How Much Do Composers Get Paid?
A Report on U.S. Composer Commission Pay in 2017-2018
By David E. Farrell, DM and Loretta K. Notareschi, PhD
January 2021 – Denver, CO
Responding to a dearth of published information on composer commission pay in the United States, composers David Farrell and Loretta Notareschi prepared and conducted the Composer Commission Pay Survey for U.S. composers in Fall 2019. The survey presented a range of questions about commission pay for 2017-2018, as well as composer demographics, covering topics such as fee, genre, instrumentation, duration, composer motivation, career stage, gender, race, geographical location, and more. Over 200 composers responded to the survey, providing data on 871 commissions. This report provides a literature review of existing published information on composer pay, a description of the methods employed in the survey, and an outline of the scope and limitations of the study. It also presents an analysis of the data collected in the survey, including median pay for commissions of different types and the demographic characteristics of the highest and lowest paid composers. Information on unpaid commissions is also included. While the results of this survey provide useful information for composers, commissioners, and researchers on the compensation of U.S. composers, future areas of research are suggested, including further analysis of the data collected in this survey; a survey of commissioners; and case studies of particular composers and commissioners regarding their participation in the economy of new music.
An updated version was published on 1-31-21 with revised figure numbers.
For questions or comments about this research, please feel free to reach out to the authors at: davidefarrell @ gmail . com and loretta.notareschi @ gmail .com.