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Carl [Nimbit]

I'm not sure that we can look at this study as representative for the music industry industry overall due to the skewing of data by the high number of Jazz and Classical musicians which make up a small percentage of the overall population, and honestly being a niche, have very different career experiences than the "average" musician.


Ok, what's an "average" musician? I'm a professional musician, and in my experience... well, those five categories make up a pretty good overview of the kind of people you'll meet whose main income is music?

Suzanne Lainson

My jazz musician friends seem to work more in music than my rock/pop musician friends. The jazz musicians are often gigging four times a week (playing in multiple groups), giving private lessons, and sometimes also teaching at the college level.

Kristin Thomson

I think it's hard to define an "average" musician. Through this research we've interviewed or collected data from all types -- composers who don't perform, performers who don't write their own music, session players, platinum-selling rock bands, hired gun bass players. There are a few common themes that we've identified, but we've resisted the effort to make sweeping generalizations about musicians because, as the commenters below point out, music creators working in different genres or roles can have substantially different sources of income.

There are many, many different types of legitimate, full-time musicians and composers in the US. Learning how orchestra players make a living, or how film and TV composers work may not fit within the indie rocker's wheelhouse specifically, but it's interesting nonetheless. And I think it makes for a stronger musician community if we have a sense of its size, diversity and the mechanics of compensation for different roles.

If folks are interested, we have about 12 other research memos and reports posted at http://money.futureofmusic.org, based on data pulled from interviews, case studies and a huge online survey, with more to be released between now and the end of June. And we have 4 more case studies on the way.

Thanks for your interest!

Kristin Thomson
co-director, Artist Revenue Streams project

Kristin Thomson

Hi Suzanne

We've certainly seen this in our data. We have a report coming out about "roles" soon that will dissect this a bit.

Also, in case you haven't seen it, the charts for the jazz sideman's gigs are pretty amazing. From 2004 to 2010, he played 369 engagements with 81 different ensembles as a sideman. 49 of the engagements were one-time sideman gigs. The remaining 320 engagements were spread out amongst 32 ensembles, with 65% of the engagements coming from six bandleaders.


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Teaching private lessons can often give you a stable income in the early days of your musical career. The stability of having regular students can be very useful between gigs.

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Joe Solo

I agree with you, Carl.
Joe Solo

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According to me there are many, many different types of legitimate, full-time musicians and composers in the US. Learning how orchestra players make a living..

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