Average Salary: $51,880
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,166,000
Like most folks who toil in the arts, musical performers should get used to the peaks and valleys (mostly valleys) of income. The pay isn't great—and that's if you even get paid at all.
Being able to scrape together the rent hinges on how often you work and where you're working. If you're one of those lucky enough to be in a union—Actors Equity Association, or just Equity, once you actually get in it—you're guaranteed to get paid if you perform. As for how much and for how long you'll be in the salaried class—you'll need to consult a crystal ball for that one.
Sure, the contract said you'd get $800 a week for playing the lion in an Equity production of The Wizard of Oz in Peoria, but if the show closes before previews are over, then you ain't seeing a dime no matter how many times you click your heels.
Try to stay positive as you stretch those rehearsal wages. If you have your Actors Equity union card, you're supposed to get a weekly minimum of anywhere from $200 a week to close to $2,000. Once again, it depends on what you're doing and where you're doing it. Is it rehearsal or just a meeting? How many seats in the theater? Is it on the Broadway in New York or the one in Albuquerque? Important questions.
Actors Equity Association, which represents most professional stage actors, has bean counters and statisticians who have the facts and figures on its members' employment. And it's not a pretty picture.
While the going base rate for a week of work in a major Broadway production is a solid $1700+ a week, that's only if you work (source). If you don't work, then no one owes you a penny. Funny how that works, isn't it?
But what about non-union folks, we hear you say (good range, by the way)? You'll make whatever the producer wants to pay you (or not) and you'll like it. If that means a meal at their second-rate dinner theater, then you should just be happy you get to eat tonight.