Survey: Working Musicians Only Earn Up To $25K, Many Suffer from Depression

Street musicians - Photo by Freedom II Andres
Street musicians - Photo by Freedom II Andres


A new study shows the average working musician earns up to $25,000 a year, copes with depression, and often gives music lessons to augment his or her income.

Music Industry Research Association and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, in partnership with MusiCares, surveyed 1,227 musicians in the United States and came away with some not-so-shocking, but newsworthy findings.

Data from MusiCares and American List Council was used in this study.

The average American musician makes money from 3.5 music-related activities a year, the survey found.  Live performances and music lessons are the top source of income. The average musician earns between $20,000-$25,000 a year, the study found.

Read The Survey Here

Street musicians - Photo by Baris Karadeniz
Street musicians – Photo by Baris Karadeniz

Women Musicians and Sex Harassment

Women comprise about one-third of musicians and experience high rates of sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination. About 72 percent of women musicians say they’ve been discriminated against because of their sex, 67 percent have been the victim of sex harassment. Among non-white musicians, 63 percent have faced racial discrimination.

Mental health problems are rampant among musicians, with about half of all musicians surveyed indicating they have felt down, depressed or hopeless at least several days in the last two weeks. About 12 percent of musicians reported having thoughts that they would be better off dead or hurting themselves in some way.

The incidence of substance abuse is higher among musicians than the general public, including a tendency for musicians to be twice as likely to to drink alcohol than non-musicians.

Street musician - Photo by Lauri Heikkinen
Street musician – Photo by Lauri Heikkinen

Survey Purpose: To Find Out More about Musicians

The survey was conducted from April 12 to June 2, 2018. The respondees were clients of MusiCares and others, who are part of a list of music industry personnel maintained by the marketing and data collection firm, American List Council.

The supposed intent of the survey was to interview a group of people who earn a living as a musician or music composer or who were trying to make a living by making music.

In addition, the survey indicates most musicians earns about two-thirds of their income from music and one-third from non-music related activities. The average musician in the survey earned $21,300 from music sources in 2017 according to the study. Giving music lessons is the most common secondary source of income, the study indicates.

Read the survey here.