Yesterday I asked you to take a moment and fill out a quick survey detailing where you were at with your comedy career and how you spend your time. The results were really interesting and today I wanted to break down some of what I found out.
First, here’s a little background about who participated. There were 137 comedians who answered the survey, most of whom I assume are regular Connected Comedy readers. This is important to consider because it means that the answers may be a little skewed because most of the comedians participating already care about their career enough to be reading Connected Comedy.
To present the results, I think it will be helpful to break out the data into three different categories: some overall observations, followed by some observations about comedians who claim to make at least $500 a month from their comedy and then some observations about comedians who responded that they make no money from their comedy. As you’ll see, I found that there’s pretty much a direct correlation between the amount of work you put into your career, whether you create online content or not, and the financial status of your comedy career.
You still don’t believe that creating content online is important.
65% of all the comedians surveyed replied that they spend less than 3 hours a week creating and posting content online. And a whopping 40% said that they actually spend less than one hour creating online content. This shows that for all the hype about how the Internet is going to change the entertainment industry, most comedians either don’t believe it or are too busy/lazy to do anything about it. On the flip side, it means that people who are putting time into creating online content are at a huge competitive advantage over most of their peers.
You spend a lot more time working on your act than your career.
62% of the comedians surveyed said that they spend more than 3 hours a week working on their comedy (not counting performance time which would make that number much higher I’m sure). But at the same time, 61% of those same comedians said that they spend less than 3 hours a week working on the business side of their career. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to anybody that’s been around comedians, but it does reflect the misconception that the business side of your career is significantly less important than the creative side.
You typically perform 1-2 times each week.
50% of the comedians surveyed said that they typically perform 1-2 times a week. Meanwhile, 25% said they perform 3-4 times a week, 20% said that most weeks they don’t perform at all, and 5% perform at least 5 times a week.
Lots of you are producing your own live shows.
50% of the comedians surveyed said that they’ve produced their own live shows at some point, a number which I find very encouraging and is actually higher than I would have expected. Further down, you’ll also see a really interesting stat about the difference in success between people who produce their own shows and those that don’t.
You’re using Facebook, but you’re ignoring the most valuable online tools you have at your disposable.
A whopping 98% of the comedians surveyed said they use Facebook, but only 50% said they have their own website or blog and only 33% have an email mailing list. Facebook’s great, but it’s interesting to me that most comics continue to ignore the opportunity to carve out their own space on the web in the form of an active website and that even fewer see any value in actually being able to reach their fans through email.
There’s not a lot of money in comedy these days (shocker, I know).
66% of the comedians surveyed said that they make less than $100 a month from their comedy and only 10% said that they make more than $500 a month from it. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but if you’re setting out to have a comedy career you better be sure that you love it because it could be a while until it gets profitable.
WHAT COMEDIANS WHO MAKE $500+ A MONTH HAVE IN COMMON
They’ve already paid some dues.
Not a single comedian who claimed to be making at least $500 a month has been doing comedy for less than 3 years.
They put in a lot of time working on their act AND their career.
57% of them said they spend more than 10 hours a week working on their comedy, while 78% said that spend more than 5 hours a week working on the business side of their career.
They’re creating online content and using the right online tools.
93% of them said they spend more than one hour a week creating and promoting their content online. And, even more interestingly, 79% of them have their own website or blog and 71% have their own mailing list.
They understand what it’s like to produce a live show.
93% of the comedians who are making $500+ have produced their own live show at some point. I don’t think this is a coincidence – producing and promoting your own show is not only a good way to increase your income but it also can teach you a lot about how the business works and help you in your dealings with other venues, bookers, and show promoters. This also suggests that the comedians who are making money are the ones that are hustling, entrepreneurial, and willing to work.
WHAT COMEDIANS WHO MAKE NO MONEY HAVE IN COMMON
Some of them have also paid their dues, but must be doing so in the wrong way.
I was surprised to see that 31% of the comedians who said they don’t make any money have actually been doing comedy for more than 3 years. On the one hand, it’s impressive that they’ve stuck it out and I congratulate them on their patience. On the other hand, it probably means they’re not working hard enough (or more likely, smart enough). I’m not saying you should be rolling in the dough after just three years of comedy, but you should probably be at least making a little bit of money here and there.
They work on their act, but not their career.
60% of them said that they spend more than 3 hours a week working on their comedy, but 79% of those same people said that they spend less than 3 hours a week working on the business side of their career. Just to put that second number in perspective, that means that nearly 8 out of 10 comedians who make $500 a month are spending 5+ hours a week on their career while 8 out of 10 people who make no money are spending less than 3 hours on it. Just something to think about…
They don’t bother creating content online.
57% of them spend less than 1 hour a week creating and/or promoting online content. Again, this compares to 93% of “money making comedians” who spend more than an hour a week creating online content.
They’ve never produced their own live show.
86% of them said they’ve never produced a live show, another dramatic difference when compared to comics that are making money.
ONE FINAL QUESTION FOR YOU…
So that should give you a good sense of what I found out from the survey and I hope you find it interesting. Maybe it’s a measuring stick to compare what you’re doing to your peers, or maybe it’s just some fun stat porn to read. Either way, I’d like to do some more surveys in the future and I’d love to have your input about the kinds of questions you’d like to see 100+ comedians answer.
Please take a moment to leave a comment with any suggested questions/topics for future comedian surveys – thanks!
11 thoughts on “A Statistical Look At The Differences Between Comedians Who Make Money And Those That Don’t”
It’s cool to get that kind of insight on what others are doing with their careers. Also success leaves clues and by seeing what successful comedian ate doing it allows you to replicate what has worked
Thank you for the insights and stats! Very cool to read this breakdown.
You might want to include a comic’s location with the survey. Depending upon the region there are many varying opportunities.
That is so Right On! Thank YOU!
Very true. I like this. Keep them coming and thank you
Good to see this! I am in my early 40’s and I am just getting started. I’ve joined an improv group in town and I am working on my writing. I am surprised at the number of aspiring comics that haven’t invested in a website. Good blog
Dat gud i luv dis insight keep it coming thanks
I have been thinking along those lines lately. I have backed off on doing a lot of free shows and am working on the business end. I plan on re-vamping my website this week adding video and audio. I am trying to figure out something to give as an incentive to sign up for my mailing list. Keep up the good work. An idiot like me needs all the help I can get!
I wish you went more in depth as to the details of what successful comedians do and how they do it from their shows to the business end.
I performed as an Escape Artist in the 1970s and 80s in everything from small shows in bars for 1,000 people to shows for 5,000 to 20,000 producing my own shows and booking myself etc so I learned a lot. Now I also see that I made a lot more money too even back then LOL:-)
I have been in multimedia marketing since the 1970s also (radio, print, TV and now Internet so I guess I have some experience / tips I can pass on.
A couple of yrs ago I helped out my friend with a Led Zep Tribute band. They had a website with video but in several years only had a few hundred views. I re-edited their videos, put them on YouTube and only marketed the Channel for 1 month (because it is a 20 hr a day job). We won 6 YouTube awards and hit 500,000 views total (over 20,000 for their video and growing).
I would say that in comedy once the joke is on the web it is not what people paying want to hear again so I would say to use the web but mostly, keep new material comming nonstop. Also, post a GREAT promo video of your best stuff and tour (one joke per forum type thing showing your show and the many rooms played) from old material when you have created new material for the road. Then promote your YouTube etc channel. That is a longer conversation but very easy, fun and important. Lastly, know how to negeociate. Ticket price + extras like 2 $10 drink minimum etc X size of audiance less venue expenses will tell you how much they can afford to pay and take it from there. They can only pay what they can afford but when you know that number,,, you can ask for (and I always got) the max they can afford IF they want your show (depending on if you are a A, B, or C performer)…
I hope that helps, passing along some tips for free to help my fellow starving artists LOL:-) MAN you people earn very little for what you do… or perhaps don’t do???
Thank you! Very interesting results. I’m from Lima-Perú. And it’s the same here, we are starting comparing to the US but the rules for biz are the same. I would include tv and radio participation on the survey, helps a lot in here.