Using data gathered from a survey of 1,227 U.S. musicians, the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) and the Princeton University Survey Research Center highlighted some of the challenges working U.S. musicians face, including discrimination based on race and sex, sexual harassment, mental health issues and low income.
The survey, conducted in partnership with MusiCares, found that female musicians experience sexual harassment at higher rates than the average U.S. woman. Women made up one-third of the musicians polled in the study and 67 percent reported that they had been the victim of sexual harassment. Seventy-two percent reported that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of gender.
Of the musicians of color who were polled, 63 percent reported that they faced racial discrimination.
The survey also looked at the incomes of musicians, finding that the median musician in the U.S. makes between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. Sixty-one percent reported that they’re unable to live off their music-related income alone.
Mental health was another focus of the survey. Half of the musicians surveyed reported that they experienced “feeling down, depressed or hopeless” for several days in the last two weeks.
The survey also found that U.S. musicians were more likely to use drugs than the general U.S. adult population and twice as likely to drink alcohol frequently.
Discrimination, harassment and mental health struggles are prevalent across the music industry. Female country artists have spoken out on the power dynamics between women artists and male program directors. Female artists are often expected to be accommodating even when program directors have made inappropriate comments or advances.
Earlier this year, Rolling Stone Country published an in-depth article on sexual harassment and misconduct within country radio. Several sources reported being sexually harassed by program directors on radio tours. Radio tours can be extremely beneficial for the careers of new artists. Female artists who choose not to return to certain radio stations because of discomfort or trauma may see their career suffer.
Country singer Katie Armiger said that her former label pressured her to flirt with program directors and wear “hot”, “game-changing” clothing. Armiger’s former label, Cold River Records, filed a lawsuit against Armiger, claiming that her statements violated a “non-disparagement clause.” Armiger has since filed a countersuit against the label.
Another country artist, Austin Rick, claimed that former PR executive Kirt Webster drugged and sexually assaulted him in 2008.
Both personal accounts and surveys like this one from the Music Industry Research Association show that, throughout the industry, discrimination and sexual harassment continue to have a detrimental impact on musicians’ quality of life.