Report: most musicians earn less than £20k

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More than half of musicians earn less than £20,000 a year, a report on their pay and working conditions has revealed.

Commissioned by trade body the Musicians’ Union and based on a survey of almost 2,000 respondents, the research shows that more than a third earn on average between £10,000 and £20,000, and the majority of those artists have more than ten years’ experience in the profession.

The Working Musician research also shows that prior to becoming a professional musician, 65% of respondents had spent four years or more in formal music education and training. More than 60% said they had studied at a dedicated music college, university or conservatoire and 40% have a degree in music.

When asked if they had worked for free to further their career in the last year, 60% of the respondents said they had.

A lack of pension provision in the profession was also revealed, with only 35% of musicians saying they regularly paid into a scheme.

Royalty payments from copyright were said to be economically valuable to more than half of those respondents who receive them from their work.

In its conclusion, the report says: “The Working Musician research has shone a light on a highly educated, trained, skilled and experienced set of musicians who, despite such high levels of qualifications, skills and experience face an uncertain and precarious working environment marked by income levels and benefits that are not comparable to similar sets of workers elsewhere in the UK labour market.”

The document also says: “Pension provision and annual levels of income are particularly poor when compared to other professional groups in the UK.”

John Smith, MU general secretary, said: “So many of the MU’s members are small and medium enterprises battling against a tide of arts cuts and reduced income due to piracy. Small but significant investment by the government could make all the difference in the struggle to survive.

“What’s also interesting is that, of the musicians surveyed who receive royalty payments, over half said they represented an important additional source of income for them. This finally puts paid to the argument that ordinary musicians do not benefit from copyright.”