A survey by Encore Musicians, a UK-wide artist booking platform, sheds a cheerless light on the predicament of its artists as a result of the pandemic.
The 560 musicians who responded to questions regarding the way COVID has impacted them solicited an unsurprisingly negative response and, with a striking 64% of musicians surveyed considering leaving the profession and 40% having applied for non-music jobs, it is also no surprise that Encore talks of an exodus of talent.
Cancellations have brought the average loss of income since March 2020 to £11,300 with pop musicians seeing the greatest loss at £19,900 of earnings.
The future looks bleak too with bookings for the August to December period 87% down on last year, the figures showing half the respondents having no bookings at all.
In respect of upcoming engagements, young female musicians take the bigger hit having 34% fewer bookings than men and classical musicians having fewer bookings than other genres.
The general consensus is that the government is not providing enough support to this sector which, as reported in UK Music's Music by Number 2019, contributes £5.2 billion annually to the UK economy and employs nearly 200,000 people.
Encore CEO and co-founder James McAulay said, “we’re acutely aware of the damage the pandemic has done to our musicians’ livelihoods, but I was still shocked to see just how few bookings most musicians have left in the diary for 2020. This problem is being felt across the industry—from signed veterans to young musicians at the beginning of their careers. The government must act now to make sure our musicians aren’t left behind.”
Some survey respondents have been able to receive universal credit or SEISS but 41% have received no government assistant; 42% have had support or grants from music organisations such as Musicians Union or the charity Help Musicians UK, but the overall picture is one of financial insecurity.
The latest support came this week in the form of £1 million from Arts Council England for Help Musicians’ Financial Hardship Funding programme but, as London Editor Philip Fisher indicates in his piece Drop in the Ocean, it would take a miracle of loaves and fishes proportions for the contribution to reach meaningful proportions, and this hardly seems likely.
With anticipated earnings for the remainder of the year down an unsustainable 90% for musicians aged 25–34 and 73% for those aged 65+, no wonder Encore echoes the Incorporated Society of Musicians chief executive, Deborah Annetts, when she predicts a loss of musical talent. It seems the only certainty.
Time for the government to stop la-la-ing with its fingers in its ears and hear the disconsolate mood music.