Case Study: Professional Orchestra Player


Posted on March 15th, 2012 by Kristin Thomson in Financial Case Studies, Participant Data. 3 Comments

Previous: Income v Expenses

Gross Income by Role

The Artist Revenue Streams project has generally described participants through their participation in one of six role-based categories:

  • Composers
  • Recording artists
  • Performers
  • Session players
  • Teachers

This artist participates in three of these: first and foremost, he is a salaried performer. Second, he is a teacher (though this revenue stream is very small). Third, he is a session player. While freelance classical players don’t tend to call themselves session players, they share characteristics with hired guns who are paid to play in the studio or on the road. In this artist’s case, his “session” work includes freelance performance gigs, as well as studio recording work. In each instance, he is hired for his mastery of performance; he does not receive any composing credits, nor does he earn any additional money from the sales or licensing of the sound recordings he performed on. As noted in the introduction, this artist is not a composer. His daily work is rehearsing and performing works written by other composers, from classical repertoire to new pieces. Unless they are composers themselves, classical performers are not eligible to participate in any of the revenue streams available to composers such as publisher advances, commissions, mechanical royalties, public performance royalties or synchronization licensing fees.

And, according to his accounting statements, this salaried player has earned very little from sound recordings… so far. This is not because the orchestra is not selling or streaming its existing catalog (it is), and it’s not because those profits are not shared with players (they are). The primary reason this is so low is a simple one, in his case: this orchestra has only made a handful of live recordings during his tenure, so he has yet to participate fully in this revenue stream. Even with a longer tenure, however, money from sound recordings would probably remain a small fraction of his earnings, as many orchestras have lost their major label contracts in recent years and have, subsequently, curtailed the number of sound recordings they make. For more information about orchestral players and sound recording payments, see this blog post.

Next: Reflections on Orchestral Work


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.




3 responses to “Case Study: Professional Orchestra Player”

  1. […] Fiddle In The Window? April 2, 2012 | Drew McManus | Comments { 0 }There’s a fascinating report from the Future of Music Coalition called Artist Revenue Streams (ARS), which they describe as […]

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