If you are currently in music school, thinking about it, or have already graduated, you may be wondering how much money musicians actually make and what kind of net worth you can expect.
Berklee reports that there is actually quite a significant range in musician earnings, depending on where you end up:
• Orchestral musicians may start anywhere from $28,000-$143,000. This is for a full-time season. If you work a shorter season, your salary could be lower.
• If you work for a community orchestra, you might receive around $100-$120 for each of your performances.
• Military musicians earn anywhere from $21,000-$77,000.
• If you are a Broadway pit musician, you will probably earn $800-$1,500 per week for as long as the show is on.
• Club musicians may earn anywhere from $75-$125 for club dates.
If you check the link, you can find a much more comprehensive list covering numerous other music careers.
How does all of this average out? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2015 median pay for musicians and singers came out to $24.20 per hour. Job growth is slow, however, and the BLS also reports that many musicians work only part-time or intermittently and suffer from long periods without work.
So if you find yourself struggling to get by on a musician’s salary, you should not be surprised. Even though the median hourly rate of pay is actually not too bad, over time it may not add up to a whole lot.
Being a musician often follows the “feast or famine” cycle of income. For a few months, you may be doing great—but then you end up out of work and burning through all the money you made.
Where Do You Fall in Terms of Average Net Worth?
If you try to look up the “average net worth of musicians,” you will find a lot of lists of the richest musicians alive. This is not very useful information, as it does nothing to shed light on the net worth of the average musician. There is really no point in comparing yourself with the highest earners.
A much more useful thing to do is to consider the average net worth of workers altogether, and then consider where you fall with regards to that. The average net worth by age is actually quite a bit lower than you may think. If you click through to the link, you will find a chart which compares the average net worth by age and percentile.
Are you under the age of 35? If so, if you have just $7,000 or so (and that includes all of your assets, not just the balance in your bank account) to your name, then you are actually doing better than 50% of your peers.
It is difficult to extrapolate how you fit in with other musicians given this data, because there are so many variations where lifestyle is concerned. You might for example earn $30,000 a year as an orchestral musician, and you might sit next to a player who earns the same amount. Whereas you have $6,000 to your name, he might have $20,000.
Even if you graduated the same year and started working at the same time, there are many other factors to explain the difference in your net worth. He might have had more savings or borrowed less for school. He may work a second job. He may have a spouse who brings in a second stream of income. He may have fewer expenses.
The bottom line here is that comparing yourself to other musicians is only so useful. In the end, the only person you are really competing with financially is yourself. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you have a low net worth right now; you are trying to make it in a tough field where it is hard to find full-time work.
Do what you can to cut back on expenses and get more gigs. Consider a day job if you need one. Do not worry about what the guy in the next chair is making. Just focus on playing your best and saving and investing toward your financial goals.