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

  • First ever UK Musicians’ Census from Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union finds mental wellbeing is a key issue in music.
  • Four in ten musicians with very negative mental wellbeing are likely to leave their career in music within five years.
  • Musicians in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland report lower mental wellbeing than their English counterparts.
  • Those who work in dance music are most likely to have negative mental wellbeing.
  • Help Musicians’ dedicated mental health sister charity, Music Minds Matter, welcomes Squeeze co-founder Chris Difford as Principal Ambassador, providing a key voice of support on the issue.

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%)

Chris Difford joins Music Minds Matter as Principal Ambassador 

Providing a supporting voice for the challenges illustrated in the report, double Ivor Novello and Grammy-nominated Squeeze co-founder Chris Difford has joined Music Minds Matter as the charity’s Principal Ambassador. Music Minds Matter, sister charity of Help Musicians, provides support to help everyone working in music build and maintain good mental wellbeing, whilst also providing a 24/7 support line for those struggling. Chris’s storied career as a musician and songwriter offers not only first-hand lived experience of the challenges musicians face but also a beacon of hope and guidance for those at the start of their careers.

Chris Difford, musician, songwriter and Principal Ambassador of Music Minds Matter commented: I believe that at the core of every musician’s life is a deep need to find a stable and wonderful creative mind, but the realities of the industry sometimes don’t allow this to happen. Working with likeminded people and sharing how we feel is something I love doing with both Help Musicians and now with Music Minds Matter. I’m very proud to be asked to become an Ambassador.”

Sarah Woods, Chief Executive of Help Musicians & Music Minds Matter commented: Through Help Musicians’ sister charity Music Minds Matter we see firsthand the impact that low mental wellbeing can have on the lives and careers of UK musicians and those who work around them. Insights from the Musicians’ Census show the need to build positive mental wellbeing for all who work in music but especially with the future generation so we can prevent crises before they happen. 

We’re delighted that Chris Difford will support us more in the area of mental health, helping raise awareness of the realities of a career in music and the need for more support to ensure positive mental wellbeing. Finally, we would encourage everyone working in music to digest this report and work together so we can continue building an industry with positive mental health for all.”

Naomi Pohl, Musicians’ Union General Secretary comments: ““The work of Music Minds Matter and other organisations who provide mental health support is vital in an industry which can be detrimental to workers’ health and wellbeing. At the same time as providing support for those who need it, as an industry we need to tackle the root causes of poor mental wellbeing. 

The Musicians’ Census has clearly identified contributing factors such as low pay, career barriers and witnessing or experiencing discrimination. It is particularly concerning that LGBTQ+ and disabled musicians experience some of the highest rates of low mental wellbeing and the industry needs to work harder and faster to remove the barriers these communities of musicians face. 

These are all issues that are within the music industry’s power to change. Musicians are the lifeblood of the music industry and there’s a clear link between poor mental wellbeing and leaving the industry. Having a mentally healthy workforce must be a priority for us all.”