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Half of UK musicians concerned they will need to leave industry

Charity Help Musicians has released new research that shows almost half (49%) of UK musicians are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned they’ll be forced to leave the industry.

The study, conducted among more than 500 UK professional musicians, showed 98% of musicians are worried about earning enough income in the next six months, with 90% concerned about affording food and 84% about paying their mortgage or rent.

The charity said this is a significant increase from this time last year, when 22% said they were considering leaving.

A further 35% said they are ‘slightly or ‘somewhat’ worried they will have to leave the industry. With the energy crisis hiking up monthly bills, 80% said they are worried about getting into debt in the coming months.

Six in ten (60%) said they are worse off financially now compared to the same time last year, while eight in ten (78%) said they are currently earning less income from music than before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

As well as rising costs, Help Musicians cited Brexit touring barriers and equipment personnel and venue shortages as contributing factors. It also cited inflation in fuel and heating which has pushed up the cost of working, such as travelling to gigs or heating rehearsal spaces.

Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough said there is a “cost of working” crisis within the industry, with 97% saying that rising costs are hitting their careers.

Nine in ten (91%) said being unable to afford music-related equipment is currently impacting them, while 85% said difficulties planning performances and tours in the EU is an issue.

Nearly nine in ten (88%) said difficulties with their mental health are currently affecting their work, with 68% saying their mental health is worse than before the pandemic.

Help Musicians has also seen a 34% increase in calls this year to its mental-health-focused sister charity Music Minds Matter (MMM), which has funded 1,600 hours of counselling in the last three months alone. Costs for MMM – which offers 24/7 mental health support and advice, alongside therapeutic support as NHS waiting lists continue to grow – will hit £1m for the first time this year.

The charity estimates that by the end of the year, it will have spent a total of £8m in 2022 supporting musicians with a range of needs across financial help, mental health and touring support.

Ainscough said, “It is hard to imagine any point since the Second World War when it has been tougher to be a professional musician – put simply, the current environment is brutal. The pandemic had a catastrophic impact, with most simply unable to perform. Afterwards, venues were booked up for months or years in advance due to rearranged gigs. This has been followed by Brexit, which has impacted their ability to tour, for many emerging musicians a vital step in building a sustainable career.

“It is clear from the responses to this survey, that musicians need a broad range to support to help them navigate financial challenges of working and living over winter, make the most of touring opportunities, and improve their mental health.

“We need to put significant time and resource into sustaining musicians over the coming, challenging months, if we are to have a thriving music ecosystem in 2023 and beyond. We cannot afford to lose any of the talent from our passionate community of UK musicians if we want to continue enjoying the music that inspires us all every day.”

Help Musicians president Dame Evelyn Glennie said, “It is now, sadly, all too common to be informed of highly skilled musicians deciding on alternate career paths, Arts organisations having to shut down, or community orchestras and choirs folding in these extremely harsh financial times. It takes a great deal of physical and mental energy to function and sustain a career in music; the current challenges are unprecedented which is resulting in a catastrophic avalanche of stress, disillusionment, lost talent and shortened careers.

“We know what it feels like when music uplifts us – every aspect of our being is positively impacted. We must try to do all we can to support the immense creativity that the UK has to offer and be sure that musicians’ needs are listened to, supported and acted on.”


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