Cost of living crisis: 90% of working musicians worried they won't be able to afford food

A musician onstage holding a mic above his head as the crowd applaud
(Image credit: Olaf Herschbach / EyeEm)

The charity Help Musicians has warned that the current cost of living crisis may have a devastating affect on the lives of working musicians.

The charity, which was founded in 1921 and supports musicians throughout their career and into retirement, conducted a survey of 500 professional musicians across the UK. The results tell a sombre story, with the current environment described as "the toughest time it has been to be a musician since the Second World War." 

  • 98% of musicians are concerned about earning enough income in the next six months
  • 90% are worried about affording food
  • 84% are concerned about paying their mortgage or rent
  • 49% 'extremely' or 'very' concerned they'll be forced to quit the industry 
  • 60% say they are earning less than they were during the pandemic
  • 80% say they're earning less than before the pandemic
  • 88% say poor mental health is currently negatively impacting their career
  • 91% are unable to afford music equipment
  • Travelling to gigs and heating rehearsal spaces now impossible for many due to inflation
  • Fallout from Brexit continues to negatively affect touring

“It is hard to imagine any point since the Second World War when it has been tougher to be a professional musician," says James Ainscough, Chief Executive of Help Musicians. Put simply, the current environment is brutal. The pandemic had a catastrophic impact, with most simply unable to perform. Afterwards, venues were booked up for months or years in advance due to rearranged gigs. This has been followed by Brexit, which has impacted their ability to tour, for many emerging musicians a vital step in building a sustainable career. 

“It is clear from the responses to this survey, that musicians need a broad range to support to help them navigate financial challenges of working and living over winter, make the most of touring opportunities, and improve their mental health. Our Music Minds Matter service has seen a 34% increase this year and we have funded 1,600 hours of counselling in the last three months alone. 

“We need to put significant time and resource into sustaining musicians over the coming, challenging months, if we are to have a thriving music ecosystem in 2023 and beyond. We cannot afford to lose any of the talent from our passionate community of UK musicians if we want to continue enjoying the music that inspires us all every day."

Help Musicians estimates that it has spent £8m from reserves this year to give musicians the assistance they need, with therapeutic support accounting for £1m of that. 

The charity is appealing for donations to enable their work to continue. Money raised helps with the cost of performing and touring, as well as helping artists to create and promote new music. The charity also offers business advice, industry mentoring, and assistance with debt management.

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.