Being a musician doesn’t always mean fast cars and fancy mansions, but it’s entirely possible to make a living and have a very fulfilling lifestyle. The big question of course is “how much do musicians actually earn in a year?”.

We found an insightful study done by Future of music that compares the income of “indie” musicians across genres, age ranges, years experience, and gender. To be fair this data is a bit on the old side (2011), but we found it fascinating and still very relevant.

In summary, the average working musician earns $35,300 USD gross revenue annually from their music career. However, the most important caveat to that number is that only 33% of study respondents make at least 75% of their income from music related sources. This means you can make additional money in fields outside of music and then bring in a sizable amount of supplemental income as a musician.

Income Allocation by Genre

Music vs. Non-Music Income by Age

Case Study:
Indie Rock Composer-Performer

“The following case study looks at 2008–2011 income for an Indie Rock Composer-Performer, who writes, records and performs his own music and regularly tours the US and abroad. From 2008-2010 he spent a significant amount of time as a salaried member of two different independent rock bands that actively toured the US and abroad, and typically played festivals and large rock clubs. When he tours his solo work, he performs in night clubs, galleries, pubs, art centers, museums, small theaters, and bars. The artist has formal training in composition and music. He has appeared on fourteen records as a leader, 32 records as a band member and 27 records as a sideman. He manages his own tours and those of the various ensembles that he co-leads. He sometimes works with a booking agent for his solo tours in Europe. He has non-exclusive relationships with several independent record labels. He is a member of AFTRA, SoundExchange and ASCAP. He is self-employed, does not have health insurance, and has no pension.”


View Full Case Study: Indie Rock Composer-Performer

Gross Revenue, 2008 – 2011


“Here’s the income from an indie rock composer/performer, who sells CDs and vinyl on tour. Over the past five years, CD sales on the road has accounted for 12% of his income, and royalties from record sales another 3.5%. Note that the 9.4% publishing royalties slice includes income from mechanicals based on sales of the songs he co-wrote.”

Gross Income Vs. Gross Expenses


The pie charts below show aggregate gross income, and the related expenses for 2008-2011. The pie chart for expenses has been scaled visually to represent that expenses consume about 53% of gross income. The table below provides details about expenses from 2008-2011.



After expenses and taxes, it’s estimated this musician will bring in around $12k in Net income. Not a huge number, but still not bad if you consider it supplemental income. Plus, all of your gear purchases like software (wink wink) are tax deductible helping lift your Net income. And as the study suggests, the older you are and the more experience you have, the more money you make. Pretty simple and on trend with life in general.

So what does this all mean? Get out there, make music and work as hard as you can to create the life you want to live. The life of a musician is not the easiest route, but it’s definitely rewarding.

The Shift To Digital

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The way musicians are being paid is quickly shifting to revenue from digital download and streaming. The two charts from show a 26x increase in digital downloads from 2004 to 2013. A new source – subscription & streaming – appears in 2013 accounting for 21% of a the artists revenue, and physical sales now only account for 35% of the artists revenue.

Learn More

Future of Music Revenue Report

These numbers are based on 2008-2012 wages, a sample size of 4,453, and a case study of a single indie musician. We strongly recommend diving deeper in to the full report.
Read The Full Study

Copyright and the Music Market place

A study conducted in 2014 by the U.S. Copyright office regarding the current state of affairs in the industry. The report touches on all aspects of income including physical, digital, licensing, publishing, and more.
Read The Full Study