Labor activist/University of Washington PhD candidate Megan Brown has written a report on Seattle musicians' economic impact on the city and the conditions under which they work.

You can read the .PDF here.

Overall, the study finds that although local musicians contribute substantially to Seattle's growing music-oriented economy through their performances, purchases of gear, and use of studios and rehearsal spaces, most of them only earn poverty wages. Brown also offers three policy reforms that would seek to improve local musicians' working conditions, which she believes would help to maintain the music industry's strength in our regional economy.

Here are some more important findings and conclusions in Brown's study:

Despite substantial growth in the music industry in the past 7 years, workers’ incomes have remained stagnant or declined. The music industry in Seattle has continued to grow since the most recent economic impact analysis was undertaken in 2008. We have added approximately 5,452 music-related jobs, $600 million in direct economic output, and $1.7 billion in total economic impact, for an overall growth of about 50% in 7 years. However, the income of typical workers in the music industry has not kept pace with the overall increase. Payroll has increased only 12% in the same time period, and payroll per employee has decreased by 25%. Workers are not sharing in the music industry’s growth,

Working musicians themselves frequently do not benefit from the economic output they produce for the region. Our survey of 124 working musicians found that although many earn a large percentage of their income directly from their work in music, they are subject to mistreatment in their working lives, uncertainty about the kinds of work agreements they make, and overall poor compensation. A typical working musician earns more than half of their income through music, but earns only about $15,000 per year in music-related income.

• Without a strong support system for working musicians and protection for a musician’s rights on the job, a vital and vibrant Seattle music industry will falter.

• The music industry employs more people than agriculture, forestry and fishing, utilities, and mining and oil and gas extraction industries combined.

• Although the total payroll of the music industry in Seattle in 2013 has increased by about 12% and now exceeds $545 million, workers themselves have not experienced increases to their per capita income. Per employee, payroll in the Seattle music industry is approximately $32,872 annually. This is about half as much as the median income of Seattle, which was $65,677 in 2012.

• This per capita payroll expenditure has decreased dramatically since 2007. In 2007, music industry businesses spent approximately $43,658 per employee on payroll. Even though the music industry sales increased dramatically from 2007 to 2013, spending per employee dropped dramatically. In 2013, businesses spent an average of $32,817 in payroll per employee. This is a 24.8% decrease in payroll spending per employee.

• The median music-related income for working musicians in our survey was $15,000 per year, which falls below the federal poverty guideline for a family of two. Even the highest paid musicians make substantially less money than the Seattle median income, which was $65,677 in 2012.

• Despite the importance of the Seattle music industry to the larger economy, the engines of the music industry – working musicians – frequently do not share in the prosperity. According to our survey of working musicians, musicians earned an average of just $21,000 for their music-related work, despite spending most of their working lives in music-related employment. Mistreatment in the club, restaurant, and bar performance scene was rampant, and musicians reported a great deal of variability in compensation schemes and rates.

• A few small reforms would have a major effect on the well being of working musicians. The city of Seattle should consider reforms to the Admissions tax, limits to non-compete clauses, and encouraging the use of written agreements between musicians and clubs. These changes would increase the well being of working musicians across the city.