One in three musicians are still earning nothing after COVID restrictions were lifted

UK charity Help Musicians also says 83 per cent of artists have been unable to find regular work

One in three musicians are still earning nothing since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted over the summer.

According to UK charity Help Musicians, almost nine in 10 musicians were earning less than £1,000 per month, and 22 per cent were considering giving up music altogether in a survey conducted in August.

The charity also said 83 per cent of professional musicians have been unable to find regular work.


Help Musicians said it had seen a 60 per cent increase in people getting in contact for mental health support, with one in eight saying they were experiencing a mental health problem that was preventing them from returning to work.

During the pandemic, the charity also distributed £18million to 19,000 struggling musicians.

Pulled Apart By Horses. Credit: Mark Howe

“We recognise that for some musicians, it will take a long time to rebuild and the team at Help Musicians will continue to be available to those musicians who find themselves in real crisis over the months ahead,” chief executive James Ainscough told BBC News.

Pulled Apart By Horses‘ James Brown, took work as a composer for film and TV soundtracks during the pandemic, but still found himself struggling to make ends meet.

“To go from 10 years of performing live to suddenly hitting this brick wall, where you were told it’s not happening anymore – it’s devastating,” he said.


He continued: “We did actually play one festival that didn’t get cancelled in August, and it was so bizarre.

“After having all that time off not being around people and then being thrown straight in at the deep end, it was just like, ‘What is going on?’ It was kind of terrifying.”

During the early months of the pandemic, a survey by the Musicians’ Union revealed that almost one-fifth of musicians were currently considering abandoning their careers because of a lack of support from the British Government.

Live music venue (Picture: Getty)

Musicians’ Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge said at the time: “We risk facing a devastating impact on the music industry. From providing us with the joy of live music, to teaching our children, musicians play a huge part in our everyday lives and to wipe out a fifth of that will have unimaginable consequences.

“We’ve seen other countries recognise this and, importantly, act. In Germany, the total package for the arts is worth £46.3 billion, with the Government also promising financial support to micro businesses of up to five employees. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have all announced funds and aid packages for the sector.”

This led to more than 1,500 artists and industry figures coming together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music as part of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign.

A £1.57billion bailout for venues and arts spaces, was then announced by the government but many organisations supporting musicians felt that it fell short.

“It’s very good news for institutions, organisations, hallowed halls and music venues, but there’s nothing in there that I’ve been able to put my finger on that actually gives any financial support to the workforce – the musicians, the road crews and lord knows what else,” Musicians’ Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge told NME at the time. “It all seems to be earmarked for premises. That’s great, but the self-employed income support scheme and the job retention scheme are coming to an end soon. Some of our members were able to qualify for those two schemes, but lots of them weren’t.

“They just fell through the gaps. What we really need to see is some kind of sector-specific financial support package for musicians and ancillary workers until they can get proper work again. That’s just not on the horizon at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish government recently scrapped visa requirements for UK artists touring the country post-Brexit.

Last month, a number of figures from the music industry spoke to NME about how new visa rules, as well as prohibitive costs and admin rules, meant that many UK artists could no longer afford to tour in Spain – cutting off one of the biggest markets for UK talent.

Despite the positive news regarding visa-free touring being allowed in Spain, many countries in the EU currently still require expensive visas for UK artists to tour.