Does organizational membership matter?

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 1 Comment

Membership and sources of revenue

The charts above indicate that joiners have a higher estimated music income than the non-joiners. But are their sources of income also different?

On the survey, we asked respondents to allocate their music-related income amongst eight possible buckets:

  1. Income from compositions
  2. Income from live performance
  3. Income from sound recordings
  4. Income from being a salaried player
  5. Income from doing session or freelance work
  6. Brand/merchandise related income
  7. Income from your knowledge of craft
  8. Other

Looking at the differences in revenue allocation based on composer PRO membership, it’s clear that respondents who were members of composer PRO were earning a much greater percentage of their annual revenue from both compositions and sound recordings than the general survey population, and less from being a salaried player.



Composer PRO

Composer PRO members




+13% more

Sound recordings



+8% more

Salaried player



-18% less


The revenue picture above should be no surprise; composer PRO members are, by definition, composers and songwriters, so it would make sense that PRO members are making more on compositions than non-joiners. And, since many songwriters are also performers/recording artists, the higher percentage of income from sound recordings is also understandable.

Below is the same revenue allocation by organizational membership. The differences in sources of revenue by organizational membership are less obvious, but telling nonetheless.

Respondents who were a member of any music organization allocated higher percentages of their income to being a salaried player and teaching, while the non-joiners allocated much more to live performance and slightly more to sound recording income.




AnyOrg members
Salaried player



+14% more
Live performance



-17% less
Sound recording



-6% less

Let’s dig deeper and examine the allocation of revenue amongst these eight buckets by key music organizations. However, instead of displaying an unwieldy chart of rainbow-colored bars, let’s look five specific revenue buckets – income from compositions, sound recordings, live performance, being a salaried player, and session work – and examine the relationship between each revenue bucket and membership.

Joiners make a greater proportion from compositions

Respondents who were members of any of the key groups – except for AFM and Chamber Music America – were allocating 3 to 4 times more to the composition category as the general survey population. We would expect this to be true of PRO members, but it’s interesting that those who belong to almost any of these professional groups make a greater percentage of their income from compositions.


Joiners of some organizations allocated a higher percentage to sound recordings

With income from sound recordings, the data isn’t as clear cut, but respondents who were members of SoundExchange or the Recording Academy allocated 2 to 3 times more to sound recordings than the general survey population, and more than non-joiners.


Again, the logic hear should be clear; respondents who were SoundExchange members should be allocating more income to the sound recordings category, because SoundExchange is a conduit of income for sound recordings. This nonprofit distributes the income generated when sound recordings are streamed on non-interactive services and satellite radio directly and simultaneously to performers and sound recording copyright owners.

Non-joiners allocate a higher percentage to live performance

The non-joiners allocated a higher percentage of income to the live performance bucket than any of the joiners. Why? Think about how musicians make money from typical gigs/live performances. In many instances, performers or their booking agent will simply work with a promoter to book a show and agree on a payment. Membership in a particular organization, union or association is not required for the show to happen.


It’s important to note that the data above also reflects our own insistence – as researchers – on acknowledging the structural and cultural differences between the words “live performance”, “salaried work” and “session work” or “freelance work”.  Many musicians rely on some sort of income from live performance, but how they define their own work, who pays them, and how they are paid – a salary, a union-scale rate, a percent of the door, a negotiated guarantee – varies based on the live performance situation. The non-joiners, noted above, allocate a higher percent of their income to live performance than any joiners. But as we will see below, things change when we look at two other performance-related roles: salaried work and session/freelance work.

AFM members allocate a greater share of income to salaried work

Next, let’s look at the “salaried player” revenue bucket. On the survey, we defined this as “salary as an employee of a symphony, band or ensemble”. There are thousands of musicians in the US who are paid a regular wage as a musician. Many of them are members of symphonies or orchestras, but there are also bands and chamber music groups that pay members a monthly paycheck.

Respondents who were members of AFM allocated more to being a salaried player than the general survey population, non-joiners, and other group members. This could partially be attributed to AFM’s role in the orchestral world, where orchestra members are frequently members of AFM and represented by the union in collective bargaining negotiations.


Income from session work

On the survey, we asked separately about session work, wherein musicians are paid a fee for their time and talents, either in the recording studio or on the road. Respondents who reported being members of the two unions – AFM and AFTRA – allocated higher percentages of their revenue to session work, as did Recording Academy respondents, whose ranks include many professional players. Again, this makes sense; many professional session players – whether they work in the studio or on the road – are members of AFM or AFTRA, therefore benefiting from payments based on rates established and protected by their unions.


The revenue allocation data suggests that there is a relationship between membership in some key organizations and a greater percentage of income allocated to specific revenue buckets. For the most part, this allocation data follows predictable patterns, with AFM membership being related to greater proportions of income from salaried and session work, and PRO membership being associated with a greater percentage of income from compositions and sound recordings. The only revenue category that cuts against the grain is the live performance bucket, where non-joiners make a greater percentage of their money than joiners.

Next: perceived changes in revenue

One response to “Does organizational membership matter?”

  1. […] Does organisational membership matter? This material was first presented at Music: Parts and Labor conference at New York University in April 2012 and examines the relationship between organisational membership and income. […]