Research conducted by the charity Help Musicians has found that 91% of musicians are no longer able to afford equipment in what has been described as a ‘cost of working crisis’.
The research paints a grim picture of life for musicians in 2022, amid soaring energy and fuel costs, double digit inflation and the sector beginning to feel the effects of Brexit, which is adding to the cost of touring abroad. Nearly all musicians (98%), the charity found, are worried about earning enough income in the next six months, with half ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned that their financial situation will force them to leave the industry.
Furthermore, 90% of the 500 musicians surveyed are worried about affording food, while 84% are concerned about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent.
The cost of living crisis appears to be having an even greater impact on musicians than Covid-19, with 60% saying they are earning less than they were a year ago, and 8 in 10 say they are earning less than they were before the pandemic.
It is also widely impacting musicians’ mental health, with 88% admitting that poor mental health is negatively impacting their careers.
“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,” said James Ainscough, Chief Executive of Help Musicians. “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.”
He continued: “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.”
The cost of living, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, Brexit, and personnel and venue shortages are creating a perfect storm of issues for the UK’s musicians.
Today we set out our response to the unique set of challenges facing musicians this winter.
— Help Musicians (@HelpMusicians) November 14, 2022
“It is now, sadly, all too common to be informed of highly skilled musicians deciding on alternate career paths, Arts organizations having to shut down, or community orchestras and choirs folding in these extremely harsh financial times,” added Help Musicians ambassador Dame Evelyn Glennie.
“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.”
Help Musicians have announced they will be implementing £8 million worth of support measures to help musicians who are struggling, including expansion of provision of debt management and financial crisis advice, funding to support the costs of touring, and further investment in their 24/7 mental health service, Music Minds Matter.
NME attended a hearing at the House of Lords in September led by industry insiders and the #CarryOnTouring campaign, which revealed the true extents of the damage caused to the touring industry by Brexit. The government was warned that musicians and crew could “find themselves unemployed en masse”.
Elsewhere, five organisations representing the UK hospitality sector wrote an open letter to the Government in August, calling for urgent action to help businesses stay afloat amid the energy crisis.
“With chronic challenges in the supply chain, labour shortages, interest rates and inflation, rocketing energy prices have become a matter of existential emergency for businesses in our sector,” they wrote.