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Streaming Kept California Entertainment Sector Employment Afloat During Pandemic, Study Says

Fine and performing arts were not so lucky, taking a 19.4% employment hit, according to Otis College of Art and Design’s annual report

Although California’s entertainment and digital media sector’s performance dipped by 3.3% in pandemic-torn 2020, it still remained one of the state’s most robust areas of the creative economy, employing nearly one million workers statewide, according to Otis College of Art and Design’s 2022 Otis College Report on the Creative Economy.

Fine arts and performing arts lost the most ground, going from one of the fastest growing sectors among California’s creative professions prior to the pandemic to suffering the steepest drop in employment during the pandemic. Its workforce shrank by 19% due to economic shutdowns, accounting for only 76,000 jobs statewide in 2020.

The report, released Wednesday by the school, is an annual study examining California’s creative economy that accounts for changes in the aggregated economic activity that involves creative industries including architecture, film production, post-production, fine arts and museums, as well as toy and fashion design.

Despite pandemic production disruptions and movie theater closures, entertainment and digital media still employed nearly 1 million workers (981,100 statewide), mostly concentrated in Los Angeles County and the Bay area. A pivot to digital content and streaming in those industries helped to keep the sector stable, the report said.

Courtesy Otis College School of Art and Design

Other highlights of the report:


• The overall impact of the downturn to creative economy sectors has been less appreciably intense and long-lasting as the 2007 financial crash and recession
• Of the five industry groups studied, Architecture and Related Services was the most stable sector in the face of the pandemic’s economic disruption. Employment fell by only 2.2% between 2019 and 2020, where industry jobs totaled 226,000.
• Fine and Performing Arts went from being among fastest growing sectors in the creative economy prior to the pandemic to the one with the steepest drop in employment. Its workforce contracted by 19.4% due to the economic shutdown, accounting for only 76,000 jobs statewide in 2020.
• Entertainment and Digital Media’s performance dipped by 3.3% in 2020, largely due to production disruptions and cinema closures, but it remains California’s robust sector and employed nearly one million workers (981,000) statewide, largely concentrated in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area. A focus on streaming and industry pivots to digital content helped to keep the sector stable during the pandemic year.
• Supply chain issues, inflation, labor shortages and disruptions from global events like the Ukraine war will have a continuing impact on the creative economy.

Adam Fowler, founding partner at CVL Economics, who produced the report in collaboration with Otis, told TheWrap in an email:

“Fifteen years ago, the Otis College Report on the Creative Economy, started a conversation that anchored arts, culture, and creative work in the larger context of the U.S. and California economies… Without the vision of Otis College to be a thought leader in this space, I think the policy landscape for arts and culture in California would look very different.

The value of the Report’s analysis proved prescient as its early years were characterized by austerity politics following the Great Recession. Far too often, arts and culture were seen as expendable when states and localities were faced with declining fiscal revenues and the need to balance budgets. Thankfully, that is changing. Today, the Report continues its tradition of clearly presenting the value of the creative economy and highlighting ways in which sound economic and regulatory infrastructures must adapt to the global competition facing California over the next decade.”