Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

March 19, 2009

New Survey Reveals Most Working Musicians Not Adversely Affected by the Economy

Last month I ran an online survey to find out how the weak global economy has affected working independent musicians. The results may surprise you.

I wanted to know how musicians were faring, compared to one year ago, in four areas:
  • Online music sales
  • Live show music and merchandise sales
  • The number of live bookings and performances
  • Sideline music income (giving lessons, running sound, etc.)
Respondants had six choices for answers:
  • Much lower
  • A little lower
  • About the same
  • Up a little
  • Much higher
  • Doesn't apply to me
342 people responded. What were the results?

Well, contrary to what most people probably assume, half or more of the working musicians who took the survey have NOT been hurt by the economy.

Online music sales got the most positive results, with 55% of respondants reporting about the same or higher numbers compared to last year.

Live performances seem to have suffered the most, with 38% saying they are worse off than last year. But even in this category, 50% reported about the same or higher.

You can see a more complete overview of the responses in this two-page 2009 Music and the Economy Survey PDF file.

But here are some of the music survey highlights:

Online music sales:
41% about the same
14% higher
25% lower
55% have not been hurt by the economy (*report about the same or higher)

Live show music and merchandise sales:
34% about the same
16% higher
32% lower
50% have not been hurt by the economy *

Number of live shows booked and played:
25% about the same
25% higher
38% lower
50% have not been hurt by the economy *

Sideline music income:
34% about the same
17% higher
23% lower
51% have not been hurt by the economy *

Again, you can download this two-page 2009 Music and the Economy Survey PDF file to see a more detailed listing of results.


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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:05 AM   11 comments


At Mar 19, 2009, 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Lee Jarvis said...

I wouldn't say that I'm surprised at the results. With many friend's facing doom and gloom in their industries, music is still something that people desire strongly. maybe even more so after a tough time (ever treated yourself to that CD or just HAD to go to a show on a friday night to dance your cares away?)

I'd also say that many music professionals are in a stronger position by running their own careers rather than their jobs and salaries being dictated by a corporation's HR department. One of the many reasons I think that going indie is a good idea ;)

At Mar 19, 2009, 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Barry said...

Doesn't really surprise me!

Music is 'recession-proof' in a way, if you think about it. People want to party if times are good but also need to get out of the house or listen to music if times are hard.

So far this year, I'm working more than last year and everything else is humming along fine.

At Mar 19, 2009, 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Allen said...

I appreciate hearing this. I'm a producer and studio owner and work for me is better than ever. I have one slow month per year and that is typically February. This one was slow, but I worked on a business plan during that time. Today we're booked solid.

At Mar 19, 2009, 5:51:00 PM, Blogger JAMES BENTON said...

I've been trying to get a show booked in the UK now for weeks with 0 results. Another musician friend of mine is having the same experience there, telling me that all the venues he's contacted in the London area tells him he'll either have to purchase fifty tickets up front or commit to showing up with 25 people tagging alone behind him. Was planning on flying up there from where I live in France to tour my album that will be released anytime now. This is looking rather devastating for me.

At Mar 19, 2009, 11:20:00 PM, Anonymous Boy at Heart said...

This does not surprise me at all ac tually. I remember the last recession in the UK during the early 90's and I recall then that what seemed to thrive was music.

Music touches peoples hearts. Money, the economy, all of that doesn't go much deeper than the head, so really people deep down know that music is something that they feel supported by and inspired by and forget about their money worries for a bit.

Personally I am in the same position. I don't sell many records anyway, but its my music that keeps me feeling inspired and without it I would be lost.

At Mar 20, 2009, 3:53:00 PM, Anonymous Ian Clifford said...


Great work uncovering this current status quo, but like most of the commenters, I'm not that surprised.

I'm finding with our artists that we manage that live income is steady. But, the most interesting thing is that the 'long tail' theory really seems to have started kicking in for digital sales. We have a couple of artists with year or more old records that are essentially unknown who are doing more than $2000 per month in digital download sales. These are driven almost exclusively by Pandora in the USA and in the UK.

If you aren't running a presence there, I recommend it and think they will be increasingly important to artist discovery in years to come.

I've touched on it a little in a post on my new blog, but will look into it more and post again.

At Mar 21, 2009, 12:59:00 PM, Anonymous JT said...

I was one of the survey respondents who's income had not been adversely changed by the economy. That changed the other day when a club where I'd been playing 1-2 solo gigs a week for the past two years closed.

Am I upset? A little - it's a big hit to my pocketbook - but now I have an opportunity: to find other venues, do more writing/recording, to pick up sub work with other bands. As a gigging musician this is what I've done throughout my career, no matter what shape the economy is in. But it sure was nice to chill at a regular gig for a while.

At Apr 8, 2009, 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I really have to disagree with this. This survey only targets one kind of musician with this survey, but labels it as all "working musicians."

Not every working musician relies on music sales, live shows and merch sales.

Here's an article from the Baltimore Sun that backs me up:

The thousands of musicians nationwide that work for symphonies, ballets, Broadway shows, tours, theatre companies - they are getting racked through the coals of this recession.

Charleston Symphony just lost 25% of wages:

The St. Paul Chamber orchestra just lost 12% from next years salaries:

Utah Symphony nearly filed chapter 11:

The Texas Ballet Theatre dropped their $300k contract with the Ft. Wayne Symphony:

The Honolulu Symphony hasn't been paid in over 2 months:

The Atlanta Symphony just announced cuts, as well as Tucson and many, many others. 11 Broadway shows closed in a matter of week back in January, and less than a handful have opened to replace them.

Regardless of the results of this poll, how on earth can you report that working musicians are not adversely affected by the economy?

At Apr 8, 2009, 12:53:00 PM, Anonymous Lee Jarvis said...

Fair point regarding classical performing musicians, although I think that most people are commenting as broadly as possible. That would include ALL kinds of 'musicians' (even electronic ones like me), earning income from a wide range of revenue streams, be that concert hall shows, physical and digital sales, publishing and licensing deals, part-time teaching income, online T-shirt sales, live show ticket sales, remix projects, consulting contracts and more.

Many of these areas have either remained constant or seen growth in recent times, and those people who are generating income from a variety of sources often fair better when one source dries up.

At Apr 8, 2009, 4:27:00 PM, Anonymous David Hooper said...

If you're "losing money" right now, maybe it's not the economy. Maybe it's your marketing.

Just saying...

At Apr 16, 2009, 11:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, the poll showed that 50% or more working musicians not adversely affected by the economy. Symphony musicians may not be in that 50%. Second, since Symphonies rely donations to provide 50% or more of their income, they are particularly vulnerable in an economic downturn. It would be wise for symphony musicians to reevaluate their income strategy.


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