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Artist Revenue Streams

A multi-method, cross-genre examination of how US based musicians and composers are earning a living

November 25, 201525 November 2015

Situation of artists

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This series of reports examines the revenues of musicians and composers in the United States based on an online survey (5,371 respondents), in-person interviews with more than 80 musicians, and six case studies of musicians' financial records. While the survey sample is very large, the online methodology (where individuals self-select whether to respond) may not provide a statistically representative, randomized sample of all U.S. musicians.

The report highlights the revenue streams available to many different types of musicians, including songwriters, composers for film and TV, touring band members, jazz musicians, orchestra musicians, members of classical ensembles, and hip hop artists.

The reporting is provided on a series of web pages, which outline the largely “middle class existence” of many U.S. musicians. “The average personal gross income for the past twelve months of all survey respondents was $55,561 [USD, roughly $75,000 in Canadian dollars]. This number includes income from all sources, which could include other jobs (music related or otherwise), pension payments, investments, and so on. This is slightly higher than the US population.”

Sixty-five percent of responding musicians and composers are male, while 60% hold a music industry or conservatory degree. Similar numbers of respondents spend at least 36 hours a week making music (40%) and derive all of their personal income from music (42%).

The website notes that “the vast majority of artists rely on an ever-shifting composite of income sources based on their compositions, sound recordings, performances, brand, and their knowledge of their craft”. In fact, more than one-half of respondents earn income from at least three different roles in the music industry, including composing / songwriting, recording, being a “salaried player” in an orchestra or ensemble, performing live, performing at recording sessions, teaching, and producing. A separate section of the website breaks down the roles into 45 specific revenue streams for composers and musicians.

The website explores the “myth” that touring revenue is a substantial component of all musicians' incomes. In fact, 42% of survey respondents received no performing income in the previous year. Overall, “income from live performances accounted for 28% of survey respondents’ income in past 12 months”. Live performance was most important for country musicians (45% of total income), rock musicians (42%), jazz players (38%), and rap / hip hop / urban music performers (36%). Performance revenues for many classical musicians was captured separately, under “salaried player" or “freelancer". When salaried player income is added to live performance income, 47% of respondents' incomes can be largely attributed to live performance.

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