Scotland has vowed to take action after finding that two thirds of working artists are bringing home less than £5000 per annum.
It has warned artists across Scotland are facing the prospect of never earning a “stable salary” because have to work for very little or free so often.
A new blueprint for the future of the arts in Scotland - deliberately published at the height of the Edinburgh Festival season - reveals many have to take on other jobs or rely on relatives for support to help make ends meet.
The report warns of the prospect of the cultural scene losing its edge and relevance unless pay, living and working conditions are improved across the board because people from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to enter the sector.
Creative Scotland said that it was essential that people working in the arts “come from a variety of backgrounds to allow alternative stories to be told and heard.”
In its new arts strategy, the national funding body said it wants to ensure all organisations and projects it supports are demonstrating “best practice” and have “fair pay” policies in place.
It states: “At the heart of this strategy is a commitment to better understand and promote the unique role artists play in our lives and in wider society. We need to reimagine how Scotland can provide the type of support that artists need to sustain themselves at different stages of their careers.
“Being an artist, and working in the arts, is not always an easy choice. Many artists and cultural producers work as freelancers, are self-employed and juggle more than one job. This can result in challenging working patterns and unpredictable and uneven rates of pay despite the fact that many in the sector are highly-trained, and educated to degree, and often to postgraduate and Masters level.
“Others are self-taught and learn in more informal but equally important ways. This commitment to practice, education, learning and self-reflection informs an artist’s development throughout their career. However, there is no guarantee of ever earning a stable salary.
“Artists often work for very little or for free. They devote long periods of unpaid time for the artistic research, fundraising and professional development necessary in order for them to progress their work. They are not recognised as ‘job-less’, even though they may be ‘income-less’. This means they are unable to claim unemployment and other associated benefits.”
The two-year strategy has been drawn up following previous extensive reviews of sectors like dance, literature, music, theatre and visual arts.
It warns of “critical pressure” on the funding of arts organisations across the country due to standstill or dwindling support from local authorities.
But it also calls for a review of existing arrangements to ensure that there are opportunities for the arts to operate outside of the financial and artistic pressures that a market-driven system can bring.
It states: “The power of arts and culture to stimulate economic growth across the creative industries is widely recognised. Growth within the creative industries cannot be generated without a strong and experimental arts sector supported by public funding.”
Leonie Bell, director of arts and engagement at Creative Scotland said: “Artists, cultural producers and arts organisations are a central part of a healthy, innovative, and dynamic society.
“Art and culture sit at the heart of who we are as a nation, should be valued in and of themselves and I’m pleased we’re publishing the strategy at a time when artists from all over the world are gathering in Edinburgh for the festivals.
“The strategy places value on the contribution artists make to our society and our communities. It calls for greater commitment to paying artists fairly for their work to enable them to sustain their career and sets out how we will work with the cultural sector to put art and artists at the heart of society in Scotland.”