Musicians from LGBTQ+ communities face significant barriers and issues relating to discrimination, sexual harassment and concerns around physical, mental and financial wellbeing – according to new research released today from the Musicians’ Union and Help Musicians.

Over a third of LGBTQ+ musicians (37%) have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on sexuality whilst working as a musician, yet only 27% reported it. Worryingly over half of trans respondents reported experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity. The report also unveils high levels of poor mental and physical wellbeing amongst musicians in the LGBTQ+ communities, as 43% reported poor mental wellbeing and 30% reported poor physical wellbeing. 90% of those who reported low mental wellbeing also reported experiencing or witnessing discrimination in some form.

Sexual harassment disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ musicians and has a more widespread impact on their careers and ability to work, particularly for trans musicians. Almost half of all LGBTQ+ respondents (44%) have either witnessed or experienced sexual harassment. Two-thirds of this collective group said it had impacted their ability to work or their career progression, but only a third of them reported it.

The findings are the latest to be released in a series of insight reports from the launch of the first ever Musicians’ Census. It focuses on the reported experiences of LGBTQ+ musicians and gives a detailed picture of some of the challenges these communities of musicians’ face. The Musicians’ Union and Help Musicians have partnered with Come Play with Me (CPWM) for the launch of the new report – a non-profit music development organisation that specialises in supporting people from marginalised communities – with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ communities, to further their careers in music.

Among the key findings, the LGBTQ+ Musicians Insight Report identifies the following areas of concern when it comes to financial security, discrimination and LGBTQ+ musicians physical, mental and financial wellbeing:

  • LGBTQ+ musicians face high levels of discrimination and experience intersecting barriers across gender, race, age and sexuality: Almost a quarter of LGBTQ+ musicians reported discrimination as a barrier. Over a third (37%) have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on sexuality whilst working as a musician, yet only 27% reported it. Worryingly over half of trans respondents reported experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity. The discrimination LGBTQ+ musicians experience is often intersectional and goes unreported, and this has a direct impact on their mental wellbeing.
  • Sexual harassment disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ musicians: Nearly a third (32%) of LGBTQ+ respondents have witnessed sexual harassment, meaning that almost half of all LGBTQ+ respondents (44%) have either witnessed or experienced sexual harassment. Two thirds of this collective group said it has impacted their ability to work or their career progression, but only a third of them reported it.
  • Trans musicians are particularly impacted by sexual harassment: Almost a quarter (24%) of trans respondents have been sexually harassed while 41% have witnessed it and only 14% reported it, yet more than three quarters said it impacted their ability to work or their career progression.
  • LGBTQ+ musicians reported significantly higher rates of poor mental and physical wellbeing, and this is directly related to experiencing discrimination: More than two fifths (43%) of LGBTQ+ musicians reported poor mental wellbeing and 30% reported poor physical wellbeing – which is significantly higher than the overall Census sample. Nine in 10 of those who reported low mental wellbeing also reported experiencing or witnessing discrimination in some form.
  • There is a substantial pay gap between non-LGBTQ+ musicians and those who identify as LGBTQ+ musicians. The pay gap of around £4,000 is even wider for trans musicians of almost £10,000 less than the non-LGBTQ+ sample.
  • Cost-related barriers to career progression are a major issue for LGBTQ+ musicians: Nearly three fifths (55%) reported a lack of sustainable income as a barrier in their music careers and 29% said they cannot support themselves or their families from being a musician, furthermore 20% reported being in debt.
  • Brexit and its knock-on effects were also mentioned by multiple respondents as a significant issue, in relation to touring, both in terms of working abroad as British artists, the economic impact on the live music sector here in the UK, and the ability for European musicians to come to the UK for work.
  • Encouragingly, the majority of LGBTQ+ musicians are open with at least some of the people they work with about their sexuality or gender identity, however, there is still a significant proportion who do not feel they are able to be open with anyone they work with. Over 80% reported they think it is likely they will still be working in the music industry in the next 5 years.

 

 

Naomi Pohl, General Secretary of the MU commented: “LGBTQ+ musicians are an under researched community and because of this very little is known about their earnings, experiences and working lives – until now.

High levels of unreported incidents of discrimination and sexual harassment could well be linked to a lack of reporting mechanisms, a lack of trust and confidence that reports will be dealt with appropriately, and a fear of victimisation. For any musicians who experience homophobia, transphobia and any other types of discrimination – the MU can help and support with legal advice, assistance, and representation. The MU also has a Safe Space service where anyone working in the music industry can report instances of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the music industry.

Our aim is for the findings of Musicians’ Census LGBTQ+ Musicians Insight Report to act as a catalyst which encourages the UK music industry to work together to tackle discrimination as a matter of urgency, and ensure that the music industry is a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ musicians.”

John Shortell, MU Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion added: “Together with Help Musicians and our partnership with Come Play with Me, we’re committed to expediting change to see the industry become a more diverse, truly inclusive place to work, which is equitable for everyone. We hope that this report encourages more organisations and individuals in the music industry to work together to remove the barriers that LGBTQ+ musicians face, and ensure that everyone, regardless of background or identity – can thrive.”

Sarah Woods, Chief Executive Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter commented: “The Census revealed that 74% of musicians are self-employed and while they’re a determined group, the nature of this work can take its toll, giving rise to power imbalances and precarious employment practices with no structured support systems. We hope the insight provided in this report will help to continue to expand the important conversations that have begun about discrimination in music by bringing a deeper understanding of the challenges across intersectionalities. LGBTQ+ musicians are a key part of our rich culture, and we must work together to ensure every member of the community feels safe at work. For anyone who may recognise their own experiences in this report, we would encourage you to get in touch with the Help Musicians Bullying and Harassment support line for help and guidance.”

Tony Ereira, Director of CPWM said: “We know that so many people working in music face challenges related to their sexuality or gender identity. Many face even more acute issues as they exist across multiple intersectionalities, but until now we haven’t been able to evidence that with meaningful research or data. This report is crucial as it gives us some excellent insights into how LGBTQ+ musicians identify across the country and where their greatest challenges lie.

In some places, the picture is stark, but in others, there is lots of cause for optimism. Huge thanks to Musicians Union and Help Musicians for kicking off this vital piece of work to better illustrate the lives of LGBTQ+ musicians in the UK music industry today.”

The LGBTQ+ Musicians Insight Report, from the Musicians’ Census 2023, has been published and is available to read on musicianscensus.co.uk.

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