Author Michael Lind weighs in with this thought-provoking essay about what happens when an art form shrinks to a niche market. Using literature and architecture as examples, he organizes major and minor arts horizontally, based on audience size:
Today's minor arts, I think, include theater, ballet, opera, symphonic music and literary fiction. These still include small audiences whose members are not also creators, audiences who patronize these arts in part out of an inherited feeling that these are superior to movies or genre fiction.
With the exception of rap, which has a mass audience, poetry has moved from the category of a minor art to a craft. In the course of numerous readings of my own published verse, I gradually came to the conclusion that almost everyone in the audience at a poetry reading is a poet or aspiring poet. My guess is that a majority of people who read poetry also write poetry.
I've long held that most of the people engaged in an occupation are primarily in conversation with others in their field, whether it's politics, or fashion, or sports, or technology, or academia. It's rare to have an effect on those outside one's profession, or craft, or hobby.
From Poesy to Carrot Carnations When arts die, they turn into hobbies. (via Drexel University)