By Amy X. Wang
Record industry revenue is on the rise. Off the still-rising success of streaming, label executives say they’ve got “money swirling around.” Warner reportedly gave 17-year-old Lil Pump a $8 million record deal. There’s finally profit in music again after two decades of dismal decline.
Yet none of this means much to the average American musician, who is still not getting enough income to cover living expenses, according to a new report. In a survey of 1,227 U.S. musicians released last week by the nonprofit Music Industry Research Association, in partnership with MusiCares and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, the organization found that the median musician made about $35,000 in 2017, but only $21,300 from music-related sources. According to the American Community Survey, which the U.S. Census Bureau uses to examine all professions across the country, the median U.S. musician made between $20,000 and $25,000 in the period between 2012 to 2016 – meaning that not much has changed at all despite the music industry’s regrowth in the last few years. In addition, 61% of musicians in MIRA’s survey said their music income is not enough to meet their cost of living.
The most common income source for musicians in MIRA’s report was live performances, which garnered the bulk of most musicians’ money, followed by music lessons and performances in a church choir or other religious service. Most musicians also had to pull income from three or more different sources. (Keep in mind that this group includes professional musicians as well as amateurs just starting out.)