Alaska Music Census: The bottom line of show business

The Alaska Music Census reveals the importance of performers to the state’s culture and economy. The census is led by the Alaska Independent Musicians Initiative (AKIMI), a nonprofit founded in 2016 to elevate Alaska music and support Alaska musicians.

Last summer, AKIMI surveyed 1,330 music producers. Of this group, 2 percent make a living as music teachers rather than artists, 68 percent make a living as music artists rather than teachers, and 30 percent make a living as both.

“We found that many musicians were paid to play three or more different roles, for example, as a performer, educator, and recording artist releasing music, or as an agent booking music for others,” the singer-songwriter Marian Call says is based in Juneau and has nearly a dozen albums under her belt. Call is also the program director of AKIMI.

The census found that about 62% of musicians surveyed had made money from music in the past four years, and 25% said more than half of their income came from music. Another finding is that music activities support 1% of Anchorage’s total workforce.

“What AKIMI is doing with this survey is letting musicians know that they are sincere in their service; that they have marketable skills,” Moore said. “Secondly, they show that our jobs have value to the economy.”

Moore has been keeping busy performing as a solo artist under the name “Sleepless Forest”. She is also a member of the five-piece Super Saturated Sugar String Band.

“The hardest thing is quantifying the financial value of art; for us as artists, it feels soulless to say, ‘I’m worth this much,’” Moore said. “An arts organization with funding might offer $1,500 for a performance; another venue with less funding might offer $500. So ‘value’ becomes a constantly fluid and sliding scale.

However, quantifying economic impact is part of the goal of the Alaska Music Census, so dollar figures must be calculated.

“It’s weird because you make art because you want and need it — it’s a beautiful and profound thing,” Moore said. “But you have to make money to survive; you have to be financially capable.

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