Building UK Music Careers and Skills

UK Music has been campaigning for better provision for music education, which is vital for our talent pipeline.

Page actions

UK Music has been campaigning for better provision for music education, which is vital for our talent pipeline.

The music industry relies on a talent pipeline of accomplished and dedicated music students to produce the highly skilled professionals of the future.

We need them to play in our world-class orchestras, contribute to world-class recordings, become music teachers, so they can develop the next generation of talent, or perhaps even be the next Skepta, Adele or Ed Sheeran.

Music is vital to our economy, our culture and our society. It is one of our greatest national assets and will play a crucial role in our post-pandemic recovery – so it’s more important than ever that we invest in music education.

Delivering The Arts Pupil Premium
There have been some remarkable political strides on music education across the UK over the past
year, with new national plans for music education from the UK and Welsh Governments and music
tuition fees removed in Scotland. However, the implementation of these plans will be key.

We need the Government to deliver on their 2019 manifesto pledge to spend £109 million a year on an Arts Premium for secondary school pupils by September 2021. The funding would help schools to provide high quality arts programmes and extra-curricular activities for pupils – including those delivered with arts organisations – as well as supporting teachers to deliver engaging and creative lessons in the arts.

Specific support for lowering barriers to music education for the poorest students is
vital. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Therefore, we would call on all governments to
deliver an arts pupil premium to support schools in giving access to music and the arts for the poorest
students, ensuring no one’s ability to play is contingent on their parents’ ability to pay.

Early Learning

Musical skills need be nurtured at the earliest opportunity. This needs to begin at primary school and play a significant part in continued curriculum learning.

This issue is even more critical following the huge distruption caused by the pandemic to the education of thousands of young people, with subjects like music being particulary impacted.

The impact of a series of lockdowns meant music education was severely curtailed. In December 2020, education watchdog Ofsted warned many primary schools had suspended music education and were not even offering remote lessons.

GCSE & A-Level

There is a long-term downward trend in the numbers of students taking music at GCSE and A-level. In 2021 the numbers of A-level music students has dropped by almost a third since 2014, and there are 12,700 fewer GCSE music students than there would have been if numbers had risen in line with overall GCSE entries.

Benefits to Young People

There are educational, health and wellbeing benefits to young people having access to creating music. According to the Cultural Learning Alliance, participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17%.


There is also an important socio-economic reasoning for supporting music education. According to a survey conducted by UK Music, 17% of music creators were educated at fee paying schools, compared with 7% across the population as a whole. This matters because 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is a mere 15%.

The music industry has always thrived on opportunities, yet so-called “lucky breaks” do not happen by accident. They are the result of years of hard work, underpinned by having an education system that supports music and creativity, as well ensuring that we have the right infrastructure in place and targeted funding and investment. It is imperative that the Government work with industry to overcome these problems and maximise opportunities for the future. If  we do so, there is no reason why British music shouldn’t go from strength to strength.


Facilities, supporting access, and provision for music are critical to developing talent.Venues act as important centres for cultural activity in our towns and communities. Grassroots music venues in particular act as important hubs for local music talent and offer a means by which musicians and performers can cultivate and nurture their creativity. 

Venues have been severely impacted by the pandemic, now more than ever we need to be supporting venues so that they can continue to maintain the UK’s vibrant and diverse
music scene, as well as ensuring we have the talent pipeline to maintain Britain’s position as a global force in music.

Parity Of Support For The Self-Employed

Freelance work is often a requirement of working in the industry, with at least 70% of workers in
the sector being self-employed. The nature of the laws around freelancers often disadvantage those
that need to navigate them. This was evidenced by so many creative workers finding themselves
ineligible for help under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme during the pandemic.
To retain those working in the sector we would welcome parity of protection for the self-employed
to ensure people can have flexibility and security in their careers. One simple change would be
allowing the self-employed access to maternity and paternity leave over the less equitable Maternity
Allowance that they currently have access to.

Useful Information

In 2018 UK Music launched a major new report called Securing Our Talent Pipeline, which we took to all the major party conferences. This report focused on creative talent yet the recommendations put forward will contribute to the development of the workforce as a whole.

UK Music’s Music Education Partnership (MAP) exists to promote links between music education at Higher and Further Education levels with industry. Find out more here.

The National Plan for Music Education in England can be read here.

The National Plan for Music Education in Wales can be read here.