Case Study: Background Vocalist

Posted on February 24th, 2014 by Chhaya Kapadia in Financial Case Studies, Participant Data. 2 Comments

The ARS project includes a series of anonymous financial case studies. These case studies are based on the real finances from real artists, anonymized to protect their privacy.



TV Background Performer
Film Background Performer
Live Background Performing Artist
Background Recording Artist

1997 – present


This case study is a breakdown of 2009-2010 income from a Background Vocalist who performs as a background singer on network TV, live on tour, and on recordings.

Key Findings

This case study looks at the world of session musicians through the finances of one Background Vocalist.

When looking at the Background Vocalist’s income, we see that a considerable portion of it depends upon “mailbox” money, or residuals from TV and film appearances and royalties from studio recordings.

Unlike featured artists who are responsible for their own often substantial touring costs, this background vocalist doesn’t have many expenses since her touring costs are paid by the featured artists she backs.

There are many ways for a background vocalist to earn money from television work, but the income isn’t steady or predictable.

Unions’ ability to negotiate and administer TV/film residuals and recording royalties plays a key role in sustaining the background vocalist’s career.

The PDF/printable version of the Background Vocalist case study is downloadable below.

Next: Introducing Background Vocalist + Table of Contents

About the Case Studies

Graphs do not have a Y-axis dollar value in order to observe the conditions of our privacy policy. In addition, graphs and visuals in case studies are not comparable within or between case studies. For more details about this, read about our financial case study protocol.

Information detailed in case studies is based on data received directly from the artist or their authorized representative. The data analysis and lessons learned here are based on individual experience, and do not necessarily reflect the experiences of all musicians in genre or roles.

Case studies are one of three ways this project is looking at music creator income.

2 responses to “Case Study: Background Vocalist”

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