Buoyed by selling a chunk of his eponymous headphone line, Dr. Dre pulled in $110 million last year. His earnings were easily the most of any rapper, rocker or pop star in the world—and, according to a recent report released by Berklee College of Music, about 2,000 times what the average musician earned in 2012.
Dr. Dre made the bulk of his money on headphones, but he also raps, produces and plays the occasional concert. Amid the Great Recession, lesser-paid musicians are also learning that becoming jacks-of-all-trades is a crucial part of the modern business. The average personal gross income of the 5,371 musicians surveyed by Berklee was $55,561, of which $34,455 per person came from musical work. More than half of all respondents reported generating income from at least three different jobs.
Although the decline of the music business over the past decade has been well-chronicled, the Berklee report reveals that the industry is no longer in a free-fall in terms of employment–the percentage of respondents who reported a decrease in income was roughly the same as the percentage who reported an increase. Industry watchers are optimistic about job prospects for those looking to make a career in music.
“I’m very bullish about it,” says Peter Spellman, director of Berklee’s Career Development Center and author of Indie Business Power. “Where I sit … it makes me very hopeful for our musicians here and what they can do. But it does require a certain amount of business savvy and marketing savvy, in combination with your musical savvy, to succeed.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a bit more guarded, projecting a 10% increase in the number of music jobs in the U.S. through 2020, compared to 14% across the broader economy. But the BLS pegs average hourly wages at $22.39 for musicians, 50% more than the countrywide average of $16.27. And Berklee’s study reveals many music jobs where salaries top out in the six-figure range, some in fields that didn’t exist in the old music world.