Pay Comparisons: Music Careers & Pro Athletes

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WengerThe topic of “pay transparency” is making business headlines recently, with more companies deciding to openly share what each employee is paid rather than banning such discussions. Our bare-and-share-it-all social media culture is credited with encouraging openness, facilitated by wage-comparison websites like and

The income of star athletes is already publicized and ranked, along with their performance statistics compiled for fantasy leagues. But what about careers in the performing arts? This Labor Day week we’ll riff on salary comparisons between a variety of sports figures and a few music-related careers involving – on the surface at least – similar skill sets. Here are four comparisons that jumped out at us:

Striking a Balance: Front of House Engineer vs. Surfer
  • For directing the sound team and controlling the overall sound level/quality for the audience, earnings are $60K-$120K+.
  • For catching the right waves, Carissa Moore of Hawaii earned $91K in 2013, pacing all women surfers.
Calling the Shots: Conductor vs. NFL Quarterback
  • Orchestra or opera conductors can expect a salary range of $15K-$275K (ex: $26-36K for Durham (NC) Symphony).
  • Quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants will make $20.4mil this season, making him the NFL’s 2nd-highest paid player.
Hanging on for Dear Life: Concert Tour Coordinator vs. Bull Rider
  • For researching and assembling tour details and logistics, salary range is $35K-$175K+.
  • For enduring 8+ seconds of terror, professional bull rider Brant Atwood earned $70K in 2013 – 32nd on the tour – with six top-10 finishes in 21 events.
Pacing the Action: Film Score Composer vs. NASCAR Driver
  • Film score composers can expect to earn $35K-$2mil per studio feature, in a package deal where composer pays production costs.
  • NASCAR driver Danica Patrick earned $2.5mil in 2013, ranking her #31.

[Data sources include: 1) A recent Wall Street Journal article evaluating the 32 highest paid athletes in various sports; 2) A salary report (“Music Careers in Dollars and Cents”) published by the Berklee College of Music’s Career Development Center. The Berklee report details a wide range of positions, including music therapist, booking agent and instrument repair technician.]

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