UK's first Musicians' census conducted by Help Musicians / Musicians’ Union. Image: Shutterstock.
UK's first Musicians' census conducted by Help Musicians / Musicians’ Union. Image: Shutterstock.

Half of musicians require second job to boost earnings

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Findings of first ever UK Musicians’ census released

More than half of musicians need to sustain their career by sourcing other forms of income outside of the industry. That’s one of the initial findings of the first ever UK Musicians’ census.

The survey was conducted by Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union. The project is the first in a long-term project which will be replicated every three to five years.

The goal of their research will be to measure changes in the musicians’ community over a period of time and to track any long term trends.

The findings reveal a musician’s average annual income is £20,700. But nearly half of the respondents earn under £14,000.

The results are based on detailed information provided by nearly 6,000 UK musicians. It is the largest ever survey of its kind.

‘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,’ says Sarah Woods, Chief Executive of Help Musicians.

‘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.’

A detailed insight into the demographic makeup of UK musicians

The first report provides a detailed insight into the demographic makeup of UK musicians and the barriers they face in their career progression. The findings also highlight the economic challenges adversely affecting musicians on a daily basis.

The research found 70% of professional musicians in the UK hold a degree or higher with half the total holding a music degree. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents have been earning their living as musicians for more than 10 years.

Despite this, the census found that 43% of respondents were earning less than £14,000 a year from music. It means many are left supplementing their income in other industries.

Nearly a quarter of musicians said they do not earn enough to support themselves or their families. Around half of the respondents found that a lack of sustainable income is a barrier to their music career. Nearly one in five said they were in debt.

The report found that many musicians are coping by creating a ‘portfolio career’ for themselves.

More than half of the respondents said they were sustaining their career by sourcing other forms of income away from their musical ambitions.

The team noted the cost of training and equipment were limiting factors for musicians despite their ability to be able to juggle different roles within the industry to support their careers.  

Responses suggest that a typical musician works across four to five genres and plays two to three instruments. One in five musicians reported playing four or more instruments.

Census highlights challenges faced by musicians

‘The first Musicians’ Census highlights the challenges musicians face carving out and sustaining a career as a musician in 2023,’ says Naomi Pohl, Musicians’ Union General Secretary.

‘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.’


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