After nearly two decades of decline, recording industry revenue is now on the rise thanks, in large part, to the popularity of music streaming services. However, a new report from the nonprofit Music Industry Research Association suggests that the money hasn’t exactly trickled down.
According to the report, which was organized in conjunction with MusiCares and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, the median income for musicians was $35,000 in 2017—with only $21,300 coming from music-related sources. As noted by Rolling Stone, the American Community Survey indicates that median musician income was between $20,000 and $25,000 from 2012 to 2016, so it seems that increased recording industry revenues haven’t translated into higher pay for the people who do the music making.
The Music Industry Research Association report points out that 61% of the musicians they surveyed rely on other forms of income to pay the bills. Still, the most common source of income was live performances, which were followed by music lessons and performances at religious institutions. However, the survey included both long-term professional musicians and musicians who were just getting started.
The survey also noted a number of other trends regarding the music profession. For instance, roughly one-third of musicians are women, with 72% of female musicians reporting that they have been discriminated against because of their sex and 67% reporting that they have been the victim of sexual harassment. Additionally, musicians struggle with mental health issues at a particularly high rate, and the musicians that were surveyed had thoughts related to self-harm at over 3 times the rate of the general population.
The survey also demonstrated that musicians are more likely to deal with substance abuse issues. Those surveyed were 5 times more likely to have used cocaine in the previous 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, and 3.5 times more likely to have used meth. Musicians are also nearly twice as likely to drink alcohol frequently.
The Music Industry Research Association surveyed 1,227 American musicians for its report. The organization selected its sample from MusiCares’ client list, music-industry directories maintained by the American List Council, and references from other musicians. While they acknowledged that this is not necessarily a representative sample of American musicians, they noted that “even with this partial sample, several of the findings from the MIRA Musician Survey raise concerns about the lives and careers of many working musicians.”
The survey was conducted between April 12th, 2018, and June 2nd, 2018.