Home » Survey finds half of Aussie musicians earned less than $6,000 in a year

Survey finds half of Aussie musicians earned less than $6,000 in a year

Folk musician Kimberley Wheeler has been performing for nearly 30 years, during which time she has held various roles within the industry.

“I’m a singer-songwriter. I also play upright bass for myself and others. I have a studio and often help people record things or produce their materials,” she said.

But to make ends meet, she’s had to rely on working other jobs, like offering IT services to clients.

“When I talk to my accountant, he looks at one side of my business. And he then looks at the other side of my business, and he just thinks that I’m stark raving bonkers for pursuing music,” she said.

To make ends meet, Kimberley Wheeler works a number of other jobs to supplement her income as a musician. (Supplied: Kimberley Wheeler)

Data from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has found half of Australian musicians earned less than $6,000 last financial year in that industry, which is 15 per cent of the national minimum wage.

The union survey of 550 musicians found fewer can make a full-time living from their creative profession now compared to four years ago before the pandemic struck.

“My streaming royalties from last year were about $7,” Ms Wheeler, who is also a MEAA board member, said.

“I make, obviously, a lot more than that from selling one CD. So that used to be the case, that you could make part of your living from that and it would subsidise the fact that what we were earning at live shows wasn’t really up to spec.”

Ms Wheeler said her income from live performing was very unreliable, playing around a quarter of her gigs for free, and earning a few hundred dollars for other shows.

“Live music is a really hard space to make money out of. It costs you to go out and do a show,” she said.

“And then also, there’s a huge time investment in the rehearsal and also the lead up to it, the social media burden that we carry to try and promote a show.”

a black and white picture of a woman posing with a large stringed instrument.

Kimberley Wheeler is a board member at the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which released a new survey on the working conditions of musicians.(Supplied: Kimberley Wheeler)

MEAA campaigns director Paul Davies believes musicians have become “the face” of Australia’s insecure work crisis.

“We’ve got a problem that musicians have not been able to sustain careers in a market that is increasingly making them bear all the risk,” he said.