Self-Employed Musicians Continue to Struggle Financially


Although certain facets of the music industry are experiencing major financial gains, those profits are usually only seen at the very, very top. The North American concert business saw record highs in 2015, with the total gross from the top 100 tours increasing 14% from the previous year to reach $3.12 billion. Despite all that industry cash flow, up-and-coming and self-employed musicians continue to struggle to earn a living.

Some musicians think it’s even harder for self-employed women musicians. Kevin Michell, known across the music circuit as Bob Evans, is an Australian self-employed singer-songwriter. According to Illawarra Mercury, Evans is doing all he can to help right the gender imbalance within the music world and continues to fight for up-and-coming musicians from all over.

“In entertainment, in life, the female voice is not heard as much as the male voice,” Evans said. “On a political level, this is one tiny thing I can do.”

The tiny thing Evans is referring to is his all-female line-up of supporting musical acts, which is something he’s been doing for years.

But despite being a full-time musician since the 1990s, Evans still finds the career as difficult to succeed in as when he started.

“It’s way harder now because I have kids and a mortgage and all this stuff to worry about,” said Evans, who turns 40 this year. “Being a self-employed musician is really, really difficult.”

Employment of musicians and singer-songwriters is projected to grow only 3% from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than the average for all occupations.

Because of streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, this up-and-coming batch of self-employed musicians face an uphill battle. Not only do they have to work extra hard to earn money from streaming services, they also have to build a fanbase, compete with popular artists, and pay for everything themselves.

Some of these expenses, including music equipment, studio time, and travel costs, can end up resulting in significant financial deficits for already struggling musicians. Globally, more than three million people fly on a commercial aircraft every day, but traveling musicians like Evans and his contemporaries are more likely to travel the country in a bus or minivan.

MI PRO reports that self-employed musicians should remember that it’s important to claim as much tax relief as they can. This includes major costs like various travel expenses and recording equipment purchases, to the less expensive items like hair and makeup costs.

That means musicians should keep receipts for virtually every item or service they use in order to have exact figures when filing for tax relief.

As a music fan, Evans is excited about Spotify and Pandora because they provide historic catalogues of music to fans. But as a self-employed musician, he strongly believes these streaming services are “ripping off” himself and his musical peers.

“As a working artist,” said Evans, “I can see the current model is totally unfair and musicians are getting ripped of — that has to change.”

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