Music charity Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union have published the initial findings of the first ever UK Musicians’ Census, confirming that more than half of the musicians surveyed sustain their music careers by sourcing income from outside the music industry.
The new study also identifies some key barriers for music-makers pursuing music careers, including equipment, travel and training costs, unsociable working hours, and there being no clear route for career progression.
Help Musicians and the MU plan to conduct this survey every few years so that they can track trends in the music community. Of the 6000 musicians that took part in the first survey, 70% had a degree, 50% have a music degree specifically, and 65% have been making money as musicians for more than ten years.
Nevertheless, by crunching numbers submitted across the survey, the study concludes that musicians in the UK on average earn £20,700 a year from their music work, with 43% earning less than £14,000 a year. Which means 53% of respondents need to supplement their music earnings with other income.
Even those who make most or all of their income from music will usually have multiple music projects on the go at any one time in order to generate enough money across the year. The study reckons that the average working musician holds three or four different roles at any one time.
Needless to say, these financial challenges pose a considerable barrier to people embarking on a career in music. Other barriers noted by respondents include…
- cost of equipment: 30%
- cost of transport: 27%
- cost of training: 18%
- no clear route for career progression: 36%
- not knowing anyone in the industry: 25%
- unsociable working hours: 22%
Commenting on the study, Help Musicians CEO Sarah Woods says: “The Musicians’ Census 2023 not only offers unique insight into the make-up of the musicians’ community across the UK but also paints a picture of the distinctive set of challenges musicians face to sustain a career in music”.
“The census information will be vital in informing our future services”, she goes on, “with a better understanding of the career challenges that different communities within the music industry face we can offer help on a national scale which makes a substantial and positive impact on musician’s lives and careers”.
MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl adds: “The first Musicians’ Census highlights the challenges musicians face carving out and sustaining a career as a musician in 2023. As the UK’s trade union for musicians, this census will help us be more effective at representing our members and tackling the nuanced challenges different communities of musicians face”.
“The Musicians’ Census gives us the vital data to take on these challenges on behalf of our members”, she continues. “[And] even though the Musicians’ Census paints a challenging landscape for musicians, I believe the MU has never been in a better position to tackle them head on”.