According to a new report published on Monday, a total of 5,867 performers were surveyed about their earnings and working patterns. Charity Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union (MU) conducted this nationwide census for musicians in the UK, making it the first of its kind.
The findings of the survey revealed that the average annual income from music reported by respondents is £20,700. This figure takes into account any percentage of income earned from music. The majority of musicians surveyed reported earning more than £14,000, although 43% stated they earn less than that amount.
In comparison, the average median income in the UK is £33,280, according to a 2022 report by the ONS. The average salary for a working-age person with a degree in the UK is £38,500.
The survey also found that 40% of musicians reported earning all of their income from music. This percentage falls to 17% among musicians who identify as “self-taught” without a formal music qualification.
Furthermore, more than half (53%) of musicians sustain their career by seeking other forms of income outside of music. Of those musicians earning additional income, 75% reported doing so for financial reasons.
Naomi Pohl, MU general secretary, commented on the survey, stating that it “highlights the challenges musicians face when carving out and sustaining a career in 2023.” She emphasized the importance of the census in helping the Musicians’ Union better represent its members and address the specific challenges faced by different communities of musicians.
According to the researchers, 54% of musician respondents do not have access to employment benefits, and only 28% have an employer-contribution pension. In contrast, the workplace pension participation rate in the UK was at 79% in April 2021 according to ONS figures.
Musicians identified several financial obstacles and barriers to entry, including the cost of equipment, transportation, training, lack of industry connections, and unsociable working hours.
Sarah Woods, chief executive of Help Musicians, acknowledged the challenges presented in the census but also highlighted the resilience demonstrated by musicians in continuing to produce the music we all love.