Survey Methods

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

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Labor-Market Statistics


The survey also asked respondents about their personal annual income from all sources, music and non-music. The question was phrased in terms of ranges from “less than $20,000” through “$200,000 or more,” in increments of $20,000. [Note 31] Table 3 reports the percentage of respondents falling into various income brackets. The median annual income was $50,000, and the mean was $55,561. Thus, our sample includes people with relatively high incomes, compared to the general population. Even though this contradicts the stereotype of the starving artist, it fits with the educational profile of our sample.


The musicians in the sample vary widely in terms of the hours they spend working on music each week. We asked respondents to choose a range of hours from a drop-down menu that described “how many hours a week you currently spend performing, working on music and/or compositions, teaching, or developing your musical career.” Table 3 shows the responses. Just over a quarter of respondents spend 15 hours per week or less on music; a similar proportion spend 16–30 hours per week; a little less than a quarter of respondents spend 31–45 hours per week; and a little more than one-fifth of respondents spend 46 or more hours per week on music.


As one might expect from the figures about hours spent on music, respondents also varied widely in the percentage of their overall income they “derive from being a musician, composer, performer, and/or teacher.” Table 3 shows that 42.1% of all respondents earn 100% of their income solely from music. Almost a quarter of respondents derive 5–20% of their income from music; these may reflect a high proportion of amateurs, hobbyists, or musicians just starting out.

The remainder of the sample is spread out fairly evenly in the range from 25–95%. These data on hours worked and share of income from music can illuminate the proportion of respondents who are most clearly full-time musicians. One possible definition of “full-time” musicians would include those who spend 36 or more hours per week on music and who derive 75% or more of their income from music. I find that 32.3% of respondents meet that particular characterization of a “full-time musician.” The survey did not directly ask respondents whether they held multiple jobs. So one cannot say for sure how many of the other respondents have multiple jobs, or whether any of those identified as full-time musicians have multiple jobs. But it stands to reason that many musicians who make less than half their income from music and who spend 35 hours per week or less on music seem quite likely to have another, non-music-related job. [Note 32]

The survey findings are consistent with earlier work on artistic labor markets. American artists—here referring to a broad category of architects and designers, performing artists (including musicians), visual artists, and authors—are known to work multiple jobs at a higher rate than those in other professions. [Note 33] This definition of “full time” will appear again in Appendix D. In future work, my colleagues and I may use all of the categories in this table to help describe the differences between full-time and part-time musicians, and between professionals and amateurs. [Note 34]


[Note 31]: Here, I mean “personal” in the sense of individual income, as opposed to household income.

[Note 32]: Alternative explanations—investment income, inheritance, government transfer payments—seem unlikely to explain the income mix of such a large portion of the sample.

[Note 33]: NEIL O. ALPER & GREGORY H. WASSALL, MORE THAN ONCE IN A BLUE MOON: MULTIPLE JOBHOLDINGS BY AMERICAN ARTISTS 33 (2000), (“The moonlighting rates for all artists, which ranged from just under eight percent to almost fourteen percent during this period [from 1970 to 1997], averaged almost 40 percent higher than the rate for professional workers.”).

[Note 34]: Deciding who qualifies as a “professional” musician is a hotly contested issue among musicians. In future work, based on the qualitative interview portion of the larger Artists Revenue Streams Project, we plan to discuss this issue at greater length.

Back to Introduction

Other Memos:
Survey Protocol
Money from Music Survey Question Set
About the Artist Revenue Streams Project

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