How Much Does a Professional Drummer Make?

I have loved drumming since I was a kid. I played in my high school band and occasionally entertain guests at family functions. I am considering taking up drumming as a full time work. I am not sure how much I can make but I think I can make a decent living if I focused on marketing for more, bigger gigs.

Working as a professional drummer can earn you anywhere between millions of dollars and a few hundred dollars a year.

Some of the richest drummers of all time like Phil Collins, Charlie Watts and Chad Smith make millions. Meager earnings raked in by other struggling drummersmake it clear that it can go either way, and the range can be wide.

This is why it is so hard to come up with a figure of what professional drummers earn. There are so many dynamics to consider. Each with its own set of what we would call sub-dynamics.

That said, you can come up with rough estimates. In this article we give youapproximations and explore the various avenues through which a professional drummer can make their money.


Lines of Work

There are 3 main lines of work you could pursue as a professional drummer. Session work, teaching and bands. Needless to say, nothing stops you from pursuing more than one at a time.

Session Work

A session musician, in this case a session drummer is one who plays in a recording session. This is typically done in a studio. The drummer is hired by the music producer, music contractor or video production company. The recording could be intended for use by a musician or in a movie.

One point to note is that no two session drummer are exactly alike. Each has a unique sound which makes him fit well in to the production. The salary for drummers in this line of work ranges between $50,000 and $70,000. Prominent drummers earn considerably more and big recording companies offer better rates.


Teaching is another option which has dynamics of its own. Take Gary Chafee and Dom Famularo for instance. They pursued careers as music teachers. Chafee got his foot into the New England Conservatory as professor of music.

In this case, you would be in the same pay bracket as any other professor of music. In the US, the average annual earning is about $43,500.

Stillwithin the teaching line, you could opt to give private lessons. The average cost of private drumming lessons in the US is $40 per hour of instruction. This figure varies depending on the region and specific instructor. A well-known personality could earn significantly more.



Bands are probably what comes to mind when you think of a professional drummer. A good number of drummers work in bands which focus on either touring or recording or both.

In the case of concerts, the drummer earns a set percentage of what the band earns from each performance. A few dynamics come into play here. The first being how popular the band is. Popular bands have been known to make as much as $800,000 per show. This is split among the musicians in the band.

Another arrangement could be that there is a band leader who employs all other musicians such as the drummer. These employees earn a salary which may or may not be dependent on performances. Overall earnings go to the band leader.


Emerging Avenues

Just like in all other industries, the internet has caused significant shift. When it comes to professional drumming, it has introduced new avenues through which one can earn their money.


Revenue from streaming has been called the unicorn of the music industry. Here services like Apple, iTunes and Spotify pay musicians a small amount for each time a track of theirs is played.

There has been lots of grumbling because amounts paid are not just small but have been described as microscopic. If you are in a band, it is even less because it must be split among band members.

For a majority of drummers using such services, the earnings are nowhere near enough to make a living. A few however, have scored several hits and continue to receive significant amounts inroyalties.


If you are a professional drummer who can pen a decent article, you will be a valuable asset to companies looking for this specific kind of content. You can write anything from reviews on gear or create blog posts which outlets would love to publish.

More experienced drummers have written e-books on various aspects of the trade and made more than a few bucks. The options are limitless.

YouTube Videos

Music performance videos have become a very popular section of YouTube content. A band could record and upload an original piece although videos of cover songs are the most popular performance videos available on the web. Some artists and bands have got signed to major labels based on their cover videos on YouTube.



Marketing is Essential

One aspect which drummers earning money online agree on is that there is need for aggressive and consistent marketing. A drummer needs to have an online presence and an online brand. Activity on social media and personal websites definitely work in your favor.

With these and great YouTube content, a professional drummer is well placed to land video gigs, session work or paid writing work.



Professional drumming, like any other area of music is highly competitive. It is not easy to earn from it, leave alone earn a decent living.

Many of these professional admit that they don’t earn anywhere near enough to make a decent living out of it. Most do it more out of passion than financial gain. This is why many drummers prefer to put their skill and passion to use as a side job. This way earnings from drumming simply supplement those from a full time job.



How long does it take to learn the drums?

It takes aptitude and dedication. With these, you can learn how to play drums in about a year. To acquire proficiency you need another year or so. Remember practice is important. For each hour spent in a lessons, you need to spend two in practice.


How can I find work as a session drummer?

The most common and effective way is through informal musicians’ networks. There is at least one in every major US recording center.



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