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Cost of music lessons pricing out children from poorer backgrounds, claims Musicians’ Union

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Warnings have been issued over the under-representation of people from lower-income backgrounds in the music industry, after it was revealed that children from poorer families are half as likely to learn an instrument than their more affluent peers.

This will narrow the pool of people becoming professional musicians and impact the industry’s future health, according to the Musicians’ Union, which published the study.

The MU represents people working in all sectors of the music business, including pit musicians for theatre, opera and dance.

The MU’s study claims 19% of children from families earning less than £28,000 a year learn an instrument, compared to 40% from families with an income of £48,000 or more.

This is despite children from both groups exhibiting a similar level of interest.

The cost of both lessons and instruments are cited as major barriers, with 41% of people from the lowest and middle income bands highlighting lesson cost as the primary reason for not learning.

For the highest earners, lack of interest was the biggest reason.

The survey found children from lower income families are also less likely to receive active encouragement from their parents, compared to more affluent young people, however the levels of encouragement by schools remains similar across all incomes brackets.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the MU, said if certain children are being priced out of learning instruments: “we may well only be hearing the songs and sounds of the affluent in years to come”.

“Those from poorer backgrounds will, unfairly, be increasingly under-represented within the industry,” he said, reinforcing calls for the government to improve its commitment to music education in schools.

Meanwhile, campaigners fighting the decline of arts education were disappointed by the findings, with Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians claiming the data adds to the “mounting concerns” around music in UK schools.

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