Jump to content

Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

How full time musicians earn their living


Recommended Posts

In preparation for an interview on a San Francisco area NPR show (see www.martynemko.com), I am gathering information from many sources including musician forums on the multiple tasks including accompanist, side man, private instructor, product specialist, programmer and other special career categories (see www.musicianslifecoach.com) that an individual full time musician combines into his career to earn a living in the music industry. I am also interested in any information you care to contribute about salaries or fees- hourly, weekly or yearly.


As an example, for the San Francisco Bay Area, musicians I interviewed combine a private teaching schedule (anywhere from $40- $80 an hour per lesson), weekday restaurant and club gigs (average $100 per night), side man single engagement gigs (called club dates on the East Coast and Casual on the West Coast) (ranging from $175- $350 per gig), band leader gigs ($500 to $2k and up). The taboo subject of income (not often divulged) ranged from $50k to $110k.


This can prove to be a very educational thread if enough of us offer as much as we are comfortable divulging.


I am very interested and appreciate any feedback. It seems timely during NAMM when the manufactures, distributors and retailers want to sell more product to musicians.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 7
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Hi, coach.

I work in the SF area and the figures you cited are exactly what I make (except for the casuals which usually pay more than that).


You're a little late for NAMM, it ended last Sunday. Having been to NAMM many times, it doesn't seem to me that the manufacturers really care about any of the information you are seeking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's something to keep in mind during your data collection as far as perspective.


There are a few different levels of 'working' musician. I understand your data gathering is based around full time pros, but using this forum as an example, they are a fairly small part of what could be considered the 'musician' total distribution.


Jeremy is one side of the distribution on here- the professional, seasoned, in-demand type of musician that earns the figures you describe. This level of musician is maybe ~20% of the distribution. Then there is the 'semi pro'/ part time/ second job level of musician that has a day job, career, some other employment but supplement their income by playing in bands, maybe giving lessons, etc. There is also a portion of that group that may play out a lot but not get paid like volunteering for churches, charity, etc. This group is probably ~60% of the distribution. Then there is the remaining 20% that are hobbyists and wannabe's that may have some gear but spend most of their time jamming to CDs or making crappy Youtube covers. There are also those that buy a bass or whatever, try it, lose interest and leave it sit in the corner collecting dust.


The punch line is that there is a large population of musicians out there that are making a few grand a year on the side tops. That being said, be careful of what conclusions you draw. What may be true for the top shelf pro guys may not hold true for the rest of us.

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"- George Orwell
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guys, he titled the thread "How full time musicians earn their living"...not "How most musicians earn their living." I don't think his targeted demographic has anything to do with most of us here. There are a couple but not that many.


I recently spent the better part of a year depending on gig income after getting laid off in early '09. I did ok and I think I ended up making a little less than I was in my full time job but I spent a lot more hours in rehearsals and gigs than I'd want to for that little money. I'm glad to have a day job again.


Currently I'm a freelance URB player for local orchestras and musicals making $75-$150/service (usually on the $75-$100 side) and play in 2 bands that usually make $75-$100 each for club gigs and usually $250-$400 (guestimating here) each for private events (one band is 12-piece so we don't always individually make as much as smaller bands).


Not sure if that helps the cause much but use it as you will, Mr. Coach.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Thank you for your input.


You have made a great niche for yourself in the Bay Area targeting ethnic markets as well as mainstream markets. 'Niche' markets will certainly be one of the topics we discuss on the radio.


The NAMM posting was due to the fact that this was posted on the keyboard forum a week earlier and we had a very informative response. We took the easy way out and copied and pasted the same post on the guitar and bass forums to get a wider response from many music communities.


Thank you for the 'heads up'. I'll remove the NAMM part on further cut and pastes in other forums.


NAMM and MENC should be making greater efforts to promote live music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made my living from music for a couple years in the early 80s.

In addition to the income taht's been mentioned above, I also did instrument repair, setups and modifications.


I also took occaisional work as a day laborer when I needed extra money.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...