Two in 3 UK musicians are thinking of giving up music

Two in 3 UK musicians are thinking of giving up music


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2020

A survey by Encore, the UK’s largest online musician booking platform, suggests that after five months of Covid inertia two-thirds of the profession is looking for career change.

The survey is of a small sample – 560 musicians – but the results are alarming.

– 64% musicians are thinking about leaving the music profession

– Musicians have lost on average £11,300 each from cancellations since March

– 41% of musicians have no bookings in the diary for the rest of 2020

– Classical musicians are faring worse than other genres.

Source here.

This is alarming. I don’t know if Boris Johnson has a favourite violinist – Tasmin Little, I’d guess, not Nigel Kennedy – butif he does now would be the time to put on a musical soirée at Downing Street, just to restore hope to the profession.



  • S says:

    This sample is not representative of all UK classical musicians. I agree the classical music scene is in a very worrying state but argue Encore is not representative of most classical musicians. Their client base is mainly young professionals/students and amateurs.

    • Jonny Encore says:

      Hi S, Jonny from Encore here.

      Just a few stats which help clear up the demographics of who took the survey:

      On age:
      – Just 5% were student age (under 22 years old)
      – 60% of those who took the survey were over 30 years old

      On Professionalism:
      – While it’s difficult to fully assess the professional/amateur distinction, we asked the musicians who took the survey to say how much of their overall income came from performing music (note this doesn’t include teaching).
      – These were the results:
      Less than 20% income from performing music (10%)
      20-40% income (10%)
      40-60% income (20%)
      60-80% income (15%)
      80-100% income (45%)
      – You can see the most represented sample is musicians who earn 80-100% of their income from performing music – usually what we’d consider professional musicians.

      In other words, as far as we can tell most musicians who took the survey were serious professional musicians. Many were also kind enough to write down their personal stories as part of the survey – these included established professionals from the major London orchestras (as well as young professionals just getting their first orchestral seats).

      Like Norman says, 560 isn’t a huge dataset, and I’d be very interested to see if our results correlate with larger studies. I’d also be keen to see how they compare with those that specifically focus on classical musicians (classical musicians were only 41% of those who took our survey). We’re just aiming to do our best to assess and highlight the problems facing musicians in the UK today (with the aim of informing government policy).

      If you’re interested you can find more information about the survey here (we’re still working through the data and will be adding more details to this page in the coming days):

  • Karl says:

    It will blow over. When things go bad at work I always say I’m quitting to open a Taco Bell franchise.

  • Althea Talbot-Howard says:

    In truth, our professions has been broken for a long time. Huge pay inequalities between conductors and star soloists versus orchestra members; between those with regular salaried employment versus those who are freelance; and between managers and administrators versus those who actually play and sing, have led to years of quiet heartbreak for many professionally-trained musicians. For too long, we have put up with this inequality, because it has been difficult to know how to change it. At least everyone is finally in the same boat. Let’s see who has the fortitude to see this time through: and who makes a wise decision to do something else. Both approaches are equally valid, as far as I am concerned.