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Musicians’ Census: Initial findings released

UK's first nationwide census for musicians

Musicians Census 2023 findings UK professional music industry career survey earnings

The Musicians’ Union and Help Musicians have released the initial findings from their recent Musicians’ Census, the first ever nationwide census for UK-based musicians. Using information from almost 6000 participants, the results offer a detailed insight into the country’s music industry, gathering data on musicians’ experiences, earnings and challenges.

The census found that 70% of the UK-based professional musicians who took part hold a degree or higher (50% have a music-specific degree) and that 65% have been working as musicians for over 10 years. The average annual income from participants’ music work was found to be £20,700, with 43% earning less than £14,000 a year from music, meaning that many need to supplement their income by working in other industries. For those earning all of their income from music work, the average salary was found to be £30,000 — lower than both the UK’s average median income (£33,280), and the average salary of a working-age person with a degree (£38,500).

23% of musicians stated that they do not earn enough to support themselves or their families, and 44% saw a lack of sustainable income as a barrier to their music career. 17% also reported being in debt, with that figure rising to 30% amongst those with a mental health condition and 28% for Black and Black British musicians.

“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. Whether that is working with the industry to improve diversity, negotiating better pay and conditions, or lobbying governments to secure the support our members need and deserve, the Musicians' Census gives us the vital data to take on these challenges on behalf of our members. As well as working externally, the Musicians' Census also gives us rich insights into how the MU can adapt to a changing world of work and be more representative of the diverse communities of musicians working in the UK. 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.” - Naomi Pohl, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

The majority of musicians (80%) reported at least one career-restricting barrier. Financial-based issues proved to be a common example, with 46% of musicians reporting cost-related barriers such as the price of equipment (30%), transport (27%) and  training (18%) limiting their careers. Other barriers include no clear route for career progression (36%), not knowing anyone in the industry (25%) and unsociable working hours (22%).

Whilst 80% of the participants indicated that they consider themselves as performers, the results showed that, on average, working musicians holds three or four different roles in music, something which highlights the need to juggle different roles to sustain a career. Those who took part tended to have a breadth of creative outputs, too, with responses suggesting that a typical musician works across up to five genres and plays two or three instruments, whilst 20% reported that they play four or more instruments.

“Although the data shows some big challenges musicians face, it also highlights how committed musicians are in continuing to produce the music we all know and love, demonstrating how resilient our population of musicians truly is. The census findings show that musicians need our continued support and working collaboratively with others in the music industry this valuable insight will enable us to do more in the years to come. Thank you to everyone who responded and to those organisations who helped us share it — Help Musicians will use the census to develop new forms of support to ensure a world where musicians thrive.” - Sarah Woods, Chief Executive, Help Musicians

The first report has now been published and is available to read on the Musicians’ Census website. Further reports that aim to provide an insight into other aspects of UK musicians’ lives will be released over the coming months.

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