How much do drummers get paid? That’s something that you may be wondering about if you’re thinking of going pro with the instrument. The answer to this is very diverse, as it’s difficult to state a generalized income number as you would with standard jobs like school teaching or being a nurse.
In this guide, I’ll explain different aspects of drummer earnings, and I’ll give a few general numbers that you can expect if you want to become a professional drummer.
Understanding Drummer Income
A professional drummer’s salary never consists of one income stream most of the time. To make a good living as a professional drummer, you need to be doing different things to keep your schedule full and the revenue coming in.
Not every drummer is lucky enough to have daily gigs, so most drummers tend to play gigs, teach, do session work, and many drummers do other things here and there to make up a full salary.
While other jobs give you a set salary, most drummers have to create their salary by diversifying their income streams.
There are drummers out there that specialize in single things. For example, some drummers make a full-time living from touring, while others make a full-time living from teaching. But that’s just not the case for most professional players.
So, here are all the possible income streams for drummers with generalized payment numbers you can expect.
Gigging Drummer Income
How Much Does a Drummer Make Per Show?
The amount of money professional drummers make per show depends on what kind of show it is. You can play drums at a small bar gig and make almost nothing, or you can play drums for a major artist in a stadium and get paid tens of thousands of dollars. This is why giving a generalized salary for a drummer is so difficult.
However, there are a few payment ranges that you can expect from playing drums at gigs.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Cover band gigs at bars and restaurants – $50 to $200 per gig
- Wedding band gigs – $250 – $500 per gig
- Playing with a popular artist – $500 – $5000 per gig, depending on how big the artist is
Touring drummers can either have per-gig or per-tour incomes. When drummers tour with relatively unknown bands, they typically get per-gig payments. Those numbers are similar to the ones I mentioned above.
If a drummer tours with a famous artist, it’s possible for them to get paid for the entire tour, but that will get divided up into weekly, biweekly, or monthly payments.
Again, the payment numbers here vary drastically according to how big the artist is that a drummer is touring with.
Some drummers make millions of dollars if they’re playing with the biggest artists in the world, while others will get paid $10 000 to $20 000 for small tours.
A house drummer is a drummer that plays in a single venue for various gigs. These may be drummers playing in musicals, or they may be drummers that play for entertainment bands on cruise ships.
These drummers typically have the most stable incomes, as this is the one area where a drummer may be paid a set salary.
Some drummers play in musicals for years, getting paid the same way that teachers or nurses would. Drummers who play on cruise ships typically get paid a set salary for a few months, as it’s rare for a drummer to stick it out on a cruise ship for multiple years.
Here are a few expected salaries for house drummers:
- Cruise ship drummers – $2000 to $5000 per month
- Musical theater drummers – $2000 to $10 000 per month (depending on the scope of the musical)
- House drummers on TV shows – $3000 to $10 000 per month
Studio Drummer Income
Drummers who do recording sessions for artists typically get paid per hour or per day. The amount of money a drummer gets paid will depend on their reputation as a studio musician. It’s a different ball game to live gigs, and some drummers are purely known for being session guys, and they get paid the most.
Drummers who are very well-known in the music industry can make up to $5000 a day when recording music in the studio.
Lesser-known drummers may make anywhere from $200 to $1000 a day for studio sessions.
Some drummers become part of the ownership process when creating music in studios. They own rights to songs, and they get paid royalties whenever those songs are used.
Royalties can be very small, with some drummers making a few cents every time a song is played.
However, they become very big when a song blows up, and there are professional drummers out there who are making thousands of dollars every month on royalties for songs they tracked drums for.
Drum Teacher Income
Apart from gigging and doing sessions, the biggest way that drummers earn money is by teaching. Teaching private lessons is even a full-time job for many drummers out there.
There are a few ways that drummers do this. These include teaching out of music stores, teaching from their own studios, or getting employed as drum teachers full-time in music schools or colleges.
How much can you make teaching drums? Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Teaching drum lessons in music stores – $15 to $60 per hour
- Teaching drums from a private studio – $30 – $100 per hour
- Teaching drums at a music school – $1000 – $5000 per month
Drum clinics are when drummers hold educational sessions at music stores. They usually have a crowd of 15 to 40 people, and the drummers perform, teach topics, and answer questions.
Clinics are typically around an hour long, and drummers get paid $500 to $1500 for them.
Some drummers get paid by the music store hosting the event, while others get paid by drum brands that they endorse.
Famous drummers often do clinic tours, traveling around a country and getting paid per clinic.
Many drummers create books and DVDs where they teach certain drumming topics. DVDs have become a thing of the past, so those now come in the form of digital courses.
The amount of money a drummer makes from these depends on how many people buy them. Drummers like Tommy Igoe and John Riley have made serious amounts of money from books that have become very popular in the music industry.
The income from educational material acts in the same way that royalties do. Drummers will make passive income from them over time, so they’re not the most reliable income source.
Alternative Income Streams for Drummers
Signature Product Royalties
Some drummers release signature products with different drumming brands. When those signature products are purchased by music stores to sell to the public, the drummer will make royalties on all the products purchased.
A good drummer to look at as an example is Mike Johnston. He has several signature products available with Gretsch, Meinl, and Vic Firth, and they’re all very popular. Every time you see those products available in a store, it means that Mike got paid from the purchase that got those products there.
The amount of money here depends on the drummer’s popularity and relationship with the drum brand.
Freelancing is a very common thing that drummers do to earn money. This comes in many forms, including writing drumming articles for websites, transcribing drum parts for people, writing drum parts for various projects, and doing different drum-related things here and there.
The amount of money a drummer makes from these things depends on how much they’re comfortable charging. The numbers from different drummers are too drastically different to give a general income number.
Do Drummers Make Good Money?
This depends on which drummers you’re talking about. Some drummers have hit the jackpot in the gigging world by developing relationships with major artists, while other drummers are still struggling to make ends meet with their pub gigs.
It’s more than possible to make good money as a drummer. You just need to find the right opportunities. Networking is the most important thing to do, and even average drummers become very wealthy if they find the right opportunities.
So, can you make a living as a drummer? Yes, but the best way to do that is by diversifying your income streams. If you want to make a comfortable salary, you need to be open to playing gigs, doing session recordings, teaching, and looking into other income streams where possible.
Opportunities will come when you’re on that path, and that’s how drummers specialize in certain things. It’s possible to get a huge opportunity with a famous artist, but it’s wise to set yourself up with different revenue streams before that happens.
Putting all their eggs in a single basket is how many drummers fail in the music industry, so make sure not to do that!