Money from Music: Where We Live

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by Jean Cook in What We're Learning. 1 Comment

A. Proximity to networks and opportunities

When discussing the benefits of music cities, one of the key themes that emerged among interviewees was the value of physical proximity, as it enabled artists to be more flexible and able to respond to opportunities.

We’ve had [country] artists that were not based in Nashville and it became apparent quickly that they were missing opportunity by not being in Nashville and calling Nashville home. [For other non-country artists sometimes] it’s wiser to get to Los Angeles and New York and be more in the scene and more accessible to opportunity.
– Country Music Manager

Interviewees also suggested that certain cities were better than others for artists who play specialized roles, such as session musicians, songwriters, or film composers. These are more ‘behind the scenes’ roles that depend on others for work – whether it be an orchestra, recording artist, record label, producer, or television studio.

Interviewees who worked in film and TV as either vocalists or composers frequently talked about the importance of being in Los Angeles:

[Los Angeles] is the center of the movie industry and the television industry. You have to take your pigs to market.
– Television Composer

Being in L.A. puts me right there with filmmakers and people doing scores and music supervisors and music directors for TV shows and that kind of thing.
– Session Musician

Being a freelancer like I am and kind of stepping into a lot of things, I think it’s really useful for me to be in New York.
– Freelance Musician

There is a powerful case to be made that networking in music cities and the beneficial outcomes of networking are more plentiful in music industry cities.

Session musicians in L.A., Nashville, and NYC
On the survey, we asked respondents to allocate their music-related income amongst eight possible buckets. We also asked them whether they had received any income from an array of “other” revenue streams, ranging from being a producer to fan funding mechanisms. This question on “other” revenue streams listed a number of income sources that are particularly relevant for freelancers, session players and studio musicians.

The survey data support the idea that living in a particular place can enable opportunities for session or freelance work. Respondents from Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York were more likely to be receiving income from various session-related income streams than musicians in other locations. For example, respondents from Los Angeles were three times more likely to be receiving money from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, four times more likely to earn some money from acting, and five times more likely to be getting payment from the AFM Secondary Markets Fund than the general survey population. This reflects L.A.’s role as a source of film- and TV- related work. Additionally, Nashville residents were nearly 7 times more likely to be receiving money from the AFM/AFTRA Fund – a fund that distributes digital performance royalties to background musicians and vocalists – underscoring that city’s traditional role as a source for studio-based session work.[Note 3]


[Note 3]: For more about the important role unions play in distributing royalties, see our data memo: Does Membership Matter?

Next: the full-time musician

One response to “Money from Music: Where We Live”

  1. […] New York don’t hold the same amount of importance and opportunity for all musicians anymore. The Future of Music Organization shares the three biggest reasons that artists have for why location doesn’t matter so much to […]