UK Live Music in Crisis!
As you have no doubt be aware of, The UK is heading at full speed in to another recession. Add to this the nightmare that has become Brexit and the long-term financial and social side effects (no pun intended) of COVID19 and the UK is in dire straits (still no pun intended!).
Everyone is suffering financial and as usual the music industry is suffering too, BIG TIME!
With less disposable income, people are not going to gigs, are not buying merchandise and not buying music. Taxation, fuel costs, a spaggetti-like legal system there simply isn’t much money for musicians and venues. Add to this the reticence of people to go back to public spaces and it’s not looking good for people in the music industry. ROX Network is very concerned about the state of the industry and how musicians and everyone that serves them and supports them are hitting the wall and reaching a real financial crisis. If enough people and organisations quit music then the future looks set to be a grim, atonal one.
But don’t take our word for it, Help For Musicians have issued the statement below regarding the situation. Released 14th November 2022.
PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS FACING MULTIPLE PRESSURES THIS WINTER - WITH HALF BELIEVING THEY MAY HAVE TO LEAVE THE INDUSTRY
• More than 8 in 10 professional musicians are worried about meeting mortgage or rent costs
• Nine in ten say that their career is being impacted by poor mental health
• 91% face a ‘cost of working’ crisis, including being unable to afford music-related equipment
• Charity estimates it will need to take £8m from reserves by the end of the year to give musicians the support they need
The cost of living crisis, alongside other factors including the ongoing impact of the pandemic and Brexit, is having a ‘brutal’ impact on the UK’s musicians, with close to half saying they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned they will be forced to leave the industry, whilst a further 35% are ‘slightly or ‘somewhat’ worried they will have to.
This is according to the latest survey from charity Help Musicians and is a significant increase from this time last year, when 22% said they were considering leaving, demonstrating the additional impact the cost of living crisis is having, on top of the issues they were already facing.
The survey reveals the combination of challenges is leading to unpredictable earnings for most, which has in turn taken a toll on mental health. Most musicians’ financial reserves were drained by the pandemic and debt is a now a key worry.
Rising costs come at the worst time imaginable for musicians, with six in ten (60%) saying they are worse off financially now compared to the same time last year. And 8 in 10 (78%) say they are currently earning less income from music than before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Brexit has also played a key part in this, putting up touring barriers, as well as leading to equipment, personnel and venue shortages. And furthermore, rampant inflation in fuel and heating is pushing up the cost of working, such as travelling to gigs or heating rehearsal spaces.
To address the shocking new figures, Help Musicians estimates that by the end of the year, it will have spent a total of £8m in 2022 supporting musicians with a range of needs across financial help, mental health and touring support.
Struggling to meet basic costs
The study, conducted amongst over 500 professional musicians across the UK, has revealed that the reality of being a working musician is very different from how many might expect, with the majority working as freelancers who are hit hard by rising costs associated with working and touring.
The vast majority of the professional musicians surveyed (98%) are ‘concerned’ about their ability to earn sufficient income over the next six months, with many worried about basics such as food or accommodation. Nine out of ten (90%) are worried about affording food over the next six months, with 84% concerned about paying their mortgage or rent. With the energy crisis hiking up monthly bills, 80% are worried about getting into debt in the coming months.
A cost of working crisis
The current situation is leading to what Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough says is a ‘cost of working’ crisis within the industry, with 97% saying that rising costs are hitting their careers. This extends as far as simply being able to afford the tools of their trade – nine in ten (91%) say that being unable to afford music-related equipment is currently impacting them. Brexit hasn’t helped matters either, with 85% saying difficulties planning performances and tours in the EU is an issue.
Musician’s mental health plummets
The knock-on impact of derailed careers and financial stress is shockingly high mental health issues within the industry. Nearly nine in ten (88%) believe difficulties with their mental health is currently affecting their work, with 68% saying their mental health is worse than before the pandemic. Help Musicians has also seen a 34% increase in calls this year to Music Minds Matter, its mental health-focused sister charity.
Support being put in place
To help address the issues, Help Musicians is today announcing a raft of additional support measures to help UK musicians to build sustainable careers within the current, incredibly challenging environment, investing £8m from its reserves in key areas. Costs for the charity’s mental health service, Music Minds Matter – which offers 24/7 mental health support and advice, alongside therapeutic support as NHS waiting lists continue to grow – will hit £1m for the first time this year.
To help ensure musicians can build truly sustainable careers and help alleviate the need for short-term funding in the future, the charity is also increasing funding to support the cost of performing and touring, helping artists to create new music and promote it, and offering business advice and mentoring from experienced industry professionals, alongside debt management and financial crisis advice.
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 to support to help them navigate 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.
“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.”
Dame Evelyn Glennie, musicians and HM Ambassador, said: “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. 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 is asking those who are in a position to donate to give whatever they can through the website, in order to help them to support more musicians throughout the UK with important services such as these. Every penny donated to Help Musicians goes straight to the frontline without any deduction to cover its operating costs or overheads.
Anyone working in the music industry who needs support can call Help Musicians on 0808 802 8008 or go to helpmusicians.org.uk.
Research conducted by Help Musicians amongst 525 UK music professionals in September 2022.
For media enquiries, or to request an interview with a Help Musicians representative, please contract:
Chris Bull, Newsfeed PR: CBull@NewsfeedPR.co.uk / 07760 273 160
Priyanka Loomba, Newsfeed PR: email@example.com / 07531 650 633
About Help Musicians
Help Musicians is a charity that loves music and for over 100 years has been working hard to make a meaningful difference to the lives of musicians across the UK. We want to create a world where musicians thrive.
A musician’s life can be precarious with ups and downs throughout a career. Opportunities must be hard-won, whilst challenges come along all too easily, with unsteady income and physical and mental health concerns common issues to navigate. In addition, training can take many years and, along with investing in instruments and other equipment, puts up financial barriers to creative progression. Help Musicians offers a broad range of help to support music creators in times of crisis and opportunity - ensuring musicians across the UK can achieve their creative potential and sustain a career in music.
Sadly, the impact of the pandemic means the charity is needed more than ever. Since March 2020, we have been able to provide financial hardship support to over 19,000 music creators and increase access to our mental health services by 40%. In 2022, this ongoing need will continue at scale while the music sector recovers and rebuilds. (Courtesy of Help Musicians)
A further statement from Help Musicians:
Widening of service featuring professional insight from mental health experts
Help Musicians announces expansion of its Music Minds Matter service to widen the mental health support available to the UK music industry
The charity has seen a 65% rise in calls for help over the last three months, driven by financial anxiety and exacerbated by uncertainty about the future
Key figures across the industry recognise the value of Music Minds Matter and endorse the charity’s plans to make a meaningful difference to future wellbeing, with PPL making a significant 3‑year financial commitment
Recent research carried out by Help Musicians has shown that the combined effect of lockdown and uncertainty about the future is taking an unprecedented toll on the mental health of musicians. Results from the charity’s survey highlighted concerning statistics, including the stark figure of 87% of respondents stating that their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic.
Echoing the findings, Help Musicians has seen a 65% rise in requests for help to the charity’s Music Minds Matter service already this year. As a result, Help Musicians is announcing its ambition to significantly expand its Music Minds Matter service (launched in July 2017), widening the range of support options available, with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of all working in the music industry.
Alongside the current 24/7 dedicated mental health support line for the whole music industry, staffed by accredited therapists, two new strands of support will be added to Music Minds Matter:
The creation of a national network of local support groups offering all those working in music the ability to meet together, with experts, to tackle issues such as anxiety and to build resilience.
Targeted signposting to help everyone find the best, most relevant advice and support, from across the music sector and beyond.
Industry bodies have welcomed this approach and at the recent UK Music Board meeting, committed to work with the charity to ensure that this practical support reaches those in need. PPL has already offered a 3‑year funding package worth £300,000 to ensure more musicians than ever before can access much needed one-to-one counselling and therapeutic support. Help Musicians also hopes to extend the provision of these services beyond musicians to all those working within the industry.
James Ainscough, Chief Executive of Help Musicians: “Music is beneficial to everybody’s mental wellbeing, yet those who work in music seem to struggle more than most with their own mental health. The pandemic has amplified this paradox. Music Minds Matter will become a collaborative mental wellbeing resource for the entire music industry, to help those who are struggling and to transform the ability of all those working in music to proactively maintain their wellbeing. Working together, spotlighting all that is valuable whoever the provider, the music industry can embed lasting change and become a leader in caring for the mental health of its people. We are very grateful to the whole UK Music Board for their enthusiasm and support, and especially PPL for their decisive financial backing. We hope many will come to value and support this work as the Music Minds Matter service expands.”
Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer of PPL said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of many in the music industry. PPL supports initiatives which aim to improve the wellbeing of those that work in music. Last year, with Help Musicians, we jointly backed the launch of BAPAM’s mental health training bursary scheme, and are proud to be partnering yet again to support the expansion of Music Minds Matter. Since launching in 2017, the service has been an important source of help for many musicians, so we welcome its growth and the help it will now offer to all in our industry.”
UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “This pandemic has had an awful toll on our industry, and nowhere can the impact be seen more starkly than on the mental health of those working in the industry. “Music Minds Matter is a vital service that provides much-needed advice and support to those who need it most, and this expansion will make a real difference to countless people across the industry. “Protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of those working in the music industry is mission critical if we want to get through this pandemic. UK Music is determined to play our part in this important effort, and so we are proud to be supporting Help Musicians in the excellent work they are doing.”
Lucy Heyman, Musicians’ Health and Wellbeing Specialist and co-author of Sound Advice said: “Even before the pandemic hit, musicians experienced significant mental and physical challenges in their careers. This situation has worsened over the last twelve months with many now facing increased financial difficulties and mental health issues, along with uncertainty about the future and return to work. As a result, we vitally need more support services for musicians and those working in the industry around them. The collaborative, industry-wide approach that Help Musicians is offering will enable anyone in the music industry to access the very best support services available in one place, no matter who provides them. It will make a meaningful difference to the music community, providing much-needed centralised support, along with targeted localised solutions, to address the issues caused by the pandemic and beyond.”
Mark Bristow the drummer for MOSHtalgia/Arrow Valley, Ex Cloven Hoof comments
“I work for the UK’s largest Brewer as an Account Manager. Essentially I sell into Free On Premise outlets (non tied). For simplicity, my customers will see the best prices in the market as they aren’t brewery owned therefore are able to switch to more competitive deals as they see fit.
The main issue at the moment is that:
-energy prices are insane
-cost of staff because of inflation has gone up
-cost of goods (beer) has gone up due to brewery inflationary pressures on deliveries (fuel), production (electricity + raw materials).
-customers are still wary of going out.
As a result, before you even book a band the revenue streams any venue make money from during a Gig/event have to go up to maintain margins to ensure businesses can cover their basic costs. This means that generally, pints and cost of entry goes up.
Having been on the local scene for 20 years, toured internationally and seen the inner workings of venues financials it’s obvious that to cover costs, drinks prices go up so customers spend less, ticket prices go up to cover basic costs and then there’s the elephant in the room which is bands charging more because of their costs.
I’ve seen local gigs go from £3 entry, £3 drinks to £10 entry £4-£5 drinks.
Venues are having to do more to earn less as customers spend less. This is on the basic costs of a gig.
Now: band perspective…
The barriers to entry for new musicians is insane. For example, being a drummer my costs are naturally higher than a guitarist (generally speaking). I have to have the biggest car for travel which costs. I have the biggest outlay for breakables. Every cymbal is £200+ to replace.
In covers bands we are expensive. £750-£1000 per gig. There are 5 of us. Fuel is an average of £50 per car. That’s £900 left or £180 each. Then there’s practice costs. Average gig is 2 practices before hand. That’s £10 an hour, usually two 5 hour sessions or £100, that’s £800 left or £160 each.
Then there’s all of the non costed elements such as: set up times that are unpaid and pack down. From £180 we’re on site for around 6 hours, so £30 an hour.
That’s assuming we get £1000 which most venues don’t pay.
That’s a minimum of 100 people at £10 or 200 at £5 to stand still on our cost alone.