The recent growth of interest in the cultural industries and their role in employment creation has focussed attention on the nature of the artistic labour force. This paper considers the definition and identification of cultural workers in the economy, with particular reference to the types of data needed for empirical research on artists. I begin by showing how the definition of the cultural industries affects the categorisation of artistic workers, and I distinguish between creative artists (or arts workers) and non-cultural workers in these industries. In the process of specifying who is an artist, the issue of professionalism is considered to be critical. The paper discusses data sources, emphasising problems of coordination between aggregate labour force statistics and special purpose data collections such as sample surveys. The issues raised in the paper are illustrated with reference to Australian experience in carrying out research on artistic populations.