Money from Music: Where We Live
B. The full time musician
Many interviewees discussed location as a factor that makes full-time musician work possible. While generally, interviewees thought it was difficult to make a full time living as a musician, many thought there were some locations where it was a little easier to make it work.
When examining income of survey respondents by location, we found that musicians in Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York earned much more than musicians in other places. Los Angeles-based artists grossed an average of $78,545 from music, more than twice the estimated amount from all survey respondents. For New York City musicians, the average gross music income was $47,567, for Chicago musicians it was $31,755, and in other locations, the average gross music income was $30,559. [Note 4]
Note, however, that Los Angeles and New York are expensive cities in which to live. The table below multiplies the gross estimated music income of survey respondents by the Cost of Living Index, thus showing how far a resident’s dollars will go. Los Angeles and Nashville residents seem to have the best outcomes, while musicians in New York City, even when earning a decent gross income, are faced with high living costs. As we will see later in this memo, many interviewees balance opportunities against these cost of living and quality of life factors.
Musicians in music cities were also more likely to be earning all of their personal income from music. While 42% of all survey respondent reported making all of their money from music, 66% of Nashville musicians and more than half of musicians in New York and Los Angeles reported earning 100% of their income from music.
When examining how survey respondents actually earned their income, we found that the revenue mix varied by location, with musicians from Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York allocating a greater share of their music-related income to session work and compositions/songwriting than respondents from Chicago, San Francisco, or Austin.
This makes sense, as industry cities are more likely to have a critical mass of ‘behind the scenes’ work for musicians and composers (see sidebars above).
When asked about perceived changes in revenue over the previous five years, survey respondents from Los Angeles – the most affluent group – interestingly indicated that all income streams seemed to be shrinking, with the exception of songwriting and teaching.
Los Angeles, Nashville and musicians in ‘Other Locations’ were more likely to report their composition revenue increased in the last five years.
Los Angeles, Nashville and Austin musicians were less likely to be reporting teaching income than other locations, but teachers in all locations were more likely to be reporting an increase in that income stream in the last five years.
Especially decreasing (with 12% more people saying it was decreasing than increasing) was session work and sound recordings – income streams relevant to over 74% of Los Angeles respondents. We saw a similar picture in New York, with 17% more people saying it was decreasing than increasing.
Los Angeles, Nashville and New York musicians were more likely to be reporting session income than other locations, but session players in all locations were more likely to be reporting a decrease in that income stream in the last five years.
Though all locations had more musicians reporting a decrease over an increase in recording revenue, New York, Los Angeles, and Austin were the locations where artists were most likely to say their recording revenue decreased in the last five years.