Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Much Do Top Musicians Make Compared To Average Jobs? | Music Think Tank

The 2018 Oxfam Inequality Report found that the top 1% of the world bagged 82% of all wealth created in 2017.

This massive discrepancy between the top 1% and the rest of the world made us wonder if musicians, too, could be added to this list?

We all know that top musicians and entertainers make a lot of money. Forbes’ annual rankings of the world’s highest paid musicians is a testament to that fact.

What really illustrates the contrast between these top-earning musicians and average people is when you start comparing their wages to ordinary jobs.

Beyonce, for instance, made $105M in 2017.

The average truck driver made a little over $41,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This effectively means that Beyonce made nearly $12,000/hour.

Or in other words, Beyonce made a truck driver’s annual wage in just over 3.5 hours.

We’ve been mapping top musician incomes against average salaries for the last two years. In 2016, the world’s highest paid musician, Taylor Swift, made $170M (dropping to $44M in 2017). This meant that Swift made the equivalent of annual minimum wage in under an hour.

In our study, we focused on these six common professions with the following average annual income (all figures taken from BLS) :

  • Minimum wage - $15,080/year

  • Truck drivers - $41,340

  • Elementary school teachers - $59,020

  • Registered nurses - $68,450

  • Real estate brokers - $79,340

  • Software developers - $100,080

We then calculated the hourly incomes of the world’s 25 most well-paid musicians. Next, we mapped these incomes against average salaries for the professions above.

This analysis revealed that top musician incomes dwarf even well-paid professions such as software developers. Diddy, for instance, made a software developer’s annual income in just under 7 hours. Even the lowest grossing musician on the list - The Chainsmokers - made a software developer’s annual income in under a day.

Based on this data, we graphed how the long it took for a top musician to make average incomes, like this:


Additionally, we mapped Forbes’ highest earning musicians list by genre. Hip-hop artists led the list thanks to Diddy and Drake’s dominance at the top. Electronic musicians came in last, the same result as last year.

Here’s the graph:

In a world where there is much hand-wringing about rising income inequality, this data begs the question: do our artists, entertainers, and heroes earn too much?

Or rather, do our lowest paid workers make too little? Should a musician, as talented as he/she might be, make annual minimum wage in a matter of minutes? Or should we increase wages to a more respectable leve?

I’ll leave you with this food for thought.

Meanwhile, you can get the full data in the infographic below.

To get a higher resolution version of the infographic, click here. For the full report, check out our original article here at

What do you think? Are top musicians overpaid?




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