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Average Musician Is Earning Less Than Ever [New Study]

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In some unfortunate although perhaps not surprising recent news, a new study has revealed that, apart from those operating at the top rung of the business, the average musician is now pulling down less income from their work than ever before.

Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

I don’t think that anyone would deny that, unless you’ve reached the top rungs of the business, being an everyday musician is a tough job. The problem is that it seems to be getting tougher than ever to be an average musician though, as a new study from the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) discovered.

According to the study:

The average American musician earned between $20,000 and $25,000 a year from 2012 to 2016, but in 2017 it was only $21,300. The majority of that money came from playing live events, and was not sufficient to meet their living expenses. That said, the average musician earned $31,000 from all sources.

If you don’t make enough money, then why do it? Respondents reported “artistic expression” as their favorite aspect of being a musician.

Financial insecurity and time spent marketing themselves were the least preferred aspects of being a musician.

Women make up about one third of musicians, and report experiencing high rates of discrimination and sexual harassment. 72% of female musicians report that they have been discriminated against because of their sex, and 67% report that they have been the victim of sexual harassment, far higher than women in the general population. Corresponding figures for U.S. women are 28% and 42%, respectively.

Sixty-three percent of Non-white musicians said they faced racial discrimination, as compared to 36 percent of Non-white self-employed workers nationwide.

Given the above figures, it’s no surprise that would lead to other problems as well. The study also states:

Half of musicians reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with less than a quarter of the adult population as a whole. Musicians were also more likely than the general population to report difficulty sleeping, low energy, trouble concentrating, and feeling bad about themselves.

It’s also no surprise that the incidence of substance abuse is substantially higher among musicians than the general public. Musicians are five times more likely than the general public to have used cocaine in the last month, 6.5 times more likely to have used ecstasy, 13.5 times more likely to have used LSD, 2.8 times more likely to have used heroin or opium, and 3.5 times more likely to have used meth.

Musicians are about twice as likely to drink alcohol frequently (four or more times per week) than the population as a whole by a figure of 31% versus 16%.

There were some other interesting facts in the report as well.

The average musician performed five different genres. The ten most common genres were: Classical (37%); Jazz (35%); Pop (35%); Folk (31%); Blues (31%); Country (28%); Christian (27%); Adult Contemporary (24%); Independent (23%); and Mainstream Rock (23%).

The survey also asked musicians to list their primary instrument. 25% listed guitar; 17% listed piano or keyboards; 15% listed voice; 10% listed drums; 10% listed bass or bass guitar; and 5% listed organ. The remainder were spread out over a range of instruments like violin, tuba, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, clarinet, etc.

Fully half of musicians indicated that they presently have an injury, with the most common injuries involving back or neck (24.8%), repetitive strain (23.0%) and hearing (22.2%). Almost a quarter (23.9%) of musicians had multiple ongoing injuries. Only 19.1% of musicians never had one of the indicated injuries.

It’s a tough life and pretty amazing that so many people are willing to stick it out. But nothing feels like playing music and being appreciated by a crowd. That’s an intoxicant that never goes away, and at least for a short time, makes it all worthwhile.

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