‘Poor children priced out of learning a musical instrument’

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in London Credit: Doug Peters/PA

Low-income British families are at risk of under-representation in the music industry, as children are priced out of learning instruments, new research suggests.

The data indicates that families from lower socio-economic backgrounds – earning less than £28,000 – are half as likely (19%) to have a child learning an instrument, compared with 40% of those with a family income of £48,000 or more.

According to figures from the Musicians’ Union, cost is the greatest barrier, with 41% of those from low-income families saying they do not have the budget for lessons.

The research, which surveyed 1,206 parents of five to 16-year-olds, also suggests there is a regional disparity.

In London, 41% of families have a child who plays a musical instrument, compared with 18% in the North West and 20% in the North East.

In the West Midlands, almost four-fifths (79%) of parents said their children did not play an instrument at all.

Across the UK, the piano and the guitar take the top two spots for most-played instrument, with the clarinet and saxophone emerging as the least popular.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “With gaps across the learning of musical instruments, this means we’ll only be hearing music from a small portion of the public growing up in certain areas.

“We want music to be available and attainable for all to enjoy, whether you’re the next Ed Sheeran or simply want to explore more creative subjects.

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

The union is also calling on the public to sign up to its supporter programme to protect teaching of musical instruments in schools and add weight to its demand on the Government.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Learning to play a musical instrument opens all kinds of opportunities for children to express themselves. We believe pupils, regardless of background or where they live, should have this opportunity.

“That’s why the department has invested £300m in music hubs between 2016-2020, to give every child the chance to learn an instrument without any cost to them or their families. Just last month, analysis showed that through music hubs over 700,000 children learnt to play instruments in class together last year.”