The UK music industry’s turmoil: what’s the outlook, and where can musicians find support?

In a time where musicians and grassroots venues have less earning potential than ever, what options and opportunities are available?
18 October 2022

The UK music industry is in turmoil, as evidenced by a recent report published by industry body UK Music. The music industry’s failure to recover following the coronavirus pandemic has been linked to a number of key causes and comes as the country’s economic foundations are rocked by the announcement and subsequent reversal of controversial government policy.

The music industry’s stunted recovery also comes at a transitional time for the music industry, as wider philosophical conversations about the structure of streaming, the live industry, and conventional label models are called into question. In a time where musicians and grassroots venues have less earning potential than ever, what options and opportunities are available?

The Music By Numbers Report

UK Music’s annual Music By Numbers report collects industry data from all aspects of music, including gig tickets, merchandise sales and the licensing of music from radio to sync placements. The 2022 report has indicated that the industry’s value remains nearly a third lower than its pre-pandemic value, despite marked increases in the sale and consumption of music media.

Much of this has attributed to the veritable collapse of the live industry, as a combination of factors influence the size and profitability of the live sector. The cost-of-living crisis has heavily impacted attendance to grassroots gigs, while new travel restrictions arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have all but eliminated the profitability of touring for bands big and small.

Wider Industry Concern

Economic concerns for the future of the music industry are set against a backdrop of wider concerns for the state of the music industry. The conventional record label model has pivoted hard into ‘content’ over musicianship, requiring more of grassroots musicians than ever before and placing pressure on musicians who do not have the PR budget or natural multimedia skills necessary to compete.

Meanwhile, hard economic times have inspired some venues and labels to cross a red line in live music, and impose a percentage cut on merchandise sales – which, for many artists, are the only profit-making part of their work.

Funding and Assistance

While it is unsustainable for musicians and other industry contributors to rely solely on funding, there is a wide range of organisations and funding bodies that can help plug the financial gap, and even grow in spite of adverse industry conditions.

The PRS Foundation is one of the leading forces for good in this regard, on a national scale; their Momentum funding offers up to £15,000 in grant money for artists looking to break through, while the Open Fund enables artists at the start of their career to seek funding for ambitious new projects.

Arts Council England is also a strong advocate for the music industry, with cross-disciplinary Grants for the Arts enabling emerging creators to fund their growth.