UK musicians are facing a perfect storm of pressures this winter, with half concerned they will be forced to leave the industry due to the cost-of-living crisis, according to new survey conducted by the charity Help Musicians
The sobering figures echo results of studies undertaken during the height of Covid-19 lockdowns — when vital revenue streams from touring were decimated.
This latest analysis also revealed that 78% of respondents are currently worried about making mortgage or rent payments, with 91% facing a ‘cost of working crisis’ and unable to afford the equipment they need. As a result, 90% reported difficulties in working due to poor mental health, with Help Musicians’ newly established mental health-focused charity seeing a rapid increase in demand.
This is partly the result of an uncertain 12 months following two years of economic vulnerability, with poor ticket sales and cancellations plaguing the touring circuit in 2022, and venues often unable to offer many dates due to pre-pandemic commitments and the immediate spike in activity after reopening. Help Musicians has also pointed to the aftermath of Brexit as a key contributor.
Increased barriers to working in European Union states, shortages in skilled workers, venues, and equipment have compounded the situation, with 85% citing Britain’s departure from the bloc as making planning and performing more difficult. Meanwhile, energy and fuel crises have dramatically increased overheads for both venues and artists, further pushing up the cost of working and the price of attending shows. The latter is particularly worrying as punter spending power is low.
“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,” said James Ainscough, Chief Executive of Help Musicians.
“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,” he continued.”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.”
Help Musicians believes it will use an estimated £8m from its reserve funds by the end of this year to offer enough support to the increasing numbers of musicians that need it. Putting this into context, the organisation spent close to £19m on direct Covid-19 assistance and a further £11m on overall support services between spring 2020 and early 2022, with venues almost completely unable to operate for most of that period.
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