Arts Council report reveals more support is needed for budding musicians

Florence Lockheart
Thursday, November 11, 2021

In response to the report, Arts Council England has announced the launch of a project working with the music industry to help classical music grow over the next decade.

The Creating a More Inclusive Classical Music report, published today, revealed that local opportunities have an important influence on classical musicians’ ability to progress. Produced for Arts Council England, the report surveyed people who currently work in the sector, as well as looking at existing research on the subject, concluding that young people who are not exposed to Western classical music as part of daily life, or whose families did not have the means or opportunity to support commitment through lessons or study, are unlikely to join the classical music workforce. 

Arts Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said: ‘I welcome this timely report and its recommendations to improve access to classical music for everyone. Nobody should be held back by their background from taking part in, benefiting from, and adding to the classical music which is all of our heritage.’

In response to the report, Arts Council England has announced the launch of The Fair and Inclusive Classical Music project, a multi-year programme which will work with orchestras, music educators, broadcasters, and record labels to help classical music grow over the next decade.

Arts Council England has also developed an action plan for the next three years, including:

  • Commissioning a major new research programme to understand the relationship between children's experience of classical music and their decision to learn a musical instrument 
  • Working with orchestras, venues and promoters to ensure fair and inclusive treatment for everyone working in classical music
  • Launching a long-term action research project to test initiatives aimed at supporting young people from all backgrounds looking to make a career in the music industry.

The report also showed that around 80% of classical musicians grew up in more affluent areas where high proportions of the population attended university. It also found people from lower socio-economic backgrounds struggle to get fair access to learning and employment opportunities and the cost of lessons, instruments, sheet music, travel to lessons and other related activities are all significant barriers. The issue is exacerbated by the low pay and unsocial hours that are a widespread feature of the arts. 

Of the over 960 members of classical music workforce who were surveyed, almost half (44%) were born in the South of England, with just under one in five being born in the capital. Only 16% of respondents were born in the North of England, and only one in seven were born in the Midlands. A quarter of the women surveyed stated they had faced financial barriers such as low salaries or unpaid internships compared with only 15% of men, and around half of LGBTQ+ respondents (48%), disabled respondents (49%) and Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse respondents (55%) agreed that the opportunities available to them are restricted.

Arts Council England chief executive, Darren Henley, said: ‘Where you are from and your background shouldn't be a barrier to your chances of developing your talents. That belief is at the heart of our ten-year strategy Let's Create. We are already supporting projects that are delivering some fantastic work to improve access for all but there is a need for much more collaboration to make sure that no-one misses out.’

You can find more information about Arts Council England's report here.