The Monthly speaks to Liz Stokes from Help Musicians about the impact of the cost of living crisis on musicians

Help Musicians, a charity set up to look after professional musicians, conducted a survey to look into how musicians were faring through the cost of living crisis. A Press Release about the survey can be found at the bottom of this post. We asked Liz Stokes from Help Musicians a few questions about the survey.

Why did Help Musicians conduct a survey to ascertain the financial circumstances of professional musicians in the UK?

We regularly survey musicians to provide insight into the challenges they are facing. This helps us ensure the charity is providing meaningful support. As a result of the challenges illustrated through this survey, we launched a raft of support (detailed in the attached press release). Musicians are facing multiple barriers to sustaining a career in music, so, as a charity here to support professional musicians, we are providing a breadth of help to meet their needs and help them continue their careers.

What emergency measures do you think need to be introduced in order to reverse the decline of the earning potential of professional musicians?

As the challenges are broad and multifaceted, there solutions are too.

“The music industry has always had a fast pace of change – driven in particular by evolving musical tastes, advances in technology, and changes in law & tax. Musicians are mostly low-paid freelancers, so their small boats are often at the mercy of these big waves that sweep across the music industry. We owe them a duty of care. Ultimately musicians (by which we mean both performers and writers) will get a fair deal if we properly appreciate their talent and creativity, and if we have a working culture that doesn’t allow a few to take advantage of power asymmetries (which affects more than just the economics – bullying & harassment, lack of opportunity for those with protected characteristics, support for those experiencing physical and mental ill health, etc.).

In a world where a freelance musician is appreciated, protected and nurtured, there will be a fair sharing of income, and surely when musicians thrive the rest of the music industry does too?! So, although it’s important to work through the list of specific issues that need resolving, we also have to ask some bigger questions: do we truly value music/musicians and do we have a healthy working culture? There are many good people working in music, some great leaders who are pushing for positive change, and encouraging progress being made in this regard. There is also more still to be done!” James Ainscough, CEO, Help Musicians

What other measures are required over the long term to help arrest the difficulties?

“Help Musicians is not a campaigning organisation – we leave that to our friends at the MU, ISM, Ivors, MVT, UK Music, LIVE, etc. So I’m not going to get into the specifics of what changes ought to be made – though from #brokenrecord, to merchandise commission, to VAT on tickets, to the Brexit deal etc. etc. – there’s definitely a long list that needs working through! It’s important to say we do want everyone else in the music ecosystem to profit from their own good work too – grassroots venues who do so much to support emerging talent, streaming companies who help musicians find new fans across the globe, and many others. And whilst there are certainly issues that need to be resolved in order to ensure all parts of the ecosystem are financially healthy, there is a lot that can be done cooperatively to grow the overall size of the cake, so there is more money to share around.” James Ainscough, CEO, Help Musicians.

Help Musicians Survey – see link below

Building Sustainable Careers – Help Musicians (docx)

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.