FAQ about the Project
Below are the answers to some commonly-asked questions about the project’s goals, methods, and outcomes. Click on the [+] sign for details.
Learn more about FMC’s mission and our programmatic work here.
Many observers are quick to categorize these structural changes as a good thing for musicians, particularly when compared with the music industry of the past. While it’s true that musicians’ access to the marketplace has greatly improved, how have these changes impacted musicians’ ability to generate revenue based on their creative work?
To this point, measurements about the effect of these seismic changes on musicians’ ability to make a living have either been anecdotal or speculative. Even the most esteemed books about copyright in the digital age are largely based on theory, and lack qualitative data.
Artist Revenue Streams is an effort to bring primary source data – collected directly from a wide range of musicians, performers and composers – into this process. This is important, not only for musicians, but also for policymakers. By knowing more about the musicians to whom copyright offers financial rewards—their demographic traits, their labor-market situations, the roles they play, and the specific ways they earn revenue—lawmakers can work toward an evidence-based copyright policy.
FMC’s mission is to understand how these changes are impacting musicians’ ability to create sustainable careers. We see Artist Revenue Streams – a multi-method, cross-genre, musician-focused research project – as mission-driven work, and the best way to truly understand how these changes have actually affected US musicians.
Learn more about the project scope and structure here.
John Simson: partner development
Charlie McEnerney: survey marketing
Chad Molter: interview transcription
Rebecca Gates: interview assistant
Learn more about the team here.
We have also relied on support and guidance from our Research Advisory Committee, a select group of social researchers, intellectual property experts, and artist attorneys who are advising this project.
• in-person interviews with a small but diverse number of musicians in 2010-12
• an audit of the music-related income and expenses of five musicians in 2010-12; and
• a widely distributed online survey in fall 2011, completed by over 5,300 US-based musicians and composers.
This multi-method approach helped us to get the best snapshot of different musicians’ income streams, to create more robust and meaningful findings. Multiple methods also allowed us to approach musicians who would otherwise be difficult to reach, or who would be unlikely to take an online survey.
Read more about our methodology here.
• 81 in-person interviews, with a wide range of US-based musicians, composers, songwriters, and session players, working in different genres and at different stages of their careers. Some were very successful and well-known, others were journeymen players. Some were road warriors, logging more than 200 shows a year, while others never played live, instead composing for film and TV, or writing songs for others to record. In each case, the artists provided tons of eye-opening, salient information that has greatly informed this project.
• 7 financial audits of full time, working musicians have been published to date. In each instance, the case study gave us unprecedented access to his or her music-related income and expenses for as many years as they had available. We then categorized all of their income and expenses to create annual pie charts and time-series assessments. Review the case studies here.
• an online survey, which was completed by 5,371 US-based musicians, performers and composers. See details about the survey population here.
The majority of our 80 interviewees were full time musicians (or their managers), making all of their money and spending a significant part of their workweek hours performing, composing, recording or rehearsing.
All of our financial case study participants were full time musicians, spending all of their workweek hours and deriving all of their income from music. Read more about their shared characteristics here.
As we were developing our survey protocol, the research team had long debates about whether we should limit participation in the survey to musicians or performers who met some sort of minimum criteria. But what would those criteria be? Unlike some other professions, there are no qualifying exams, no tests to take, no certificates or diplomas in the music industry that signify that “this person is a professional musician”.
Each of the prerequisites we considered to constrain our survey to “professionals” or “serious” musicians had the potential of excluding legitimate members of the music community.
For example, limiting the survey to those who currently did full time work on music could exclude creators whose money-generating work happened in the past: songwriters who wrote evergreen hits and who are still earning money from them, or recording artists who had hit records in the past and were still receiving royalties.
Likewise, limiting the survey to musicians who had a minimum number of credits (producing, recording or songwriting) on “commercially released” tracks could exclude orchestral performers, many of whom have no recording credits.
Because we wanted to collect data from as many musicians as possible, in the end we decided to have only two criteria for survey respondents: (1) they needed to be US citizens or residents, and (2) 18 years of age or older. However, we also asked each respondent a battery of demographic questions – age, gender, education, career tenure, roles, genres, teammates, memberships, credits, personal gross income, percent of income derived from music – that allowed us to sort and filter respondents by various criteria.
Because we did survey outreach through such a wide swath of music organizations, unions, and PROs, and because we had such a robust completion rate, the survey data includes many musicians who could be considered “professionals”:
• 40% of survey respondents (N=2120) reported spending 36 hours a week or more doing music
• 42% of survey respondents (N=2262) reported earning all of their income from music
• 30% of survey respondents (N=1619) were “full time” musicians, both spending 36 hours a week or more and earning 90% or more of their income from music
• 67% of survey respondents belonged to at least one music organization; even further, 50% of respondents belonged to the AFM and/or AFTRA.
But our survey population also includes part-time musicians, emerging artists, and musicians from many genres. However, we are easily able to filter the data to examine specific populations, or compare groups to each other.
See more about respondent demographics at the survey snapshot.
But we did our best to engage as many musicians working in diverse fields. With our interview work, we used a social research technique called snowball sampling to move beyond familiar musicians to those with which we had no prior contact. And with our survey, we reached to out to over 150 music-related organizations and associations, asking each to encourage their members to participate. This was in addition to partnerships, paid advertising, earned media and social media marketing efforts. And this coordinated marketing effort paid off; over 5,300 US-based musicians and composers completed this survey, which is a huge response rate, and sufficient for us to examine the details of various sub-populations of respondents.
We are also able to compare our survey data set to some other data sets. For instance, our Jazz Musicians and Money from Music report compares jazz respondents from our survey with jazz respondents from earlier work by Joan Jeffri. And, in other cases, we are able to compare our survey data to some data collected by the US Census about “musicians and composers”. These are not perfect comparisons, but these larger sets – collected by the government over time – do give us some helpful reference points.
An international or country-to-country comparison would be incredibly valuable, but it was outside the scope of this initial project.
Second, we organized them into eight “buckets”, so that money that could be made by compositions was distinct from money that can be made by playing live, or selling t-shirts. The entire survey was built on this framework so that musicians playing specific roles — songwriters, salaried players, recording artists, etc — would only be asked about the revenue streams that were applicable to them.
Third, we collected detailed information. Survey respondents who chose either the medium or the long path were asked (a) if they had ever received income from xx stream, (b) if had it increased, stayed the same of decreased over the past five years and, (c) the reasons why they think it had increased/ decreased. This was repeated for each possible revenue stream in the bucket.
See a complete list of revenue types and question patterns here.
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- Money from Music: Where We Live
- Does organizational membership matter?
- Survey Methods
- Mythbusting: Data Driven Answers to Four Common Assumptions About How Musicians Make Money
- ARS Presentation: Leverage
- Are Musicians Making More or Less Money?
- How Many Musicians Are There?
- Jazz Musicians and Money from Music
- Off the Charts: Examining Musicians’ Income from Sound Recordings
- Does Radio Airplay Matter?
- ReThink: Teams, Time Allocation and Technology
- Musicians’ Teammates and their Effect on Earnings
- CMW: On The Money: Examining Musicians’ Income
- Financial Case Studies: Revenue vs Ratios
- Financial Case Studies: Executive Summary
- Case Study: Indie Rock Composer-Performer
- Case Study: Jazz Bandleader-Composer
- Case Study: Contemporary Chamber Ensemble
- Case Study: Professional Orchestra Player
- Case Study: Jazz Sideman-Bandleader
- Orchestral Recordings and Performer Payments