The music industry is supposed to be a glamorous place. You will make tons of money selling records, getting platinum plaques, headlining festivals and selling out arenas. In reality that will only happen to a select and very lucky few individuals while 99.9% of musicians won’t even come close to those heights. Some will be lucky to be able to support themselves and their family with just music-related income, but most of the time, many will need other jobs to subsidize their careers music and this often leads to many who exit the business. It is too grueling and challenging. If your band goes on a 30-date tour and makes $500 each after expenses, it is hard to justify that life. A new study shows the financial challenges that many musicians face, in addition to harassment, discrimination and health issues.
A study by the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, in partnership with MusiCares of 1,227 musicians in the U.S. in 2018 showed that workplace conditions in the music business are not great.
61% of musicians say that their music-related income does not meet their living expenses. The median musician in the U.S. reported earning nearly $35,000 in 2017 from various sources, including music. The breakdown of earnings is pretty interesting. 81% said they earned money from live events, making up for 42% of their music-related income. If you want to survive, you need to tour. At the other end of the spectrum, a quarter said they earned some money from streaming services, composing, merchandise sales, and session work, but this only accounted for less than 5% of income.
72% of women musicians say they have been victims of discrimination and another 67% report that they have been the victim of sexual harassment. 63% of non-white musicians say they have been faced racial discrimination.
Health, notably mental health, is a big problem for musicians. Half of musicians reported “feeling down, depressed or hopeless at least several days in the last two weeks.” Musicians are much more prone to substance abuse compared to the general population. According to the survey, they are five times more likely to use cocaine, 6.5 times more likely to use ecstasy and 13.5 times more likely to have used LSD in the past month.
Read the full study to get into all of the numbers in the study.