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The University of Southampton

HUMA2013 How the Arts Work: A Practical Introduction to Cultural Economics

Module Overview

How will the arts get working again after Covid-19? This is a critically important question for everyone who cares about them, artists and audiences alike. If you’re a student considering a career in the arts you’ll want to know where fresh opportunities are likely to open up and where perhaps they won’t. Will things return to “normal”, or are we living through a revolution from which there is no going back? This module will run in a new way in 2020/21. Aims and learning outcomes haven’t changed hugely but the arts landscape definitely has. Key concepts in cultural economics will be introduced to you. You’ll discover their explanatory power and use them (cautiously!) to predict the future. As in previous years you will engage with art – live where possible, now also online – and you’ll review a selection of “real” and virtual arts events. Alongside lectures you’ll watch a series of specially-produced video conversations with artists and programmers who work in music, theatre and the visual arts – sharing their knowledge and passion, hopes and sometimes fears. We’ll keep government policy under close review and see what difference policy interventions make if and when they happen. You’ll get seminar support either face-to-face or online, and the usual opportunities to discuss your written work with the module co-ordinator before handing it it. You’ll meet colleagues from the John Hansard Gallery and Turner Sims concert hall (both venues run by the University of Southampton and supported by Arts Council England): you’ll learn how they put programmes together, how they collaborate with other promoters nationally and internationally, how they reach out to audiences, and how you can get involved with the work they do.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • communicate in writing
  • manage your time effectively
  • complete structured writing of assignments
  • engage in constructive critical debate with others
  • influence other people’s thinking [about the arts], and influence the way they choose to spend some of their leisure time
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • make well informed choices about your future attendance at arts events
  • demonstrate critical understanding of a range of professional arts practices
  • write insightful reviews of arts events
  • make realistic suggestions for future arts programming in and beyond Southampton
  • help to generate audiences for arts events
  • make connections between academic theory and current professional practice in the areas of arts management and cultural policy
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather and analyse information
  • evaluate different sorts of evidence
  • debate issues


Theory. The module provides a non-technical introduction to some of the key ideas in cultural economics. We will read Howard Becker (1982) and Richard E. Caves (2000) together– two classics – and explore Pierre Bourdieu’s highly influential thinking around the sociology of culture. Practice. You will be expected to watch a series of specially-produced video conversations with artists and programmers who work in music, theatre and the visual arts. Arts experts share their knowledge: these conversations will be rich in information. You should make notes and do follow-up research in private study time. Critical engagement. You will read a selection of professionally-written arts reviews and work to develop a critical vocabulary of your own, using it to describe and evaluate a selection of arts events, live and/or online. Where possible you will have the opportunity to attend events at the University’s John Hansard Gallery and/or Turner Sims concert hall. You will also explore the many cultural events now available online. Political debate. Issues of inequality in the UK’s arts and cultural sector will be discussed in some of the video conversations. There will be preparatory and follow-up readings. The present emergency. The impact of Covid-19 on arts organisations, on individual artists and on audiences is sure to be a running theme in the video conversations. UK government interventions designed to help artists through the crisis will be discussed as and when they happen. Throughout the module you’ll get seminar support either face-to-face or online. You will have opportunities to discuss your written work with the module co-ordinator before handing it it. Near the end of the semester you will submit a portfolio of written work for formal assessment. This should contain three or four reviews of arts events with which you have engaged (2,000-2,500 words, taken together), and one essay on an arts management or policy topic chosen from a list supplied (2,000-2,500 words).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will comprise a mix of delivery methods, such as lectures, seminars, workshops, individual tutorials We are aiming to deliver a significant amount of your teaching face to face, blended with online learning, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. In which case the delivery could comprise an increased element of online learning, or move to entirely online if face to face teaching is not possible or advisable. In addition, teaching methods include specially produced video conversations with arts managers and other protagonists of the world of the arts.

Completion of assessment task60
Wider reading or practice52
Preparation for scheduled sessions12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Colbert, François et al. (2009). Marketing culture and the arts. 

English, James F. (2005). The economy of prestige: prizes, awards, and the circulation of cultural value. 

Alexander, Victoria D. (2003). Sociology of the arts: exploring fine and popular forms. 

Seabrook, John (2000). Nobrow: the culture of marketing, the marketing of culture. 

Towse, Ruth (ed.) (2013). A handbook of cultural economics. 

Frey, Bruno (2000). Arts & economics: analysis and cultural policy. 

Abbing, Hans (2006). From high art to new art. 

Becker, Howard S. (1982). Art worlds. 

Mokwa, Michael P., Dawson, William M. and Prieve, E. Arthur (eds) (1980). Marketing the arts. 

Abbing, Hans (2002). Why are artists poor? The exceptional economy of the arts. 

Caves, Richard E. (2000). Creative industries: contracts between art and commerce. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Event reviews  (2500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Small fees may be payable to non-Southampton (freelance) experts contributing video content. These fees, to an indicative maximum of £500, will be covered from Andrew Pinnock’s retained contribution.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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