skip to main content

Access to Music Lessons Dying out for Poorer Families

New data released today (6 November 2018) shows many parts of the UK are at risk of under-representation in the music industry, as lower income families are priced out of music lessons.

Published: 06 November 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM

The research from the Musicians’ Union (MU) reveals families with a total household income of less than £28k are half as likely to have a child learning an instrument as more affluent peers with a family income of £48k or more.

This stark disparity exists despite similar levels of interest from both groups of children and, therefore, the MU is calling on government to review its offering of music education in schools.

Cost is currently the greatest barrier to learning, with over two-fifths (41%) of those from lower income families saying lessons are beyond their household budgets. Cost also impacts how children are learning.

Those from low and mid-income families are more likely to teach themselves, missing out on the benefits of a specialised tutor, exposing a clear need for music provision in schools.

The educational attainment of parents also plays a factor in whether children will pick up an instrument. Nearly half (48%) of children who have parents who are educated to university level will learn an instrument, compared with one-fifth (21%) at secondary school level.

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary at the Musicians’ Union, said:

“With certain children priced out of learning musical instruments, we may well only be hearing the songs and sounds of the affluent in years to come. Those from poorer backgrounds will, unfairly, be increasingly under-represented within the industry.

“The data released today shows the extent of the problem – and we would like to work with Government to address this issue.”

Calling for public support

The MU is also calling on the public to sign up for free to its supporter programme to become part of the movement to protect music education in schools and add weight to its demand of the government.

The report goes on to detail the extent to which learning a musical instrument can positively influence young people’s formative wellbeing.

Almost half of parents report more confidence (47%) and better concentration (42%) in their child, and over one-third (35%) say they are happier overall if they attend music lessons. Almost one-third note higher levels of self-discipline (30%) and patience (30%), suggesting access to music lessons could foster higher achievement levels across all education subjects.

Further research into the workforce – the music teachers that the MU represents – has also demonstrated a clear need for instrumental teachers to be supported and properly remunerated.

Hannah Abrahams, educational psychologist, commented:

“The power of music to young people is palpable, as access from a young age can not only positively impact a child’s cognitive abilities, but their social and emotional development too.

"Parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds often have so many additional stressors that accessing music may be low down on the priority list for their child. It is the role of government and schools to nurture and encourage children's exploration of music as a powerful learning and social tool.”

Download the full report.

For more information please contact

Make the most out of MU membership

Access expert music industry advice and services whether you are a full-time professional musician, occasional gig player, part-time music teacher or anything in between.

Explore our services available to members only 

  • Be free from insurance worries
  • Get expert legal support
  • Be represented in your profession
  • Access expert career advice, resources and training events
  • Connect, network and get to know the community of musicians

Learn about all membership benefits

Make the most out of MU membership

Continue reading