Portfolio Musician Financial Survey

This is an overview of what to expect if you are considering taking the Portfolio Musician Financial Survey. But let’s rewind for a minute.

On August 12, 2021, I will be presenting at the New Music Gathering with a session titled “The Money We Make.” In the last 3-4 years, I have been advocating for financial transparency in the arts. With my students and peers I encourage regular discussions about money. I have written three financial profiles for NewMusicBox where artists or ensembles share what they made and how. Every year I teach “Arts Entrepreneurship” at Kalamazoo College, I often share my personal budgets, work budgets, and project budgets. Financial education is lacking for many in the arts. Talking about how much we make is often frowned upon by those controlling the narrative about money. I believe our ability to talk about our actual numbers is the first step of a good financial education.

I would like to arrive at New Music Gathering with an arsenal of data from composers, performers, songwriters, and musical creatives, who would be comfortable confidentially sharing their financial data via my Portfolio Musician Financial Survey. As composer and NMG founder Mary Kouyoumdjian suggested, being transparent with what the survey asks may encourage more people to take it. So here I will screenshot the survey for you and explain how the information will be used.

Yes, it is collecting emails

Yes, this form will be collecting emails. I realize this makes it impossible to be truly anonymous, but there are two reasons I would like your email. 1.) To keep you updated about where this information will be used, and 2.) to contact you if I have questions that you may be willing to answer. I will never talk about or publish information that connects peoples identity, or identifiers, to their financial profiles. That is my promise. On the flip side, I would be happy to share with you what I make and how I make it, in personal conversation if you, the survey participant, would want to discuss finances! You can always email me at schumaker.adam@gmail.com.

Personal Information and Demographics

The survey does collect information about you, very little of which is required to complete the survey. Location and age will be important factors in telling the story of The Money We Make, so I have made those questions required.

Degrees, Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Socioeconomic details can be very informative but are optional. The goal of the survey is not to have the ultimate statistical tool, but to encourage talking about money and living, and telling the story of who we are and what we do to make a living.

“Described profession” will help give comparative wage ranges based on how we make our living. Knowing what positions, or what type of work gets paid what, allows the worker to make better decisions about wage negotiations, career paths, and long term financial viability of their work.

Employment Statuses

The Money We Make is categorized by the types of jobs we have. This section asks about how you get paid. Full time or part time employees get paid via W2. Any sort of Freelancer or someone running their own business will receive 1099s or just track individual payments as part of their income reporting whether they own a business or are just functioning as a DBA.

Employment Scenario #1 and beyond

In an attempt to consider all of the possible jobs and ways musicians make money, I structured the survey to include a plethora of “Employment Scenarios” which are places to put your W2 (full-time or part-time) jobs. Income, title, company, and status are all required. Please put a generic name in the “Company” question, like “opera org” or “classical presenting org” if you have concerns about listing your actual employers name.

These sections are where the survey asks what you actually make. Rounded numbers are fine. If you are unsure, grab your most recent tax filing to use as a guide. You are also welcome to give a general figure off the top of your head. Like I said, this is not the ultimate statistical tool for analysis. It’s a conversation. It’s a story.

The last required question is “average hours per week” which helps us approximate the value of our time based on yearly pay rates. I ask about benefits as an auxiliary question as that often adds to the value of a job. The last question either directs you to another W2 employment scenario, a self employment scenario, or the non-income part of the survey. Up to four “employment scenarios” for W2s are included in this survey. If you have more, please send me an email!

There are also three self-employment scenarios that allow you to input any income and job descriptions of work for which you are paid on a 1099. If you need more than four employment scenarios, and three self-employment scenarios, there are questions at the end of the sections to describe your unique set of jobs.

If none of this scares you so far, please take the survey! If you need to know more, please continue reading.

Debt & Finances

The survey also asks generally about your debt and general assets. This section simply asks the following questions:

  1. Do you have a retirement account?
  2. Do you have student loans?
  3. Current student loan debt?
  4. Do you have credit card debt?
  5. Do you have medical debt?

These questions are listed to help frame the ratio of income to debt people are experiencing in the music industry, despite not asking actual debt amounts. Debt plays a huge part in our ability to prosper and feel successful. Even a decent paycheck can be overshadowed by debt. Any sort of earnings just don’t feel “as much” when you have to pay down debts.

Personal Lifestyle

When I teach “Arts Entrepreneurship” I try to include discussions around desired lifestyles and how they could possibly affect career choices or the type of work you would want to pursue. These few questions only require a location description, and then the rest is optional.


This is the most important section. I want everyone who completes this survey to know that their information is private and will only be used for the education of our field, and your information will never be connected to your name in anything public. Although I love financial transparency, I do not want to abuse anyone’s information. I have also included an answer option that allows you to completely change your mind. If you have questions and select that option, I will email you to answer anything you would want. Here is a screen shot of the consent.

Final Thoughts

Thank you to everyone who has completed this survey, and thank you to those who are considering. Thank you to the New Music Gathering Team for making “money” the theme of this year’s conference.

Financial Transparency can strengthen the position of the “worker,” inform managers to make better decisions, fight income inequality, and maintain and increase the value of our work, among other things. I hope that through this survey, my presentation at the 2021 New Music Gathering, and future articles, we can continue to talk about The Money We Make and lift each other up into better finances, better wages, and more advocacy.

If you’re convinced, please take the survey!


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