Category: Financial Case Studies
This financial case study shows the income and expenses from a full-time Background Vocalist who performs regularly as a background singer on network TV, live on tour, and on recordings. She also writes songs and performs and records her own music as a solo artist, and produces records for herself and others.
This artist is part of the regular “music crew” – as a background vocalist – on a live network television program with a house band, appearing on 34 episodes over four seasons. She also tours regularly as a background vocalist for several different featured artists, with performances at concert halls, theaters, opera houses, resorts, and festivals. She has also performed on over 50 recordings as a background vocalist for more than 30 different artists.
This case study gives us a glimpse at the world of a background singer who is both paid for her original work, and is also the recipient of “mailbox” money, or residuals from TV and film appearances and royalties from studio recordings. It also underscores the importance of unions in negotiating fees and administering TV/film residuals and recording royalties.
On March 15, 2012, we released our first wave of financial case studies. In each instance, specific, individual musicians gave the ARS team access to their personal financial documents – tax returns, Quicken files, PRO accounting statements, pay stubs, receipts – which we then categorized and analyzed. It took time to convince artists to participate, and many more months to complete each analysis. But, when provided with complete data from the artists, we were able to build reports that present a rich array of data, from gross revenue across time, to revenue pies for each year, to income versus expenses + net. Some readers have been disappointed that the gross income figures are not visible on the charts. This blog post explains our research protocol in some detail.
Drawing from 4-12 years of accounting data provided by the artists, each case study graphs and explains the musician-based sources of income over time. The reports also include annual revenue pies, and a look at income versus expenses and net profit over time. Some case studies also include more detailed breakdowns, such as PRO royalties by territory, or session work by bandleader. The second release of case studies will be around May 2012 and is expected to include an urban recording artist, a background musician who does television work, a band that gets radio airplay, and a composer/songwriter who does not perform.
When looking at the Artist’s gross revenue, we note 72.3% of his income is tied to live performance, whether it’s live performance fees or CD sales at shows. He is completely dependent on touring for his income.
We look at the Artist’s income by band and see that while he is an active member of four bands in addition to his solo work, 94% of his gross income comes from one Main Band and his own solo work.
Unlike the Professional Orchestra Player, who is also a salaried musician, the Artist also writes for the group that pays him a salary, and that provides 21% of his income in addition to his salary.
When examining income versus expenses, we note certain roles, like salaried, sideman or teaching work (approximately 31% of his income from 2008-2011) have few expenses. The Artist is able to use that income to invest in his own solo work, in lieu of being beholden to a label, publisher, or tour sponsor.
Like many entrepreneurial small businesses, his net income fluctuates widely from year to year. Anecdotally, his gross income appears to roughly track with the growth of his reputation during this period.
When looking at his gross income, we see that live performance as a leader makes up 77.8% of his income. In addition to his work as a leader, he also earns a steady income each year as a composer, sideman, and teacher.
When looking at his net v gross, Jazz Bandleader’s expenses are high – 80% of his income goes to pay touring expenses, sidemen, managers fees and other expenses. But he is still profits from touring. His net recording income fluctuates from year to year. Some years he loses money on recording. From 2006-2011 he nets a modest recording income.
Examining the artist’s gross income by role reinforces that his recording money fluctuates depending on what years he receives record advances. We also see that roughly 8% of his income is initiated by someone other than the Jazz Bandleader or his team.
Looking at gross income by territory, we see that he is dependent on non US markets for about 44% of his performance income.
We see a similar trend in his PRO Royalties breakdown by territory, that non-US royalties are a significant portion of his PRO royalty income. When looking at his income by album, we see that his compositions continue to earn money for years after the records are released.
Looking at the gross income, we see that 95.4% of the Ensemble’s gross income comes from live performance fees. They retain a professional manager in 2004, and their touring income more than doubles by 2005.
When taking expenses into account, we learn that though their gross income fluctuates from year to year, their net profit is steadily increasing. We also see that while their records are doing very well for classical music and have recouped, the Ensemble does not rely in this income at all (0.1% of their 2002-2010 income is from record royalties paid by a label) and instead treats recordings as marketing for the ensemble.
We reflect on the classical music marketplace, which is distinct from other markets. Their situation is similar to Professional Orchestra Player’s in that they are highly skilled musicians that are usually paid a relatively high wage in an extremely competitive marketplace.
After years of training and competing, the Artist has won a coveted seat as a salaried player in a major symphony orchestra – a position that includes health insurance and a pension. His income fluctuates until he wins the seat in the symphony. At that point, his income will be stable as long as he is with the orchestra.
Classically-trained professional musicians have only a few expenses – education and instruments being one of the top ones – but these expenses can be significant and usually cannot be avoided. They function in an unusual economy where musical instruments can sometimes be a significant investment and are often loaned or bequeathed because of their extreme cost.
Professional Orchestra Players are often not composers, and do not participate in a significant way in many copyright-related income streams. They rely on the unions to help them collect the few and various “background musician” royalties they are entitled to.
We also reflect on the extremely competitive nature of this line of work. Mentorship can sometimes play a large role in helping a young player navigate this competitive terrain.
In addition to his sideman work, his income also comes from his work as a bandleader, composer, administrator, and teacher. Like many freelancers, his income fluctuates from year to year. Anecdotally, his gross income appears to roughly track with the growth of his reputation during this period.
We look at the income and expenses for this individual, where we learn that his teaching, admin work and sideman work makes up 70% of his income from 2004-2010, effectively subsidize his work as a bandleader as he establishes himself.
We look at his relationships as a sideman with different bandleaders over time and see 55% of his income and activity comes from two bandleaders, but he also takes on work with 81 different ensembles. He needs all of these gigs to survive. Not just from an economic perspective, but also because these other gigs help him network, keep his skills sharp, and to maintain his position in the competitive marketplace for sidemen.
We examine his per-gig sideman wages by territory and see that there is a marked difference between the income he receives outside the US and in the USA. On average over eight years, Jazz Sideman-Bandleader’s sideman rate when traveling outside the US is approximately three times greater than what he makes in the US.
We analyze his foundation grant income and see that while this money is a large chunk of his gross income, the net take home is very small – 1%. This appears to be typical for bandleaders, that the vast majority of income for recording and touring goes to pay for expenses.
We begin to explore the complex balance he maintains between financial risk, creative fulfillment, and available time.