Music industry

Findings show classical music industry at risk of losing talent and diminishing diversity

The report says there is an urgent need to improve employment practices to better include parents and guardians, especially women. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Groundbreaking research on parents and carers in the classical music sector by the charity Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) and Birkbeck, University of London and supported by Help Musicians and MU, has found that the classical music industry risks losing talent and diminishing in diversity.

This signals an urgent need to improve employment practices to better include parents and guardians, especially women.

‘Bittersweet Symphony’, the conclusions

The first report of its kind, “Bittersweet Symphony”, reveals that parents and guardians pay a significant penalty in terms of well-being, work opportunities and compensation to maintain a career in classical music. They struggle given the industry’s outdated work practices.

The findings highlight:

  • Self-employed women, more than 85% of whom have caring responsibilities, including mothers, reported a £8,000 wage penalty, earning the least, at £12,000, compared to £20,000 for self-employed men.
  • Outdated work and care structures in classical music that are heavily gendered, with women twice as likely to refuse work due to family responsibilities.
  • Half of respondents (50%) are dissatisfied with their work-life balance and 82% said managing their work and family obligations was moderately to extremely stressful.
  • 40% of respondents plan to quit their music career

The need for positive change

Other findings reiterate the urgent need for a positive change in the employment culture in the sector. The report revealed that:

  • Only 4% of respondents referred to a supportive employer, with the vast majority relying on a support network of family, partners or friends to help them manage work and family.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of respondents revealed that music revenue never or rarely covers unexpected expenses, while nearly half (48%) said music revenue never or rarely covers needs. basic.
  • Nine out of ten musicians, composers, opera singers and conductors said they turned down work because of family responsibilities, indicating a significant risk to the longevity of the classical music workforce. Based on the results, there is a high risk of losing talent, especially freelancers.

With the majority of those working in the music industry being self-employed, career barriers identified by respondents included: lack of flexibility and schedules; the lack of affordable, flexible and ad hoc childcare services; the logistical and financial requirements of touring and outside work; and the need to meet inflexible demands for additional work, such as teaching, to subsidize income.

To advance

PiPA will now establish a working group of sector bodies and industry employers, to design a charter of best practices to help the sector work towards family-friendly working practices. Black Lives in Music, Help Musicians, Independent Society of Musicians, Liverpool Philharmonic, the MU, Phonographic Performance Limited, Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera and SWAP’ra are among the confirmed partners who will help address the challenges raised by the research.

The report also outlines clear recommendations for classical music industry stakeholders, including:

  • Share, promote and learn from existing best practices in favor of the family
  • Consider and support flexible working both formally and informally
  • Conduct business research on the long-term benefits in terms of retention, particularly in freelance roles
  • Make inclusion and intersectionality a key goal: ensure continuous recording and sharing of diversity statistics to track progress and identify potentially vulnerable groups
  • Provide increased support to small organizations to ensure good practice and breadth of cultural capital
  • To provide training and career development within the framework of music education that holistically prepares for the management of work and family responsibilities.

UM fully supports the report and its recommendations

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl says of the research:

“The MU fully supports PiPA’s new report ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and its recommendations. Having children or family responsibilities can limit career opportunities for classical musicians, and the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities that disadvantage women.

“There remains a culture of silence around these issues and the discrimination experienced by pregnant musicians; this report highlights these issues and it is our responsibility as an industry to address them head on. There is a clear need for working practices that are more inclusive and include flexible work structures that would benefit everyone.

“The government must also scale up and provide universal, flexible and quality childcare, accessible to all as soon as paid maternity or parental leave ends.

“MU looks forward to working with PiPA and industry to create a sector that works for women and those with caring responsibilities in all their diversity, to enable them to reach their full potential.”

To read and download the full report, visit PiPA’s research page here.