Jazz Musicians and Money from Music

Posted on June 13th, 2012 by Jean Cook in What We're Learning. 4 Comments

In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts commissioned the Research Center for Arts and Culture (RCAC) to undertake a study to examine the working lives of jazz musicians. The resulting report, “Changing the Beat,” paints a picture of a highly flexible workforce that earned less than expected given their high levels of education, with only modest institutional support from state and regional arts agencies and nonprofit foundations.

This data memo presents a snapshot of nearly 900 jazz musicians who participated in the Money from Music Survey in 2011, the first comprehensive assessment of jazz musicians in the US since “Changing the Beat.” After presenting basic demographic information, this memo provides data about jazz musician’s experience, income, and feelings about technology, and also compares the jazz population to survey takers from other genres. This memo also takes a closer look at the differences between jazz musicians who are members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and those who are not, and the relationship that AFM membership has with income.

Some key findings:

  1. Jazz musicians have more formal education than most musicians, play many different roles, and have simpler support teams than musicians in other genres.
  2. The mean gross estimated music income (EMI) for jazz musicians who took the Money from Music Survey was $23,300 for a non-AFM member. On average, jazz musicians made less money than classical or other musicians who took the survey.
  3. While jazz musicians who are AFM members make a higher percentage of their total gross income from music than jazz musicians who are not AFM members, AFM-members also reported greater decreases than increases in various income categories over the last five years than non-AFM members. The income composition of AFM and non-AFM musicians is more similar than it is different.
  4. Most jazz musicians who completed the survey are comfortable using technology as a creation, collaboration, promotion, distribution and fan cultivation tool. Classical respondents were less comfortable, while respondents from other genres had a higher comfort level.

When comparing FMC’s data from 2011 to RCAC’s data from 2000, we are able to make the following additional observations:

  1. A higher percentage of jazz musicians surveyed have graduate degrees than they did a decade ago
  2. Jazz musicians are getting less airplay on terrestrial radio than they did a decade ago
  3. Surveyed AFM members are making 15% less than they were a decade ago, while non-AFM musicians are making 15% more
  4. The use of technology has gone up across the board among survey respondents, but non-AFM musicians now have a higher comfort level using technology to promote and distribute music online than AFM musicians, a major shift from a decade ago, when non-AFM musicians appeared to be less tech savvy than AFM musicians.

Two important notes about the limitations of this memo. While the artist revenue streams employs three methodologies to collect data about individual artists’ earning capacities, this memo only examines data from one of these methodologies: the Money from Music Survey. As with other reports that have been released in the Artist Revenue Streams project, when considering the results from the survey with the case studies and interview data, a more complete snapshot emerges of how jazz artists are doing than when you consider the survey data by itself.

Secondly, no one knows what the jazz community truly looks like with respects to demographics and experience. No one knows for certain how many jazz musicians there are. While this report gets us a step forward to better understanding some critical aspects of the jazz community and their experiences, it’s important to remember that the findings we discuss are reported to us by the people who took the Money from Music Survey. While this is a relatively large sample, it is a self selecting group, and this report may not reflect the experiences of all jazz musicians.

This memo is divided into four sections.

For more on our methodology and survey protocol, you can view our original question set here, and the survey protocol here.

Next: Who are the survey participants?

4 responses to “Jazz Musicians and Money from Music”

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