Beyond Indie

Nearly half of working UK musicians earn less than £14k, new census finds

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Nearly half of working UK musicians earn less than £14k a year, according to a new census.

The new Musicians’ Census surveyed nearly 6,000 active musicians in the country, and was created by the Musicians’ Union and Help Musicians.

Its findings revealed that despite 70 per cent of participants having a degree-level qualification or higher, over half of all respondents had to work multiple jobs to be able to afford to live.


According to the census, a musician has an average of three-to-four jobs, with those working full time in music only making an average of £30,000 a year, which is below the median average UK wage by nearly £5,000.

One respondent said there was “a real glass ceiling in terms of performance pay with fees for most performance opportunities the same as they were 20 years ago.

“The hours are unsociable, rehearsals are often unpaid and there is much unpaid waiting around. Being a full-time musician and trying to be present as a parent is effectively impossible,” they added.

Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
View of the crowd during a concert at the day 3 of Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023 on June 02, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain (CREDIT: Xavi Torrent/Redferns)

Findings also pointed to a pay gap of £1,000 between white and non-white participants, and of four times that between disabled and non-disabled.

Only 32 per cent of non-white musicians made their entire income from music, with the figure rising to 43 per cent for white participants.


Discussing the findings, Musicians’ Union general secretary Naomi Pohl said that the data “paints a challenging landscape for musicians,” while Help Musicians boss Sarah Woods added: “It also highlights how committed musicians are in continuing to produce the music we all know and love; demonstrating how resilient our population of musicians truly is.”

Earlier this summer, it was reported that almost 50 per cent of UK musicians are working less in Europe since Brexit.

47.4 per cent of those surveyed for the Paying The Price report said they had worked less in the EU after Brexit went through, with 27.8 per cent having no work on the continent at all. 40 per cent had work cancelled since January 1, 2021, with almost as many (39 per cent) having to turn down planned work.

Back in 2021, the UK music industry spoke out together on how they had essentially been handed a “No Deal Brexit” when the government failed to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew.

As a result, artists attempting to hit the road again after COVID found themselves on the predicted “rocky road” for the first summer of European touring after Britain left the EU – finding that the complications of Brexit are “strangling the next generation of UK talent in the cradle”.

The government were then warned that musicians and crew “could find themselves unemployed en masse”, after a hearing at the House Of The Lords revealed the damage already being caused by Brexit on those wishing to tour Europe.

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