The Atlantic has published a very interesting article from Richard Florida on the geography of the music industry in America. A lot of different cities call themselves the center of American music, so The Atlantic decided to debunk all the rumors with one swift study. The map on the right depicts some of its findings (the dark blue areas represent a higher concentration of musicians and music-related businesses).
As the article points out, talent attracts talent, and artists thrive on competition. It’s no surprise, then, that the areas of highest concentration tend to be spread out. Nashville has become a hub of musical activity partly because of its isolation. If you’re an aspiring singer in the south-central US, where else can you go? Boulder fills a similar role in the mountain states. Although Nashville and Boulder can’t compete with New York or LA in terms of the sheer number of singers and songwriters, the music index is less about total numbers and more about how easily the musicians can connect with each other. Since the Internet has become such a huge factor in the distribution of music, it is very difficult for the market to become glutted in a particular place. High concentration is actually good for musicians as they collaborate to produce their art, then disseminate it via iTunes, Amazon, or online streaming.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see what’s happening in these cities. First, we’ll look at SOC 27-2042: musicians & singers and 27-2041: music directors & composers. These categories not only include pop artists and piano virtuosos but also church choirs, opera singers, conductors and directors of musical groups, and the guys who write jingles for commercials. After a quick glance at the occupations, we’ll break them out and look at salaried employees versus self-employed artists & extended proprietors (people who have normal 9-to-5 day jobs then pick up their bass for a weekend gig).
1. Musicians and Singers
From 2002-2012 musicians and singers grew by 29%. There are currently about 442,000 across the nation. Median hourly earnings for these workers is $18. See the graphic below for more detail.
2. Music Directors and Composers
Music directors and composers grew by 17% from 2002-2012. Median hourly earnings for these workers is $20 and there are about 80,000 of them spread across the nation. Again, see the graphic below for more detail.
Now here is an aggregate look at the top MSAs for these jobs.
|MSA Code||City||2012 Jobs||% Change since 2002||Median Hourly Earnings||2002 Location Quotient||2012 Location Quotient|
|Source: QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed & Extended Proprietors - EMSI 2012.2 Class of Worker|
|35620||New York, NY||47,115||30%||$20.83||1.46||1.46|
|31100||Los Angeles, CA||37,692||24%||$22.74||1.71||1.73|
|41860||San Francisco, CA||12,249||21%||$24.34||1.54||1.52|
|29820||Las Vegas, NV||4,075||55%||$21.27||1.19||1.29|
|35380||New Orleans, LA||2,344||8%||$14.48||1.15||1.12|
As we look at the data, a few things spring to the forefront. First of all, it’s important to understand relative size. New York has an estimated 47,115 musical jobs, but of course, since New York is over 10 times the size of Nashville, the numbers are going to be much larger. The two key data columns to pay attention to are location quotient (LQ) and percent change. Percent change is valuable for the growth of an occupation, but it can sometimes be misleading, since the number averages out any dips or spikes during the last 10 years. For example, most cities saw a large drop in their musician population in 2008 due to the recession. New Orleans, however, suffered so much in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that there was nowhere to go but up. Music-related jobs in New Orleans actually increased during the recession.
In terms of LQ, Nashville clearly has the highest score at 2.50, followed by LA (1.73), San Francisco (1.52), and New York (1.46). You can think of LQ as a measure of concentration; an LQ of 1.0 represents the national average. How concentrated are the musicians in Nashville compared to all musicians spread out across the entire nation? The answer: 2.5 times more concentrated. Given the fact that the cities on our list are so large, the higher concentration means more opportunities for gigs, recordings, and useful connections.
For decades, Nashville has been the hallowed halls of the music industry, and it continues to earn that significance. The number of musicians, singers, and composers in the Music City has increased 38% in the last 10 years, compared to 27% for the country as a whole. If we separate out musicians who are on a payroll and just look at self-employed and extended proprietors, Nashville’s musicians have increased 59% since 2002, compared to 42% for the nation. The gender distribution is heavily male (73%), while the age breakout shows 56% between the ages of 25 and 44. These demographics seem to be fairly typical of the music scene in the US. The national male-female distribution of musicians and singers is 61%-39%. In all 10 of the cities, men account for over 50% of the musicians, Seattle and Portland having the lowest at 54% each. As far as the average age of someone in this occupation, most of the cities hover between 40-50% in the 25-44 age range. Minneapolis is the anomaly here with only 30%. Must be a lot of gray-haired musicians jamming in Minnesota.
With the exceptions of New Orleans and Rochester, salaried (or covered) employees earn as much or more than their self-employed counterparts (click to enlarge).
In San Francisco, the median wage for salaried employees ($43.36 per hour) is over twice as much as it is for self-employed and extended proprietors ($18.98 per hour). Even in Nashville, the city where musical daydreams can become reality, a salaried employee is likely to earn 50% more than a self-employed musician.
What We Think
The Metro Music Index is hard to gauge, but it definitely sparks an entertaining discussion. In the last 10 years, all 10 metro areas have seen the music population take pretty impressive strides forward. The only city with less than a 20% increase in musicians is New Orleans, and the city is still picking itself up after Katrina. But a city with as strong a musical history as New Orleans isn’t going to wither and die after a few years of hardship. In the future, it’s likely to be as alive as Portland or Seattle.
After combing through all the numbers, it’s impossible not to notice how crucial self-employed and extended proprietors are to the music industry in America. Salaried employees account for only 30% of all musicians, singers, and composers. These are certainly jobs where your portfolio is far more important than your résumé. The relatively low percentage of full-time, salaried musicians may also explain why these artists tend to group together in high concentration. If you’re always on the lookout for work, you want to be in a city where there are lots of opportunities to network and perform. But, in spite of the attraction, you may not be earning much as an extended proprietor. There are certainly lots of jobs, but in terms of a career, success may be a little harder to find. On the other hand, thanks to the Metro Music Index, at least you know where to look.
Data and analysis from this report was created using Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market tool. Please contact Rob Sentz (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have further questions. Follow us @desktopecon.