Musicians survey "Sounds like NRW"
Results on the situation of pop music creators

The PopBoard NRW has commissioned several studies to examine the many facets of the music ecosystem in North Rhine-Westphalia. The “Sounds Like NRW” study is part of a large-scale empirical investigation in the sense of an inventory of North Rhine-Westphalia as a pop location. In the course of the survey on the working and production conditions of musicians in the field of pop music, contacts of over 2500 bands and solo artists were compiled and integrated into the pop map.


This report presents the findings on the situation of pop musicians in North Rhine-Westphalia and takes a systematic and differentiated look at the working and production conditions of pop musicians. It is aimed at all (pop) musicians residing in North Rhine-Westphalia, regardless of age or career situation. The results presented here are based on information from 622 musicians who responded to the extensive questionnaire between December 2022 and February 2023. The majority of respondents live in the larger and major cities of North Rhine-Westphalia; however, thanks to targeted management, it was possible to recruit respondents from all five administrative districts and to represent almost all 53 districts in the sample.


Among other things, the study analyzes the activities of musicians (e.g. concerts, music lessons and rehearsals), their economic and professional situation (e.g. income and fee levels), their networks (e.g. cooperation with other players in the music industry), the use of funding and the assessment of NRW as a location for pop music musicians. Based on this data, this report evaluates the production, working and structural conditions of pop musicians in NRW.


The results of this study are helpful for an objective, evidence-based and constructive debate that addresses musicians themselves on the one hand and policy-makers from administration, politics and associations at municipal and state level on the other. Acute shocks, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic or wars, as well as longer-term upheavals pose challenges for all (music) stakeholders. Scientific research can provide orientation and help to shed more light on framework conditions and systematically answer current questions – e.g. in the debate about (minimum) fees, funding policy, discrimination, participation, sustainability or the resilience of the music ecosystem as a whole.

Exemplary results from the study:

Utilization of funding programs, p. 34, chart 29

The three most important reasons for not making use of funding programs are a lack of knowledge of the existence of funding programs (45 percent), unclear application eligibility (32 percent) or application procedures that are perceived as too complicated (31 percent).

Experiences of discrimination, p.37, Figure 32

The chart shows the experiences of discrimination broken down by gender. The three most common situations named by respondents are not being taken seriously or being ridiculed as a musician or artist, as well as assumptions based on ethnic attributions and “racist stereotypes”.

The results of the survey make it clear that musicians in NRW are a diverse group with different demands in different situations. Cultural and funding policies and academic studies must take this heterogeneity into account and provide differentiated analyses on the basis of which needs can be identified and cultural policy implications developed.


The results reinforce the commitment of the PopBoard NRW, as it becomes clear, for example, that there is still a need in the area of funding, e.g. in closing hurdles in the use of funding programs. Multiple experiences of discrimination are reason enough to work towards improving fair participation. In general, it is striking and exciting that the music scene is very diverse in terms of its composition and activities and therefore a wide variety of support measures make sense.


Published by: PopBoard NRW UG, Klever Straße 23, 40477 Düsseldorf

Scientific project management: Heiko Rühl

Research assistants: Niklas Blömeke, Katharina Holec, Dr. Johannes Krause

Layout & typesetting: Der Kraken GmbH, Schwanenwall 12, 44135 Dortmund,

Proofreading: Stephanie Rüdinger