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NEA Releases More Findings From Jazz Survey

As we reported here in January, the NEA recently conducted a survey of jazz musicians in New York, Detroit, San Francisco and New Orleans that found-get this-that America’s intrepid improvisers are well educated but underpaid and lacking benefits. Shocking enough as it was already, the NEA just released the final chapters of Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians, each loaded with new and surprising facts about jazz and the people who make it.

The two, new volumes of Changing the Beat, as well as the first, are available as PDF files at and everybody in the world is welcome to download each, free of charge. After all, it’s an NEA study-you’ve already paid for it! Be aware, however, that none of this is light reading. Volume II, which surveys 1,963 jazzers who claim membership in the American Federation of Musicians, is 93 pages long and Volume III, which surveys both union and non-union member jazz musicians, weighs in at 153 pages. There are also lots of charts and some charming pie graphs included in each volume for your own personal interpretation.

Those not geeky enough to pore over those charts, graphs and piles of sterile prose might appreciate the excerpted findings from the report listed below.

From Volume II, which surveyed 1,963 members of the American Federation of Musicians:

• The top instruments played by jazz musicians are piano/keyboard, trumpet and drums.

• 36.3 percent have a college degree and another 28.7 percent have a graduate degree.

• 64.7 percent think they should be paid for people downloading their music on the Internet

• 61 percent earned $40,000 or less as a musician in 2001. 7 percent earned over $100,000.

• 84.1 percent are male; 71.9 percent are white.

From Volume III, a respondent-driven sampling survey with 733 responses from musicians in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans and Detroit (however, the number of responses from the Motor City was too small for them to be analyzed within this report).

• The top instruments played by jazz musicians are piano/keyboard, drums, bass and voice.

• 63 percent have more than one job, 24 percent of those as music teachers

• 27.7 percent like the exposure from people downloading their music from the Internet; 24 percent think they should be paid for this

• 69.9 of these respondents do not belong to the American Federation of Musicians; 19.4 percent of this group belonged to the American Federation of Musicians at a previous time.

• 73.1 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with their music at this point, but only 52.5 percent feel their career aspirations have been realized.

• 80.2 percent are male; 59.8 percent are white; 27.8 percent are black

Originally Published