Let’s Take All The Repeats For Berklee’s “Music Careers In Dollars and Cents”

Every now and then I’m fortunate enough to have someone point out a resource I missed when it was originally released. The most recent example is Berklee College of Music’s Music Careers In Dollars and Cents resource from 2016 that provides salary ranges for quite a few professions in the US music business.

Adaptistration People 033A big hat tip to pianist and composer Ryan Cohan for connecting me with this resource.

While the data is a few years old, it’s still a wonderfully valuable resource and the salary ranges are easy enough to adjust for time.

Right out of the gate, the resource includes a disclaimer I relate to: “Salaries for various positions can vary widely depending on such factors as level of expertise and geographic location. Not comprehensive.”

Nonetheless, I can confirm the figures are reliable ranges. For example, here’s how they present salary ranges for orchestral musicians:

Job Title

Orchestral Musician


Starting base: $28,000 – $143,000 Example: $36,594 – Alabama Symphony (starting) $132,028 – Boston Symphony Orchestra (starting)

Additional Info

Range is for a full-time orchestra with a season of approximately 40 weeks. Other per service orchestras and orchestras with shorter seasons would have a lower salary.

Granted, there’s plenty to quibble over when the term “full-time” is applied to professional orchestra musicians, but that’s small potatoes in the larger sense. For the record, when the report mentions orchestras with shorter seasons have lower salaries, replace “salaries” with “wages” and you’ll have a better sense of the difference since that figure goes as low as a several hundred dollars per year.

Overall, the data is well organized, and the table-based layout provides just enough contextual information for most listings to make things relatable regardless if you’re neck deep in the field or a casual observer.

There’s plenty to appreciate with how broad of a net the report casts. For example, the section on music business includes salary range info for the following positions from the music products, publishing and concert industry sectors:

  • Instrument Repair Technician
  • Music Instrument and/or Accessories Distributor
  • Note Setter (go figure, I’ve always called that position a music transcriber)
  • Song Plugger
  • Copyright/Licensing Administrator

In addition to the salary ranges, you’ll find tips on how to negotiate a job offer and establishing pricing from the perspective of a someone seeking work in many of the music business sectors covered by the report.

Download the Report in PDF format from berklee.edu

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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