Revenue Types

The goal of the survey was to ask musicians and/or composers whether they earned any income on specific revenue streams and, if yes, whether income was increasing or decreasing, and why. This post explains how we posed revenue questions on the survey.

Revenue streams by role

Revenue streams are numerous and complex. Indeed, in doing this work, we identified 42 possible revenue streams; everything from mechanical royalties to direct-to-fan support. However, in many cases, the revenue stream is only applicable to some musician roles. For instance, public performance royalties are paid to songwriters/composers, but not to the performer or the recording artist. These distinctions were critical, and the survey was built so that questions about specific income streams were only asked of those musicians/composers for whom they applied.

The revenue pie question

Question 12 was a critical question on the survey. It asked survey respondents to apportion their music-related revenue earned in the past 12 months. Instead of confusing survey takers with a list of 42 possible revenue streams, we grouped revenue streams into eight categories that aligned with possible earnings for (1) composers/songwriters; (2) and (3) performers; (4) recording artists; (5) session players/freelancers; and (7) teachers. We also had a bucket for (6) merchandise, since that is applicable to more than one role, and (8) “other”.

  1. Money from songwriting/composing including publisher advances, mechanical royalties, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC royalties, commissions, composing jingles and soundtracks, synch licensing, ringtone licensing, sheet music sales
  2. Salary as an employee of a symphony, band or ensemble
  3. Touring/shows/live performances fees earned as a solo performer, or by the bands/ensembles they associate with
  4. Money from sound recordings including sales of physical or digital recordings (iTunes, CD Baby, traditional retail, sales at shows), payments from interactive services (Rhapsody, Spotify), SoundExchange royalties, master use licensing for synchs or ringtones
  5. Session musician earnings, including payment for work in recording studio or for live performances, freelance work
  6. Merchandise sales t-shirts, posters, etc.
  7. Teaching
  8. Other. This category includes about 20 other possible revenue streams that we asked about separately, from corporate sponsorship to producing, fan funding, honoraria, ASCAPLUS awards, and the range of AFM and AFTRA funds. Additional questions related to “Other” revenue were asked at Q14 and Q15. See below.

Q12 was successfully completed by 5,371 survey takers. Survey respondents were then presented with three related questions:

  • Q13 asked whether these eight core revenue streams had increased, stayed the same or decreased over the past five years
  • Q14 and Q15 asked whether they had ever earned any money from a long list of “other” sources. See below.
Revenue streams in detail

While Q12 – Q15 collected topline revenue data, the survey also asked musicians to give us more detail about the revenue that they’re receiving, whether they were changing, and why.

At Q17, survey respondents were presented with a choice of three paths to take:

  • The short path skipped respondents past all the detailed questions to Q192 for some “big picture” questions.
  • The medium path asked respondents detailed revenue questions about income earned from their primary role. After this, they were skipped to Q192 for big picture questions.
  • The long path asked respondents detailed revenue questions about income earned from each role that they play. After this, they were united with other survey takers at Q192 for big picture questions.

Those who chose either the medium or the long path saw a series of questions about specific revenue streams.

We used skip logic musicians were presented with questions about revenue streams related to their work. Musicians who played multiple roles were asked about each possible revenue stream. Revenue streams that are payable to more than one role type — say, synch license fees, which are paid to both the composer and the recording artist (and the sound recording copyright owner) — were posed in each section.

Question structure

For each of the revenue categories below, the same series of questions was asked:

  • “Have you ever received any revenue from (stream X)”?
  • [If yes] “Has your revenue from (stream X) increased, stayed the same, or decreased over the past five years?”
  • [If no] skip to next revenue stream
  • [If increased] “On the last question you said that your revenue from (stream X) has increased over the past five years. This might be because (check all that apply):”
  • [If decreased] “On the last question you said that your revenue from (stream X) has decreased over the past five years. This might be because (check all that apply):”

Those who said they were composers/songwriters/lyricists saw additional questions about:

  1. Mechanical royalties
  2. Public performance (PRO) royalties
  3. Composing on commission
  4. Composing original works for broadcast (jingles, soundtrack work, etc)
  5. Sheet music licensing/sales
  6. Synch licensing (composition side)
  7. Ringtone licensing (composition side)

Those who said they were recording artists saw additional questions about:

  1. Physical retail sales
  2. Digital sales
  3. Sales at shows
  4. Interactive service payments
  5. Digital performance royalties
  6. Master use license for synchs
  7. Master use license for ringtones

Those who said they were performers saw additional questions about:

  1. Being a salaried player (and how many performances were based on union scale payments)
  2. Live performance fees
  3. Merchandise sales (recording artists also saw these questions)

Those who said they were session musicians/freelancers saw additional questions about:

  1. Session musician work in the studio
  2. Session musician work on the road/live performances

Those who said they were teachers saw additional questions about:

  1. Income from teaching
Other revenue streams

While we tried to build a survey that gathered a lot of detail, there were some revenue streams for which we could only gather cursory information. Questions 14 and 15 simply asked survey respondents if they ever received any income from the following sources:

  1. YouTube partnership program: revenue-sharing program that allows creators and producers of original content to earn money from your videos on YouTube
  2. Ad revenue: or other miscellaneous income from your website properties (Google AdSense, commissions on Amazon sales, etc.)
  3. Fan funding: Money directly from fans to support an upcoming recording project or tour (Kickstarter, Pledge Music)
  4. Fan club: Money directly from fans who are subscribing to your fan club
  5. Persona licensing: payments from a brand that is licensing your name or likeness (video games, comic books, etc)
  6. Product endorsements: payments from a brand for you endorsing or using their product
  7. Acting: in television, movies, commercials
  8. Sponsorship: corporate support for a tour, or for your band/ensemble
  9. Sample licenses: income you receive for granting others a license to sample your existing music in a new work
  10. Honoraria or speaker fees
  11. Grants: from foundations, state or federal agencies
  12. Producing: Money from producing another artists’ work in the studio or in a live setting
  13. Publisher advance: Payment from publisher to composer/songwriter in exchange for signing a publishing agreement
  14. ASCAPLUS Awards Program: awarded by ASCAP to writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues outside of broadcast media
  15. AARC royalties: Collected for digital recording of your songs, foreign private copying levies, and foreign record rental royalties, distributed to US artists by AARC
  16. AFM/Secondary Markets Fund: Paid to performers on recordings used in TV and other secondary uses
  17. AFM/Sound Recording Special Payments: Paid to performers for the sales of recorded music
  18. AFM/AFTRA payments: Payments from the AFM/AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which distributes recording and performance royalties to non-featured artists
  19. AFTRA Contingent Scale Payments: paid to performers when a recording hits certain sales plateaus
  20. Label or publisher settlements: Payments from labels to recording artists, or from publishers to songwriters, for litigation settlements (, Limewire)

For more information about the survey questions, read the survey protocol or review the question set. Learn more about survey respondents in this survey snapshot.

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