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New survey demonstrates impact of rising costs on musicians

Research from charity Help Musicians has demonstrated the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on artists in the UK. 

The charity found that more than eight in 10 professional musicians are worried about meeting mortgage or rent costs. A further nine in 10 said that their career is being impacted by poor mental health and 91% face a ‘cost-of-working’ crisis, including being unable to afford music-related equipment.

Help Musicians also estimated that it will need to take £8m ($9.4m/€9.1m) from reserves by the end of the year to support musicians that are struggling.

Multiple factors including the cost-of-living crisis, the pandemic and Brexit are having a ‘brutal’ impact on the UK’s musicians, according to the charity.

The latest survey from Help Musicians has shown a sharp rise in the number of musicians worried about leaving in the industry, compared to just 22% considering leaving last year. Half said that they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned they will be forced to leave the industry, while 35% are ‘slightly’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned.

Many musicians are worried about finances, after the pandemic drained reserves and left many close to worrying debt. Rising costs are also exacerbating the issue, with six in 10 telling the charity they are now worse off financially compared to the same time last year.

A further eight in 10 say they are currently earning less income from music than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

Brexit has also played a part for struggling musicians, as it has created touring barriers as well as equipment, personnel and venue shortages. Musicians are also facing a cost-of-working crisis, with energy and fuel bills soaring, impacting travel and rehearsal spaces.

The study was conducted amongst more than 500 professional musicians across the UK. Almost 98% are ‘concerned’ about their ability to earn sufficient income over the next six months, with many worried about basic needs such as food or accommodation. Nine out of 10 are worried about affording food over the next six months, while 84% are concerned about paying mortgage or rent.

With winter looming in the UK and energy bills soaring, 80% are worried about falling into debt over the coming months.

The ‘cost-of-working’ crisis has also impacted musicians’ careers, with 97% experiencing rising costs. Nine in 10 say they are unable to afford music-related equipment while Brexit has affected touring and performances in the EU.

The impact of finance-related problems in the music sector has created stress and poor mental health for musicians. As many as 88% of those surveyed said that this then also impacts their work, with 68% agreeing that 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.

James Ainscough, chief executive of Help Musicians, 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 of support to help them navigate the financial challenges of working and living over winter, make the most of touring opportunities, and improve their mental health. Our Music Minds Matter service has seen a 34% increase this year and we have funded 1,600 hours of counselling in the last three months alone.”

Ainscough added: “We need to put significant time and resources 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.”