‘64% musicians considering leaving the music profession’ – survey

Peter Bacon reports:

A new survey reveals that 64% of musicians polled are considering leaving the music profession. The survey, conducted by the online musician booking platform, Encore Musicians, has revealed that the UK music industry is in a state of crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Other headline figures from the survey of 560 musicians include:
• 64% musicians considering leaving the music profession
• On average musicians have lost £11,300 from cancellations since March 2020
• 87% fewer gigs booked for Aug – Dec 2020 than same period in 2019
• Young female musicians have 34% fewer gigs booked for 2020 than men

Amy Owen. Photo: Annabel Vere

In a story that will probably be familiar to many musicians, singer Amy Owen, 31, told the survey she had to move in with her parents after being ineligible for the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

“We didn’t feel we could count on the government for support when things started going wrong so we gave up our flat in Brighton and moved back to our parents. I now have a job as a hotel receptionist to try to save money to get back down south where my bands are based. I narrowly missed out on SEISS because I was employed and self-employed for the years they took into account. This is despite the fact that 80% of my earnings from the most recent tax year was from self employment.”


Some jazz specific stats from the survey are as follows:

  • Lost an average of £10,470 in gig cancellations since March 2020.
  • Have an average of just 4 gigs booked for the remainder of 2020.
  • For the same period last year (Aug-Dec 2019) the average gig count was 26 (so bookings have dropped by 86%).
  • 64% said they are thinking about leaving the music profession (the same as the overall average).
  • 36% said they’d applied for jobs outside of music.

Here are quotes from a few of the jazz case studies:

M, jazz pianist: “All 160-something gigs cancelled. The SEIS doesn’t really touch the sides of what I’ve lost from gigs, although still welcomed. SEIS needs to continue way beyond August. Universal Credit doesn’t really help much either.”

L, jazz singer: “As a singer I’ll be one of the last people to gig again anyway. I strongly feel that the government has overlooked musicians that play music for people at a grassroots level, rather they’ve only looked at the high end major performing arts sector (even that only at a glance) but it’s us smaller musicians, in your restaurant playing lovely jazz standards, in your local pub, putting on swing dance nights for the community that have really missed out. We feel so invisible.”

E, jazz singer: “I had just moved here to London in February from the States, and had gigs lined up in order to start establishing myself here as a musician – summer festivals, bar and pub gigs, dance events, even booked to play in Istanbul and Los Angeles. All of my momentum is gone.”

A, jazz trumpeter: “I’ve played music since I was 7, that’s 25 years of education and training, years of sacrifices to attend Berklee in the USA, wasted. We need rapid testing kits to reopen venues, no negative rapid test, no entry to venue, its not hard but the government must fund it… The lack of clear concise professional scientific research to help us out of the situation is depressing. We don’t want handouts, we want to work again!”

Here is the rest of the press release:

The results show that due to widespread event cancellations musicians have lost on average 87% of their live bookings and with them their main source of income.
While some have been able to secure financial assistance from the government (like universal credit and SEISS) and grants from music organisations, many are falling through the gaps and are struggling to make ends meet.  
The concerning result is that the majority of musicians are now considering leaving the profession and are applying for jobs elsewhere. 
This would lead to a significant contraction of the UK music industry, which contributes £5.2 billion annually to the UK economy and employs nearly 200,000 people. [Source]
On the results, Encore CEO James McAulay says: “We’re acutely aware of the damage the pandemic has done to our musicians’ livelihoods, but I was still shocked to see just how few bookings most musicians have left in the diary for 2020. This problem is being felt across the industry – from signed veterans to young musicians at the beginning of their careers. The government must act now to make sure our musicians aren’t left behind.”    
Livelihood lost overnight
• On average musicians have lost £11,300 in cancelled bookings as a result of the pandemic
• 50% have no bookings in the diary for the remainder of 2020 (average for same period last year was 27 bookings)
Exodus of musical talent
• 64% say they are thinking about leaving the music profession
• 40% have applied for a non-music job since March 
The government is not giving enough support 
• 41% respondents hadn’t received any government support
• 42% had received some kind of non-Governmental support, mainly from the Musicians Union or the charity Help Musicians UK
Young women worst affected
• Predicted earnings in Aug – Dec 2020 vs the same period last year are down by 90% for musicians aged 25-34  (compared to 73% for those aged 65+) 
• Men have 34% more gigs booked for the rest of 2020 than women (an average of 3.8 gigs for men and 2.5 for women)  
Classical musicians
• With an average of 2 bookings, classical musicians have the lowest number of gigs booked for the remainder of 2020 compared to other genres. Pop musicians are likely to have the fullest diaries with an average of 5 gigs booked in for the remainder of 2020.     
Pop musicians
• On average, pop musicians have lost £19,900 in earnings as a result of cancellations since March 2020 (compared to the average of £11,300 across all genres)

LINK: Encore Musicians is a marketplace platform with over 42,000 registered live musicians in the UK.

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8 replies »

  1. Lost all my work … no furlough. I feel the same. Don’t see the point and dont have confidence any more. .. but getting close to retirement age now .. what else can I do?

  2. Re-value recorded music, even in proportion to its actual value and meaning in the lives of listeners, and musicians could once again make a living from recordings, as was possible before piracy and fraction-of-a-cent streaming destroyed its value.

    Touring and live should not be the only possible source of income; those are not viable for some even in the best of times, and these are not the best of times.

  3. Brazilian jazz and jazz singer, pianist, composer, we were sis, arranger and producer. I’ve use this time to make videos of my original songs and lyrics on social media and YouTube. It’s been the most rewarding part of my career! People from all over the world contacting me. I’ve been at this for over 40 years! I now have a new love of making videos combining many of my interests.

  4. Where have all the profits gone? Big venues, record labels and media outlets are sitting on huge profits. We should demand they open the books and support the profit makers, the musicians, technicians, the key workers. Fight for bread and roses.

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