Half Of All Aussie Musicians Earned Less Than $6000 Last Year

3 April 2024 | 9:15 am | Mary Varvaris

“Musicians are the face of Australia’s insecure work crisis.”

Belle Haven @ Corner Hotel

Belle Haven @ Corner Hotel (Credit: Clinton Hatfield)

Half of Australian musicians surveyed by Musicians Australia – an initiative within the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) – revealed that they made less than $6,000 from music last year.

With those artists making 15% of the national minimum wage, Musicians Australia is calling for a new national minimum fee and improved working conditions for artists.

More than 550 musicians were surveyed, with 49% of artists stating that they earned less than $5999 from the music industry during the 2023 financial year. 64% said they earned $14,999 or less.

In addition to those figures, one in five musicians surveyed told Musicians Australia that they derived all their earnings from their music career, while the remaining two-thirds said they seek work elsewhere.

40% of musicians find income from two or three music-related jobs, 42% say they’ve played unpaid gigs, 82% report not receiving superannuation from gigs, and 60% say they’re getting paid less than $250 per show—a stark contrast to the 20 hours per week (39%) getting ready for the show.

86% of people surveyed said they felt musicians were treated unfairly by the music industry.

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South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, NSW, and the ACT have endorsed Musicians Australia’s minimum fee of $250 per public-funded concert. Now, Musicians Australia is calling on the Tasmanian government to do the same.

“It is not properly acknowledged that what we do is an occupation,” folk musician Kimberley Wheeler, the Federal President of MEAA Musicians, commented in a press release.

“Musicians are typically treated as having a lesser right to earn income than other earners in the music industry. We operate as businesses. We need to earn a living wage, not pocket money… It’s a matter of public interest that we have a viable live music industry in Australia.”

MEAA Campaigns Director Paul Davies said that the statistics in the new report confirm that “musicians are the face of Australia’s insecure work crisis.”

Davies continued, “They are expected to get by on extraordinarily low incomes, inconsistent and often unpaid work, and they very rarely receive superannuation, which is a right for all workers.”

Acknowledging that most musicians work multiple jobs, Davies said this means musicians make sacrifices for their creative careers to fund “their projects and artistic development”, plus they have to support themselves and, often, families.

“Our members are telling us that conditions have worsened since the pandemic as converging issues ranging from venues closing or imposing rigid, one-sided fee arrangements, drying up, poor working conditions, and general cost of living concerns, which is threatening their viability in the industry,” Davies said.

Davies welcomes the recently announced government inquiry into the Australian live music industry.

The inquiry plans to explore the “challenges and opportunities” the industry faces and the sustainability of the music industry. The House of Representatives also urges music industry workers to be open about the barriers affecting growth, “including to exports, the impact of current grant and support programs and capacity building in the sector”.