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64% musicians considering leaving the music profession [Survey Results]

  • 64% musicians are 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
  • Music booking platform Encore Musicians surveys 560 musicians

A 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 pandemic.

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 and Co-founder 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.”    

Images

Case studies

Singer had to move in with parents after being ineligible for SEISS

“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.”

Amy Owen, singer, 31

Rising star trumpeter career dashed

“Before lockdown, my career was taking off hugely, having been awarded my first trial with a major UK orchestra and starting to freelance more and more regularly with major UK orchestras. I had every single gig cancelled.

The SEIS government support was barely any help, since I’m a recent graduate and my first income tax amount was very low compared to what it would have been this year, where the amount of work I had been booked for increased greatly. I have no clue as to when I’ll start working again, or what I can expect to make money from without losing the skills and playing standard I’ve built up until now”

Erika Curbelo, trumpeter, 25

Summary of Results

Livelihood lost overnight

  • On average musicians have lost £11,300 in cancelled bookings as a result of the pandemic
  • 40% 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)

Farewell Symphony: Classical musicians have the fewest bookings

  • 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 have lost the most money

  • 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)

Full breakdown of data

Browse an interactive visual presentation of the data here.

Demographics – who took the survey

Age

  • Just 5% were student age (under 22 years old)
  • 60% of those who took the survey were over 30 years old
Age band Count Percentage
18 – 24 103 18%
25 – 34 185 33%
35 – 44 91 16%
45 – 54 63 11%
55 – 64 68 12%
65+ 20 4%
Prefer not to say 39 7%

Professionalism

  • While it’s difficult to fully assess the professional/amateur distinction, we asked the musicians who took the survey to say how much of their overall income came from performing music (note this doesn’t include teaching).
  • You can see the most represented sample is musicians who earn 80-100% of their income from performing music – usually what we’d consider professional musicians.
  • In other words, as far as we can tell most musicians who took the survey were serious professional musicians. Many were also kind enough to write down their personal stories as part of the survey – these included established professionals from the major London orchestras (as well as young professionals just getting their first orchestral seats).

Before COVID-19, how much of your income did you make from performing music?

Income from performing music Count Percentage
Less than 20% 54 9%
20-40% 59 10%
40-60% 114 20%
60-80% 87 15%
80-100% 255 45%

Genre

  • The most represented genre was classical musicians.
Genre Count Percentage
Classical 229 40%
Pop 130 23%
Jazz 100 18%
Rock 58 10%
Folk 40 7%
Electronic 9 2%

 

Gender

Gender Count Percentage
Male 317 56%
Female 245 43%
Prefer not to say 7 1%

Data size

569 isn’t a huge dataset, and we’d be very interested to see if our results correlate with larger studies. We’re just aiming to do our best to assess and highlight the problems facing musicians in the UK today (with the aim of informing government policy).

 

About Encore

About Encore: Encore Musicians is a marketplace platform with over 42,000 registered live musicians in the UK.  Formed in 2016, Encore last year generated over £1 million in revenue for musicians who were booked across 2,000 events ranging from weddings and birthday parties to corporate parties and festivals. While the platform specialises in wedding bands, customers can book everything from raucous mariachi bands and ceilidh bands to sophisticated string quartets.

Assets: high-resolution images, data sets, infographics, and graphs available on request.

Press enquiries: contact [email protected]

Jonny Venvell

Jonny is Encore's Head of Artist Relations.

He's responsible for supporting and helping musicians on the platform and writes most of the musician-facing articles on the blog. He can usually be found singing in choirs, drumming in bands, or nodding meaningfully to particularly good chords in London's jazz bars.

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