Bread in Your Jar: Berklee’s Report on Music Career Pay

The 2016 Music Careers in Dollars and Cents from Berklee College of Music
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If you’re trying to build your life around playing keyboards and music, you probably shouldn’t expect a life of riches. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing what you love and getting paid for it. I don’t think you should be motivated by money when you’re ostensibly making art, but if you’re creating beauty, it’s a fair exchange to be compensated as well as you can.

No matter what you’re doing in or out of the music business, if you don’t have an idea of what you’re “worth,” someone, somewhere will try to pay you less than that amount. So it’s always fascinating when the Berklee College of Music Career Development Center puts out its Music Careers in Dollars and Cents report. The 32-page 2016 Edition just arrived, and it sheds light on the expected salary ranges for the entire spectrum of music industry careers — everything from a big Las Vegas casino residency ($360K-500K per year) to a Social Media Specialist for a digital/streaming media company ($60K-80K).

Salary ranges are always voyeuristic fun, even when it’s for something you never intend to do, like being a roadie for club-level touring ($700-1000 per week). However, this Berklee report also includes some very helpful practical information for people who are currently in or are looking to enter an aspect of the music business.

The page on Negotiating a Job Offer should be required reading for almost anyone who isn’t self-employed. There are also some very useful resource pages at the end of the document with information such as employment statistics for musicians and singers, and a long list of career development-oriented Music Organizations and Associations.

This report is well worth a look, but if you’re just curious about the numbers that fellow ivory ticklers see in their Social Security reports, here’s a sampling of relevant salary ranges. There are many more in the full report. Of course, what you get paid for a job is only a fraction of the battle. This PDF says nothing about the hard work, determination, connections and sprinkling of luck that it will probably take to land any of these jobs. All that is up to you.

PERFORMANCE
- General Business (GB) or Cover band: $1,000 - $2,500 per gig

- Club gigs in Boston and New York (non-classical) $75 - $125+ per person for club date. (Depends on reputation of the band, how many people attend, size of the club, etc.)

Touring Acts (assumes a sold-out show at $50 or more per ticket):
-Club-level opener: $16,000 per 40 dates
- Club-level headliner: $750,000 per 40 dates
- Arena-level opener: $30,000 - 750,000 per 40 dates
- Arena-level headliner: $3,000,000 - $30,000,000 per 40 dates

- Festival Act (new act at a music festival): $3,000 - $7,500

Late-Night Television Band $250,000 - $2,500,000/Band leader $10,000 - $50,000 per week/Band member

- YouTube Star: $250,000 - $300,000 (ad revenue for mid-level YouTube star with followers in the millions and views in the hundreds of millions)

- Orchestral Musician (full time)
Starting base: $28,000 - $143,000
Examples: $36,594 – Alabama Symphony (starting)
$132,028 – Boston Symphony Orchestra (starting)

- NYC Musician’s Union rate as of 9/12/12 (Principal players receive more):
2 ½-hour concert - $261
3-hour night rehearsal - $261
2 ½-hour day rehearsal - $131

- Military Bands and Orchestras: $21,000 - $77,000 a year (depends on rank, location, and organization)

- Broadway Pit Musician: $800 - $1500+ per week

- Church Organist/Pianist: $100+ per service / $30,000 - $110,000 per year for full-time organist

- Session Musician: $100 - $2,500 per day or up to $100,000+ a year

- Touring Musician
Lead guitarist: $500 - $20,000 per week
Keyboardist: $200 - $15,000 per week
Drummer: $200 - $15,000 per week

- Studio Musician for TV/Movies/Radio: Union scale varies. Generally there is an hourly fee ($80 - $130+ per hour)

MUSIC PRODUCTS

- Instrument Maker: $15,000 - $65,000 a year
- Instrument Repair Technician: $9 - $55 an hour
- Piano Tuner: $100 – $185 per tuning

WRITING

- Commercial Jingle Composer: $100 - $8,000+ per commercial

- TV Show Composer
$1,500 - $7,500+ per 30-minute episode
$2,000 - $15,000+ per 60-minute episode
$2,000 - $55,000+ per TV movie

- Competition Prizes: $150 - $15,000 per competition and possibly performances, national publicity, and recordings.

Songwriter/Lyricist Music/Song Licensing rates:
- Independent film: $250 - $750
- Feature film by major studio: $7,500 - $17,500
- Film festival use: $0 - $250
- Promotional trailer (theatrical): $4,000 - $7,500
- Promotional trailer (TV): $2,000 - $2,500
- Basic cable TV program: $0 - $250
- Daytime drama on network TV: $100 - $500
- Primetime one-hour TV series: $500 - $2,500
- National TV theme song: $5,000 - $1,000,000
- National TV commercial: $15,000 - $100,000
- National TV commercial jingle: $100,000 - $500,000
- Top 10 hit on Billboard Hot 100: $250,000 - $2,500,000

Composing to Picture
- Student film: $0 - $10,000+
- Indie Feature: $2,500 - $500,000+ (composer pays production costs)
- Studio Feature: $35,000 - $2mil+ (composer pays production cost)
- Television movie: $1,500 - $55,000+
- Video Game (30 minutes): $30,000 - $75,000+
- Casual Games: $300 - $600 per minute of finished music

- Music Editor: $1,000 - $5,000 per week

Download the Berklee College of Music 2016 Edition of Music Careers in Dollars and Cents