The Musicians’ Census provides an unparalleled insight into the careers of the UK’s music creators

The Musicians’ Census is the first in a long-term project from Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union. It will run every three to five years to measure changes in the musicians’ community over time, and track long term trends.

The first report of the 2023 Musicians’ Census has just been released and gives a detailed insight into the demographic makeup of UK musicians, the barriers to career progression and economic challenges.

The results are based on detailed information provided by nearly 6,000 UK musicians, making it the largest ever survey of its kind. 


The first Musicians’ Census found that 70% of professional musicians in the UK hold a degree or higher (50% have a music degree specifically), and 65% have been earning musicians for over 10 years. 

Despite this, the Census found that UK musicians’ average annual income from music work is £20,700 – with 43% earning less than £14,000 a year from music, meaning many are left supplementing their income in other industries. 

The average income for those making 100% of their income from music is around £30,000, this compares to the average median income in the UK of £33,280 (ONS), and the average salary for a working-age person with a degree in the UK of £38,500 (GOV​.UK).

Nearly a quarter (23%) of musicians stated they do not earn enough to support themselves or their families and for nearly half (44%), a lack of sustainable income is a barrier to their music career. 17% of musicians also reported being in debt, rising to 30% amongst those with a mental health condition and 28% for Black/​Black British musicians.

The Musicians’ Census 2023 not only offers unique insight into the make-up of the musicians’ community across the UK but also paints a picture of the distinctive set of challenges musicians face to sustain a career in music.
Sarah Woods, Chief Executive of Help Musicians

Portfolio careers 

As such, many musicians now have a portfolio career – needing jobs outside of the music industry to support their career as a musician, and this has a significant impact on their ability to further develop their long-term musical careers and access to opportunity. 

Over half (53%) sustain their career by sourcing other forms of income outside of music — two thirds (62%) of these generate additional funds from alternative employment, but other sources of financial support include support from family and friends (14%), and Universal Credit or other benefits (12%). Three quarters (75%) of those who have other income in addition to music report only seeking this work for financial reasons.

The first Musicians’ Census highlights the challenges musicians face carving out and sustaining a career as a musician in 2023.
Naomi Pohl, Musicians’ Union General Secretary

Career-restricting barriers 

The majority of musicians (80%) reported at least one or more career-restricting barriers, demonstrating the challenging nature of building a sustainable career in music.

Financial obstacles are persistent with 46% of musicians reporting cost-related barriers including cost of equipment (30%), cost of transport (27%), and the cost of training (18%) limiting their careers. Other barriers include no clear route for career progression (36%), not knowing anyone in the industry (25%), and unsociable working hours (22%).

Resilience and agility 

Despite a seemingly challenging career, musicians are hardworking and persistent. While most (80%) indicate that they consider themselves as performers, on average, a working musician holds three to four different roles in music, highlighting the need and ability to juggle different types of roles to sustain a career. 

Musicians tend to have a breadth of creative outputs too. Responses suggest that a typical musician works across four to five genres and plays two to three instruments — one fifth (20%) of musicians report playing four or more instruments.