How Much Is That Fiddle In The Window?

There’s a fascinating report from the Future of Music Coalition called Artist Revenue Streams (ARS), which they describe as “a multi-stage research project to assess whether and how musicians’ revenue streams are changing in this new music landscape.” They recently released an installment which focuses on an orchestra musician’s income/expense structure during the period 2000-2011 and the results are intriguing.

The study isn’t designed to be all-encompassing, it only covers a single musician; but the comprehensive depth used when tracking data is a terrific starting place for additional study. The only thing missing in the report are actual dollar amounts and any indication as to the regular ensembles and other freelance employers the musician worked for over the course of the study.

And although they provide a terrific breakdown of the subject’s income during each year of the study, they don’t provide the same detail for expenses; at the same time, they do provide a good cumulative overview of expenses over the ten year period.

With regard to those figures, the study divides business expenses into eight categories:

  • Musical Equipment: Purchase and upkeep of concert level musical instruments
  • Education: Education costs and student loan payments
  • Travel Expense: Work-related travel (usually reimbursed for these costs)
  • Rehearsal Expenses: Purchasing sheet music and recorded music to learn new pieces
  • Performance Expenses: Stage clothing
  • Other players/accompanists: Paying other players for freelance gigs, accompanists for auditions, etc
  • Member Dues: AFM
  • Overhead: Application fees for competitions, auditions, minimal printing and promotional expenses

I’m particularly interested in the Musical Equipment component as the study does not drill down into the division between purchase and upkeep and since I recently completed a comprehensive research project for The Strad on the cost of ownership for orchestra string musicians, it would be fascinating to see where this subject falls within the parameters of my data. The results could be useful in that cross tabulating the data compiled for ARS and my figures could produce some useful results.

At the very least, it would provide a practical resource guide for orchestra musicians when projecting business costs throughout the length of their career. So stay tuned as you never know what might happen.


[ilink url=”” style=”note”]About the Artist Revenue Streams (ARS) project[/ilink]


About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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