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The Ukrainian opera teacher who continued his work using a gaming application to teach music remotely

In view of the EU's new report on the working conditions of artists and cultural professionals, we met Andrii Koshman, a Ukrainian musician who managed to continue his work in Europe through a gaming app.

By Myriam Patrou
July 07, 2023

When Andrii Koshman, a Ukrainian musician and classical opera baritone found his way to Europe in the fall of 2022, as a war refugee he wasn’t sure if he could continue working in his field for much longer. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic made things even worse. A combination of EU support policies, a creative spirit and little bit of innovation, led to solutions he could never before imagine. Andrii And his band are now thriving again across the EU!

Andrii is the concert director of Nova Opera, a group of young Ukrainian artists aiming to develop new ways of music theatre. Before the war started the group was in the making of a new project with partners from Greece, Croatia and Ukrainian based musicians. Just before their final rehearsal their plans took an unexpected turn.“Nova Opera was developing a project on the work of the Greek philosopher Socrates, back in 2021 with Greek director, Elli Papakonstantinou” Andrii remembers. “Kiev was a wonderful place to work on these things. In terms of facilities, state support and prices it was ideal. The project was going well and we reached our final rehearsal on February 23rd. But the next morning the war arrived”.

The project was postponed, since none of the partners could travel to the country anymore. But the band couldn’t leave the country unless they continued with another project. The group moved to Lviv, where they randomly met Myroslav Laiuk, a renowned Ukrainian poet and asked him to create a libretto for their next opera. In just one night the libretto was ready.

After two weeks, Nova Opera’s composer created the full score of the musical performance, where they included sounds of sirens and even taught how to sing it. The way to Europe and a safe environment was now open.

Fighting on the Cultural front

In April 2022 Andrii and his team arrived in Greece, after a long road trip that lasted two weeks. But they came on a special status and a special role. The Ukrainian government gave permission to artists to leave the country and fight on the cultural front to spread Ukrainian culture and the message to end the war. The EU supported them to achieve that.

“We were on a three month visa, since we had temporary protection in Greece. So we needed to go back to Ukraine every three months. Now as we continue to develop projects we can stay here as long as war exists in our country.”

We met Andrii in Athens, a few days after he arrived from a tour in Europe, at Romantso, after the publication of the European Commission’s new report on the Status and Working Conditions of Artists and Cultural and Creative Professionals. The report gives a glimpse into the working, social and living conditions of artists and creative professionals in the Continent.

The overall image of the report sketches a rather precarious standard of living for most creative professionals based on projects rather than full employment. But how is that reflecting on the lives of the most vulnerable, the artists coming from a war zone? How did Andrii and Nova Opera make it for more than a year and what were their current status and working conditions?

"Europe has a very similar mentality with Ukraine. For us only a few things actually changed” says Andrii. Andrii works as a freelancer, has social security, can attend any public hospital for free, pays taxes in his country and has a pension plan for when he returns back to Ukraine. Most importantly Nova Opera are still commissioned for concerts and new productions.

Nova Opera were finally staged at Romantso, a Creative Hub in downtown Athens where they could have rehearsals, the main reason to stay in Greece. The Hub provided them with music equipment and even a concert hall to perform. Τhe most important thing: a space with piano, drums, audio systems and a concert hall to give live performances.At the moment he is working on contemporary opera projects, but also an educational project with universities across Europe. Although Andrii managed to maintain his overall professional status but also his standard of living there was one thing missing, that he dealt with… innovation: teaching! The project based economy is good to keep Andrii and Nova Opera going but does little to integrate them into the local cultural systems, even if that would be for the benefit of local musicians too. Andrii spent most of the time in COVID-19 disappointed to leave his students in Kiev without the necessary lessons.

Everybody was tele-working but you can’t do that in opera teaching mainly due to the delays in the transmission of the signal through regular apps and the poor sound that goes though. “But can there not be any rich sound applications available” thought to himself  before he started a research he would never have imagined before. He spotted an app that allows him to teach in gaming forums, talking to gamers online! Andrii found a way to continue teaching at the National Music Academy of Ukraine from Greece through a gaming app which provides the highest quality of sound with the minimum delay.“Art is an international language. I am glad that when I arrived in Europe I could continue working on my field and create music. It is to our advantage, as artists, that we could continue our work in the field of arts and weren’t forced to change our jobs to survive” he says about his current living status.

Andrii would love to find a way to teach in Greece, but so far hasn’t found the infrastructure to further proceed. Sketching his life conditions for us he wishes to see more funding opportunities for artists and specifically contemporary opera musicians. “The field of contemporary music is less renowned in Greece, I believe” he says “Nova Opera would love to contribute more to the opera music scene of Athens”.

A study takes a deep dive into the status and working conditions of Artists & Creative Professionals

The report by a group of experts representing all 27 Member States in July 2023 points to the weaknesses in the overall status of creative professionals in the Union and provides policy recommendations to lift them in the strategic plan for culture 2019-2022

“The ability of art to inspire, to connect, to innovate and to bring people from different backgrounds and cultures together is becoming increasingly recognized at EU and Member States levels – not only because of the intrinsic value of culture but also because of its proven social and economic impacts. But does this recognition also extend to the artists and cultural and creative professionals who make this happen?”

The introduction of a new report on the status of artistic, cultural, and creative labor in the EU shows the “elephant in the room”. According to different studies in recent years, the creative sector of the economy is growing, but the people who serve it face precarious conditions.

A new report titled: ‘The status and working conditions of artists and cultural and creative professionals, conducted within the EU Open Method of Coordination (OMC) by a group of EU experts representing all 27 Member States, points to the weaknesses of the overall status of creative professionals in the Union and provides a set of recommendations.

  • You can download the full report: here

The group worked cross-sectorally and included experts in the field of culture as well as experts in areas of employment and social and economic affairs -experts from all 27 Member States. The European Commission convened it in 2021–2023 and in 6 plenary meetings and many exchanges formulated a set to advance further policy learning and development.

In line with the mandate of the OMC group, the findings of the report and its recommendations focus on the following four key areas:

  • Artist status and social security
  • Fair practice
  • Skills and lifelong learning
  • Artistic freedom

The report indicates that culture in the EU is primarily funded by national and European programs with project-based approaches. Though there are similarities, creative professionals and cultural workers face different conditions. Scandinavian countries offer full social security coverage, while in other countries artists have a special status. In contrast, countries like Greece, Hungary, and Malta lack a specific status.

Experts believe that a common European framework for artists’ working conditions could encourage Member States to adopt measures adapted to the specificities of artists, in particular the social protection schemes. An online sharing platform should also be set up, based on the data collected during the group’s work.


The Creatives Unite platform features stories and interviews with artists, culture, and creative professionals from various countries in the EU. The platform highlights the shared challenges they face and how mobility, cooperation, and integration can strengthen cultural, artistic, and creative production.

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Cultural and creative work in Europe today

According to an OECD report issued in 2022, Cultural and creative employment accounts for approximately 1 in 20 jobs in some OECD and European Union (EU) countries. It is particularly important in cities and capital regions, where it can amount to up to 1 in 10 jobs.

Another study conducted by Ernst & Young for the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers titled: Rebuilding Europe – The Cultural and creative economy before and after COVID-19, estimated that in 2019 the CCIs represented 4.4% of EU GDP in terms of turnover, with annual revenues of €643 billion and a total added value of €253 billion. That is equal to or higher than the national GDPs of some member states.

According to the same report, the CCIs were growing faster (+2.6% per year since 2013) than the EU average (+2%). And still, according to the latest report, the cultural and creative industries professionals face precarious conditions and lower levels of income.

Artists and cultural professionals often struggle with irregular contracts, which affect their financial stability and access to benefits.

“It is clear that in most countries artists and creative sector professionals rely on short projects and too often have to work on two jobs or more to maintain a decent standard of living,” says Joost Heinsius, participating expert for the Dutch Labour Platform for the Cultural and Creative Future.

“They receive a lower income compared to professionals from the same educational level but in different fields” he adds. One indication of the above comes with this Eurostat chart showing that creative workers tend to work more on a freelance basis, than other workers.

Social security, but not for all?

The findings suggest that while there are common patterns across the EU, such as project-based cultural markets funded by national and European programs, there are also vast differences.

According to Eurostat, the proportion of self-employed cultural workers is significantly higher (32%) than in employment in the economy as a whole (14%), and this difference has remained almost stable over many years.

The level of social protection varies widely across Europe, with some countries offering more comprehensive coverage than others. The lack of social protection for many artists and creative professionals is a major concern.

"Artists and creative professionals often face irregular income, job insecurity, and the need for continuous training and adaptation. Conditions vary across the continent, with some countries offering more support and stability for artists and creative professionals than others," says Joost Heinsius.

Some countries, such as France, Italy, Latvia, and Germany, have specific social security schemes for artists, ranging from unemployment benefits to health insurance and basic pensions, while others, such as Hungary, Malta, and Greece, seem to have no provisions at all, but are planning to introduce measures.

From the full social security coverage provided by the Scandinavian countries to the recognition of the status of the artist and the special group of Ukrainian artists in residence throughout Europe to the lack of a special status for artists with specific provisions and guarantees in Greece, Hungary, and Malta, as described by UNESCO, experts seem to agree that a common European framework will help national industries to mature and grow in an increasingly competitive international environment.

The group of experts suggests the setting up of an EU framework for artists and creative professionals' working conditions, to encourage Member States to adopt measures adapted to the specificities of artists, providing guidelines and minimum standards via a Council Recommendation or Council Conclusions for non-binding measures which cover all relevant areas for improving working conditions in the CCS.

In line with the 2021 European Parliament resolution on the situation of artists and cultural recovery in the EU, the group of experts recommends that Member States ensure full access to social protection for artists and cultural workers regardless of their labor regimes.

According to the report, the current status of artists and creative professionals among the 27 states varies significantly, as shown in the graph: 

Skills and lifelong learning in the digital age

While freedom of artistic expression is guaranteed in most EU countries, the artistic and cultural sector has faced numerous challenges in recent years, including the impact of digitalization, changing audience preferences, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digital technologies have opened up new opportunities for creation, distribution, and engagement, they have also led to a "winner-takes-all" market structure where a small number of successful artists and works capture a large share of revenues.

“The 27 experts agree that more should be done to guarantee fair practices at both the national and European levels. On the level of digital technology it is clear that platforms are stronger than creators and create value chains they control, while the creators hardly get remunerated” explains Joost Heinsius.

In response to these findings, the report calls on Member States to proceed to the recognition of the status of the artist, as described by UNESCO -bridging what seems to be another east vs west divide- promoting fair remuneration, and fair practices while fostering diversity through regulating cultural production.

The status of the artist: Policy recommendations by the group of experts

In many countries, the protection afforded to various industries can vary significantly. According to Joost Heinsius, the visual arts industry in Europe is less organized and generates less income compared to the design and music industries. 

this is due in part to the rich cultural diversity of European countries, which often prioritize the production of art and culture at the national level. However, this can leave creative professionals in smaller markets vulnerable to financial instability and uncertainty.

To address this issue, Heinsius advocates for the establishment of a European framework with standards that can regulate cultural production and ensure fair practices at both the national and European levels.

“A european framework creates european standards and that helps regulate cultural production and fair practice both on the european level and at the national level” says Joost Heinsius.

For a long time, those in the cultural and creative sector (CCS) EU-wide and beyond, have been calling for a fair and decent work environment. One of the initiatives that has been introduced by the EU to fund collaborative projects, Creative Europe, has been instrumental in supporting the industry and providing it with much-needed stimulus. 

"Cultural and Creative Production standards help improve mobility that is important for Europe” he adds. The good news is that all representatives of the 27 countries agree that the framework described in their report is a minimum necessary way forward.



The Creatives Unite will present a series of stories and interviews with artists, culture and creative professionals who live and work in different countries in the EU reflecting the common challenges they face. They also reveal how mobility, cooperation and integration can foster stronger and more relevant cultural, artistic and creative production today.


Photo credit: Christos Symeonidis, courtesy of the Support Art workers network