Taking Note of Composers and New Music Activity in the United States

Taking Note of Composers and New Music Activity in the United States

The American Music Center and American Composers Forum have just released Taking Note: A Study of Composers and New Music Activity in the United States. Taking Note is the first major undertaking of its kind in decades, and was conducted by the Research Center for Arts and Culture at Teachers College, Columbia University.


According to the study, three-quarters of American composers surveyed have indicated that their activity has increased in the last five years. In addition, the study shows that:

  • Being a professional composer is a three-quarter time job. Composers spend 27 hours per week on average on composition activity. They earn a median annual income of $45,000 from all of their activities, not exclusively from composing;

  • Three-quarters of those surveyed considered themselves to be professional composers, but only 10% made their primary living from that work;

  • Two-thirds of professional composers perform their own music, not relying solely on others to produce and present their work;

  • Composers are utilizing new technologies to connect with audiences directly, and growing numbers are establishing careers through these connections.

In addition to nearly one hundred interviews conducted in eight cities across the country, Taking Note includes eleven “spotlights” on innovative ways in which composers are crafting careers and contributing to the new music ecology. From music distribution services like ArtistShare.com to the online service, CollabaJam for composers and performers, the spotlights showcase the creative ways in which composers are connecting with audiences and sharing their work.

“Music—all genres and styles—has changed dramatically in recent years, and the landscape for composers has become increasingly complex,” according to Joanne Hubbard Cossa, CEO of the American Music Center. “Increased access to a wider variety of musical influences is also changing the very nature of the music that composers create.”

John Nuechterlein, President and CEO of the American Composers Forum added: “The field of new music is fractured and diverse, with composers of the 21st century focused as much on the promotion and distribution of their work as they are on the work itself. Professional composers are thinking holistically about all aspects of their career—not just the music.”

To read the Executive Summary of the study, go to: www.amc.net/takingnote/taking note executive summary.pdf. To read the entire text, go to: www.amc.net/takingnote/taking note.pdf.

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