Poor pay a sour note for Aussie musicians

Musician playing electric guitar. | Newsreel
Aussie musicians struggle to make ends meet. | Photo: Pro2sound

The majority of Australian musicians made around $12 an hour last year, about half Australia’s minimum wage, and that’s when they were able to land a gig.

A recent survey from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) found 60 per cent of musicians were paid less than $250 a gig in 2022-23, despite many spending up to 20 hours preparing for the show.

Without taking into account the gig itself, that’s an hourly rate of just over $12. Australia’s minimum wage is $23.23.

The survey, released by Musicians Australia, found the difficulty in landing a regular gig made the situation more dire with half of Aussie musicians earning less than $6000 last year – 15% of the national minimum wage, forcing the majority to look for work outside of the music industry to make ends meet.

Key findings of the survey of more than 550 musicians were:

  • 49% of musicians earned less than $5999 from the music industry during the 2023 financial year, while 64% earned $14,999 or less.
  • Only one-in-five musicians derived all their income from their music career, with two-thirds forced to take up work outside the industry.
  • More than half of musicians cite the lack of pay as the biggest barrier to working in music full-time.
  • 40% of musicians earn income from two to three music jobs.
  • 42% of musicians report playing unpaid gigs.
  • 82% of musicians do not receive superannuation for gigs.
  • 60% report being paid less than $250 per gig, despite 39% of musicians spending up to 20 hours per week rehearsing, practicing, or preparing for a gig.

“This confirms that musicians are the face of Australia’s insecure work crisis,” said MEAA Campaigns Director, Paul Davies.

“They are expected to get by on extraordinarily low incomes, inconsistent and often unpaid work and they very rarely receive superannuation, which is a right for all workers.”

The survey also revealed that work insecurity and poor working conditions were taking a significant toll on musicians’ health and wellbeing: one in five reported being injured at work, while 62% have been bullied, harassed, or discriminated.

The vast majority – 86% – said they felt musicians were treated unfairly by the industry.

Musicians Australia launched a minimum fee campaign two years ago. To find out more go to the Musicians Australia Minimum Fee campaign.

The full survey can be found on the MEAA website.