30% of musicians report low mental wellbeing, with those at the start of their career most impacted

The latest findings from the first ever UK Musicians’ Census reveal that almost a third of professional musicians in the UK (30%) are experiencing poor mental wellbeing.

The results are based on detailed information provided by nearly 6,000 UK musicians, making it the largest ever survey of its kind. This next wave of research published from the Census — by Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union — focuses on the mental health of those working as musicians and paints a worrying picture.

It found that 30% of musicians reported experiencing negative mental wellbeing.

Early career support is vital to sustaining musicians’ wellbeing 

Worryingly, those who are just about to start their professional journey report the highest rates of negative mental wellbeing by career stage. 

41% of students studying music reported negative mental wellbeing, highlighting the need for dedicated support for those at the very early stages of their career, helping to prevent crises before they arise and supporting the future generation to stay healthy.

Low mental wellbeing could lead many to leave the industry 

Most concerning for the future of UK music is the knock-on impact of poor mental wellbeing, with many likely to leave music.

Amongst musicians who reported having extremely negative mental wellbeing, 42% say it is very’ or fairly’ likely that they will change careers within the next five years.

Marginalised groups of musicians disproportionately affected 

The number of musicians who report negative mental wellbeing increases to 43% of LGBTQ+ musicians and half (49%) of disabled musicians. It increases further still to nearly two-thirds (63%) for those who identify as a gender other than male or female.

Looking in more detail, while a quarter (28%) of heterosexual/​straight musicians report low mental wellbeing, this rose to around a third of gay men (33%) and lesbian/​gay women (37%), and to around half of bisexual (47%), queer (49%) and asexual musicians (50%).

Those who work in dance music (35%) were found to on average have the highest rates of poor mental health.

Low earnings and experiences of discrimination increases poor mental health 

Low earnings are a clear contributing factor to poor mental wellbeing — 43% of professional musicians in the UK earn less than £14,000 a year.

The lowest earners (earning less than £7,000 a year from music) were found to be twice as likely to report low mental wellbeing (35%) compared to those earning £55,000+ (17%). Many of those in the lowest earnings bracket are likely to also have other jobs, illustrating the challenges of juggling a portfolio career.

Experiencing — or witnessing — discrimination whilst working in the music industry were also found to be linked to negative mental wellbeing.

Amongst those who reported as having poor mental health, nearly 21% say they have experienced discrimination, compared to 14% of musicians overall.

Overall, nearly a quarter (23%) of musicians stated they do not earn enough to support themselves or their families — but the figure rises significantly to 37% amongst those with poor mental health. Furthermore, half of musicians with low mental health say they are in debt (47%).

Regional differences 

There were also clear variations in the mental health of musicians around the UK. Musicians in England were least likely to report low mental wellbeing (30%) compared to respondents in other nations: Wales (37%), Northern Ireland (34%) and Scotland (33%)