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Full time musicans: Average yearly income?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by froglips, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. froglips


    Feb 9, 2009
    I was just wondering what the average yearly income a full time musician makes.

    Thanks for your time.
  2. Depends.
  3. Asking income is a pretty personal question.

    It's pretty easy to figure out though, and there is obviously a wide range. For the typical freelance player, the days of the 6 night a week, 300+ night a year gigging schedule is pretty much over. Most 'full timers' that I know play around 125 gigs a year at this point (plus or minus 25 or so).

    In the midwest (which is what I am familiar with), you can multiply that out by a range of per night pay, depending on the gig (bar or private) of between $100 and $300 per night. For a 'good' player in demand, a good average amount is around $200 a night (averaging half lower paying bar/restaurant gigs, and half higher paying privates).

    So, $200 a night average times about 125 gigs gives you an 'average' income of a reasonable good player at around $25,000 a year in the US. Add another $10,000 or so for teaching, doing charts, etc., and you get to about $35,000 a year with no benefits.

    Of course, there is a wide range, but that is probably representative of the average freelancer who can read, teach and lives in a 'typical city' (not LA or NY) in the US.

    IMO and IME. While a few will make a lot more than that, my guess is most make less (i.e., it's not an even distribution around my 'average').
  4. The two of my friends that make the most dough playing music are primarily solo players. They are singer/songwriters/guitarists that play 5-6 nights a week, mostly solo in bars. They also play private parties, corporate events, weddings, etc. Occasionally they'll bring out a top shelf band for gigs if the money is right. One of them pulls in around $80k per year. I'm guessing the other makes more around $40k....he also teaches for income.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I make $60K plus benefits.
  6. You are in the military, though, correct?

    So to the OP, it depends on WHAT job you are doing that involves music. Asking how much a FT musician makes is the same asking what any FT artist makes. Are they the head of artwork at Halmark? Or do they sell paintings out of their basement? Big difference.
  7. chicago_mike


    Oct 9, 2007
    Chicago - LA - Rome - Dallas
    Endorsing Artist : Genz Benz
    full time gigger, and only a gigger will make between 19,000 to lets say 35,000. It goes up depending on who and what you do.
  8. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    Correct. I'm a full time, gigging bassist/bandleader in the military.
  9. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I'm assuming the OP is a younger player trying to figure out if a full-time musician career is possible ...

    Very few players (regardless of instrument of choice) can make an adequate income just by doing gigs, especially if you have family obligations. It used to be possible in the '60's, '70's and even most of the '80's, but no longer. Every full-time musician I know supplements their gigging schedule by teaching, doing studio work, writing charts, writing jingles, and just about everything you can think of to make some coin.

    While no longer a full-time musician, I was for many, many years until a significant family medical issue forced me to get a stable day gig with insurance. For the past nearly 15 years I have been an active part-time musician and the increase in gigging pay has not changed for routine bar/club jobs.

    If I were to ever go back to full-time status, I would concentrate on getting hooked up with a professional corporate/club date entertainment agency. It is, in many ways, musical prostitution but it's one of the few sectors of musical performance that is consistent and has a decent pay rate per date. But these gigs are hard to find and you need some significant chops to get and keep the job.

    The most successful full time local musician I know generated $95K in 2008, but that's gross pay with zero benefits (we were just discussing this subject over dinner a few days ago). After taxes, insurance, expenses, etc, he is barely getting by (has a wife and 2 kids in their early teens). He works like a dog and is tired of the whole scene ...
  10. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    If OP is a younger player I would like to add to Pointbass's entry. I worked as a full time musician in the 70's. Did well. Was on the road so much I there were times when I did not have permanent residence; relationships were impossible. Got burned out. Went back to school in mechanical engineering. Now self-employed, sixty years old, paying out $600.00/mo for health care insurance with a $5000.00 deductable. I did not have health care insurance when I was playing music and I had an operation on my back in November that was over $110,000.00.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If you are looking to get into music to make a good living, don't. It happens for so few people that it's pointless to even try. Get into music because you love playing music. If you want to make money, go make money.
  12. funkybass4ever


    Dec 12, 2007
    Well said, and if it happens then great but if it doesn't at least you did what you love
  13. +1 to the above.

    Now that I'm a part timer, I actually play through an entertainment agency. I actually like the freelance nature of it, I enjoy the tunes, and am able to play with very good players (as you say, since there's so much reading and faking and key changing and bobbing and weaving in this sort of gigging, the players have to be pretty on top of it.

    The bad news is, this part of the business (i.e., the higher end of the pay scale for most freelancers) has been hit HARD over the past 12 months. The corporate work, which was a big part of the first quarter bookings, is all but gone. The high end weddings are still there, but the super high end hip hop DJ's are really cutting into that work, and especially the 'gala' type party work (bands are no longer hot, DJ's from New York and Miami are!).

    So, I agree, it's no longer a career option, especially for bassists and drummers who cannot do solo work. That $20K to $40K that you can make as a sideman (unless you are the top guy in town on your instrument) without benefits is cool when you are 20 living in an apartment, but not when you are 35+ and starting a family.

    And +1 to bar pay being stagnant for the last 20 years or so.

    I agree with Jimmy, if you want to play, do it because you love it. But.... go to school for something else while you are doing it. Take private lessons, take some electives in the music department, etc., but find something else you love that can actually make you some cash and benefits.

    IMO (since I'm one of the older guys in the freelance agency that I work in, I often get asked this stuff by the younger players starting out, so it's always on my mind).
  14. froglips


    Feb 9, 2009
    I am not looking to make it a career. I play just because I like to play, and was thinking that playing some gigs locally would be kinda cool someday maybe.

    Mostly just curious what the average was really.:p
  15. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos095.htm

    It's a little dated, but it'll give you a good idea as how much musicians make a year. I think one of the biggest factors, besides being a good musician, is where you live.
  16. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    well, you know they do say, "to make a million dollars playing music, first start with two million..."
  17. +1 Nice way to have fun, make a bit of extra money, and meet people. Nothing wrong with that!

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