Survey Methods

Posted on July 11th, 2013 by Jean Cook in What We're Learning. No Comments

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Aggregate Summary Statistics: Basic Demographics


The respondents to the survey come from a wide range of age groups. Table 3 includes the age distribution of our sample. The age range with the greatest representation was musicians aged 50–59, which means the sample skewed a little higher in age than the general U.S. population. [Note 26] The sample had fewer individuals aged 18–29 than one would expect based on the general population. But college-aged students are likely to be at or before the beginning of their careers. In our studies of attrition during the survey, those who stopped answering questions tended to be younger than those who continued with the survey at each point. We suspect that this reflects the focus of the survey on revenue and the reasonably detailed knowledge required to answer the revenue questions.


Survey respondents were disproportionately male; as Table 3 reports, men made up about 70% of the sample. The variable that appears to correlate most strongly with gender is musical genre. Within the classical genre, a slight majority of respondents were women. Thus, the gender gap is a feature of the non-classical genres, such as rock (87% male), jazz (87% male), country (84% male), and rap/hip-hop (97% male in a very small sample). Based on recent experience with these genres—for instance, observations of the gender makeup of summer rock festivals[Note 27] —these percentages do not seem out of line with the (unfortunate) reality of the music industry.


The racial and ethnic makeup of the sample, however, is almost certainly more predominantly white than the actual population of musicians in the United States. Table 3 shows that about 88% of respondents were white, compared with only 3.3% African-American, 2.2% Hispanic, and 2.1% Asian. These figures obviously deviate from the percentages for the overall U.S. population. [Note 28] My colleagues and I have sought to address this gap by choosing a more diverse sample for the qualitative interviews and financial case studies; that is, for the other components of the larger Artists Revenue Streams Project.


Question 9 of the survey provided respondents with three drop-down menus to indicate the primary, secondary, and tertiary musical genres in which they work. Each drop-down menu contained a list of 32 genres. Table 4 lists the responses, sorted by the primary genres that appear most frequently. The four most common genres within our sample are classical (34.7% listed it as primary), jazz (16.2%), rock or alternative rock (7.2%), and pop (4.5%). For analyses later in the paper, I have grouped some genres together into categories, [Note 29] but Table 4 includes the data in the same form in which the respondents submitted it. [Note 30]

Although 32 genres is a fairly long and diverse list, the survey also included an open-ended question in which respondents could supply a different or additional genre. Fully 1,155 respondents, or 21.5% of the sample, took the opportunity to do so. Several of the open-ended responses expressed frustration with the concept of a genre. Many more respondents supplied a long and detailed description of their music. These open-ended responses demonstrate the diversity of the population of musicians.


The survey also asked about the education level of respondents. Within the sample, 34.9% of musicians completed a graduate degree, and an additional 44.9% have a college degree, as described in Table 3. The sample is much more educated than the general population, which is largely a function of the high proportion of classical and jazz musicians among our respondents. Table 3 shows that almost 74% of classical musicians, jazz musicians, and composers attended a music school or conservatory, and almost 80% of those respondents earned a degree in music (regardless of the type of school). The corresponding figures for musicians in all other genres were 38% and 36%. Working musicians in classical, jazz, and composition appear to benefit from an advanced degree.


[Note 26]: This observation is based on information from the U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, STATISTICAL ABSTRACT OF THE UNITED STATES: POPULATION 11 tbl.7 (2012)

[Note 27]: See, e.g., Pitchfork Music Festival Set Times Revealed , PITCHFORK (June 22, 2011, 1:00 PM), (listing artists and ensembles in a festival lineup in which the overwhelming majority of musicians were male).

[Note 28]: For the 2010 Census, the analogous percentages were 72% white, 13% African American, 16% Hispanic, and 5% Asian. Press Release, U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Shows America’s Diversity (Mar. 24, 2011)

[Note 29]: The groupings are as follows: (1) classical; (2) jazz; (3) composers; and (4) rock, pop, and all other genres.

[Note 30]: The genre “Broadway” was not included as an explicit prompt in the survey instrument, but many respondents wrote it in as their genre when prompted for other genres with an open-ended question.

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