44% of orchestral musicians in the UK “don’t earn enough to live on”

New research from the Musicians’ Union (MU) has revealed some shocking statistics about the struggles working musicians in the UK face.

According to the MU’s latest survey, 44% of the UK’s orchestral musicians say they don’t earn enough to live on.

The research found that musicians are struggling to make ends meet, with two thirds (66%) of veteran musicians with up to 30 years’ experience revealing that they have considered alternative careers.

The figures paint a bleak picture for those entering the profession too, with more than two-fifths (43%) of musicians with five years or less experience in the industry having taken on unpaid work in the last 12 months to gain experience.

Despite musicians typically investing around £80,000 in their training (including tuition fees and student loans), the MU’s research found that those in full-time employment earn around £21,000 after qualifying, but cuts have led to a lack of availability of full-time roles.

The new figures have prompted the MU to launch a campaign to highlight the value of orchestral musicians to UK society.

The Musician Behind the Moment campaign features four inspiring musicians whose stories remind people of the moments in their lives in which orchestral players have played a huge part.

“Funding cuts mean orchestras present less of a viable career option for many professional musicians than they once did,” said Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union.

“In real terms, musicians’ earnings have not kept pace with inflation or the general standard of living. This is putting the UK’s orchestras under serious threat of a skills gap or even closure, which would leave a huge cultural void in the UK.

“Orchestras need the support of the UK public if they are to survive. That’s why we’ve launched the Musician Behind the Moment campaign. We want people to see the true breadth of work our world-class orchestras do, appreciate the contribution of orchestral musicians, and back their local orchestra.”

The MU has highlighted how much the UK’s orchestras are involved in their communities, revealing that 97% are involved in community outreach programmes with schools, hospitals and care homes.

Around 65% of orchestras work with people living with dementia, 38% work in hospitals or hospices and 34% work in mental health settings.

Subscribe to the free MI Focus newsletter to get more stories like this sent straight to your inbox.


About Laura Barnes 427 Articles
Founder/Publisher of UK musical instrument industry publication MI Focus.