Musicians have told Sky News they are facing an existential career crisis due to low mental wellbeing caused by economic uncertainties within the industry.
It comes as a new study of 6,000 musicians across the UK found that a third of them are experiencing low mental wellbeing, with one in four saying it is contributing to them being likely to leave the industry within five years.
The Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter survey showed that 43% of professional musicians earn less than £14,000 a year and suggested that low income is one of the causes of poor mental health among musicians.
Amid the report’s findings, the industry’s trade union is calling for the government to invest more in initiatives which boost grassroots music and help musicians break into international markets.
‘We need a root and branch look’
Chris Walters, national organiser at the Musicians’ Union, said: “We would ask the government to reflect on the immense value of the music industry to the UK, and then consider the lives of the musicians.
“How is it that musicians can keep producing this fantastic music? The UK is well-known for such low levels of pay and such precarious lifestyles. So we need a root and branch look.”
Rebecca Toal, a freelance trumpet player who also teaches, said she finds it difficult to find enough paid opportunities in the industry to earn a sustainable living. The economic uncertainty is having a knock-on effect on her mental health.
‘Performing is sometimes impossible’
She told Sky News: “It’s pretty up and down. It’s very difficult to get opportunities, get paid work, if it’s paid work maybe it’s not enough.
“The anxiety also means that performing is sometimes impossible. Either you get shaky or your breathing – which is very important for the trumpet – just goes out of the window. Or you’re kind of disassociated from things.
“It’s really important when you’re performing to be in a good mind-head space. And if you’ve got problems with your mental health that’s going affect it.”
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A UK government spokesperson said: “We are committed to maximising the potential of our world-class music industry so it can continue to grow and support jobs, and we are investing millions of pounds in initiatives to boost the grassroots music sector and help musicians break into international markets.
“We are also considering the findings of the Good Work Review, which sets out recommendations to support the creative industries’ workforce, including freelancers, and will respond in due course.”
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