Musicians’ Teammates and their Effect on Earnings

Posted on April 17th, 2012 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 4 Comments

Team members for survey respondents

Then we looked at some of the data from our Money from Music survey, which we ran September and October 2011. Among many questions, we asked musicians and composers about who was on their “team”. (read about survey demographics here)

First, we looked at the aggregated data of all 5,371 survey respondents.  4,062 of them told us about their team members, as shown in the chart below. In addition to asking them who is on their team, we asked them about the relationship — whether it was a paid/contracted relationship, a partnership or equity deal, or whether the work was pro bono or volunteer.


In all cases, bandmates is at top of list. From there, the list goes on to accountant, booking agent, and producer.  Two other things to take away from this slide. First, there are a lot of possible teammates and, second, there are a great number of working musicians for whom most teammates are simply not applicable, either because they are not a necessary part of their career structure, or that there is a bigger institutional body that takes care of various tasks.  This could include:

  • Orchestral performers who are on salary, for whom roles like a publisher or a street team are not applicable
  • Session musicians who are hired to perform in the studio or on the road. where the label or the recording artist is responsible for arranging team support structures

All this can serve as a reminder of the scope of the US-based music landscape. It is large, diverse and specialized and, for many working musicians, a questions about team members has limited applicability.


Team members by time and income

Next, we showed the team data filtered by a number of criteria. First, by time + income:


Our criteria for “full time” was survey respondents who said they spent 36 hours a week or more doing their craft AND made 90% of their personal income from music (N=1619).

Full time musicians are more likely to have an accountant and an attorney than those who are either spending less time or making less than 90% of their income from music. This could be a chicken and egg question: does the attorney make it possible for them to earn more money, or do they hire the attorney BECAUSE they earn more money? The data cannot tell the difference, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Team members by training

Then we filtered the same team data by training.

Our definition of “trained” musician was a respondent who went to a music school or conservatory AND had a music degree (N=2296). If we look at those against respondents who are not “trained”, the untrained folks are certainly relying more on bandmates, partners and volunteers to get work done.


 Team members by earnings

Then we looked at the team data of survey respondents for “high earners” — those who said that they earned more than $100,000 from music.

High earners are twice as likely to have a paid or contracted relationship with an accountant, attorney, booking agent and graphic designers as their musical peers who earn less.  Again, this is a chicken and egg question, but I think the most revealing of the slides.


Team members by seasoning

A final cut. This is team members by what we call “seasoning”. Our definitions for these cuts are:

  • Emerging: 1 to 5 years of experience, and 35+ hours workweek, and earning 90% of income from music
  • Established: 6 to 20 years, and 35+ hours workweek, and earning 90% of income from music
  • Old Guard: 20+ years of experience, and 35+ hours workweek and earning 90% of income from music

So, essentially, these are full time musicians but further sorted by the amount of career experience.

An interesting difference. The “old guard”, who have more than 20 years of experience, are more likely to have team members to help with accounting, and things like graphic design and web presence. Meanwhile, the scrappy upstarts with less than 5 years of experience rely on booking agents and sound people. If you think about it for a second, this make sense. Some of the emerging artists are likely more tech savvy, so they might not need someone to help them build a Tumblr site. But they definitely need the expertise of a booking agent.

So, the data shows us that certain musician types are more likely to have specific team members. High earners are twice as likely to have a paid or contracted relationship with an accountant, attorney, booking agent and graphic designers as their musical peers who earn less. Younger artists rely more on volunteer support, as well as connections to income from performances.

Asking questions about team members is one thing, but how do these team relationships impact musicians’ earning capacity?

4 responses to “Musicians’ Teammates and their Effect on Earnings”

  1. […] detailed interviews with musicians and the examination of actual tax filings and conducted by the Future of Music Coalition. The results revealed that those musicians who continue to do it on their own after breaking […]

  2. […] read the research and consider the tips and examples laid out. Your ability to hire and pay for extra help depends on […]

  3. […] via Musicians’ Teammates and their Effect on Earnings | Artist Revenue Streams. […]