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What we've learned about young people working in the music industries so far

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a collage of three young people
Carli, Kate and Lydia pictured LtR

In 2019, we launched Youth Music NextGen, our community for young creatives who aspire to build and work in the music industries of the future. To date, more than sixty 18-25 year olds have benefited from paid freelance work as a result, with more than one thousand also enjoying access to industry expertise and job opportunities through our Youth Music NextGen community.

We wanted to find out what impact we’ve had so far, and what more we can do. By sharing what we’ve learnt, we hope more organisations can help every young person facing barriers in life to earn in music.

Who are NextGen?

Respondents to the survey fell in to one of three career stage categories:

1. Young creatives beginning to gain experience and build up their career

Sixty one percent of survey respondents told us that they had either taken part in a Youth Music opportunity, or were currently taking part in one. We spoke to Gemma* who was in her final year of sixth form at the time of the interview, Lydia, a recent journalism graduate who worked on Youth Music’s ‘Higher Frequency’ Podcast series and Carli, a backing vocalist and singer-songwriter who had a spot on the panel of Grants Advisors for Youth Music’s Incubator Fund:

“It’s definitely opened up a couple of different avenues, of course that has also happened because my main one has been blocked [by lockdown restrictions], but I still think it’s important and it’s always been of value to me, even when I was working normally. So yeah it’s just a bit more concrete now and I have a little bit of experience that I can back up when I go into different opportunities.”Carli

2. Young creatives taking part in multiple opportunities and branching out elsewhere

Of those that have taken part in an opportunity directly with Youth Music, 45% told us that, to a good/great extent, this has led them to further progression opportunities in the music industries. Given that NextGen was a relatively new programme at the time the survey was open, we anticipate that this figure will continue to rise as time goes on. Our ambition is to provide more opportunities for young people and continue to review their impact on their progression.

“[Youth Music NextGen] gives me vital industry experience and helps me create more things for my portfolio, and allows me to learn whilst on the job.”survey respondent

The final two interviewees in this research were NextGen members who had taken part in multiple opportunities from Youth Music and were beginning to apply their experience elsewhere too. Charlotte, who aspires to work in Music PR & Communications, and Kate, who works at a streaming platform and has a multitude of creative interests, including presenting, DJing and production.

“I get really happy when I see the opportunities [from Youth Music NextGen] in my inbox: I’m always looking for something to do. All I can ask for is more of the same thing, just as much as possible, mailing [as many] opportunities as possible!” – Gemma

3. Young creatives recently starting out in their career

Nineteen percent of respondents told us they had not yet taken part in an opportunity with Youth Music at the time the survey was open.

Forty seven percent of respondents told us that they had not yet taken part in career progression opportunities outside of Youth Music. In our interviews, we spoke to India, who had just recently left school and was working full time in e-commerce whilst keeping her eyes open for more music-related opportunities.

At the time of the interview, India had not yet taken part in any Youth Music NextGen opportunities, but had taken part in some unpaid work experience for a record label.

I’ve done work experience but I’ve never had a proper job in the music industry. I just feel lucky to have a job to be honest, but I am looking for something in music.


As illustrated by Gemma, the young professionals we spoke to about their experiences of Youth Music NextGen to date are resilient and determined, many willing to take up a broad range of opportunities to gain experience and get their foot in the door.

We also spoke to six members of our NextGen community to find out more about the issues highlighted in our survey. Here’s a summary of what we heard, but you can download our long read version to learn more.

tweet from Lydia celebrating getting a paid job

Paying and paying fairly for work

Youth Music pays opportunities at the Living Wage, but for many young people responding to the survey, this wasn’t the case. A shocking 41% of young people accessing career progression opportunities in their related fields indicated they had not been paid for their work at other organisations. 29% percent told us that some of the opportunities were paid but less than a third (31%) told us that all opportunities they’ve accessed were paid.

The impact that fair pay for work has on the personal development of young professionals must not be underestimated: “A financial incentive not only boosts productivity but makes you feel professional” (survey respondent).

“Obviously Youth Music pays the Living Wage for every opportunity, every little bit just makes your work feel valued and you’re able to call yourself, ‘oh, I’m a freelancer, because I’m getting paid for the work that I do’. So yeah, it gives value to your work, really.” – Kate

“I knew that I’d have to fork out a bunch of money for work experience … I basically had to pay to work there [a national radio station]!” – Lydia

In some circumstances, like the last quote above, we were told that the cost the young creatives had to fork out to access the work was more than the pay. Not paying or paying poorly for work further excludes young creatives from accessing opportunities.

Perceptions of inclusivity

"Being open to diversity rather than just trying to fill a quota." – India

Young people are adept at spotting the difference between tokenism and genuine commitment to inclusion in an organisation. Employers owe it to our communities to offer opportunities to individuals equitably and inclusively. This includes providing opportunities that aren’t London-centric, accessible application formats and ensuring that every voice in the team gets heard, to name a few. 

87% of overall survey respondents felt that to a good/great extent, Youth Music NextGen is inclusive in their approach to creating opportunities for young people, and our interviewees agreed:

“I think all of us felt that we were really part of the team, it wasn’t ‘us and the Youth Music team’, it was everyone was part of one group. We were constantly asked for our input, we weren’t just sort of in the background or silenced which was really, really nice” – Charlotte

“I feel like as soon as we had that first meeting in September, looking at all the people on Zoom, just being involved and I was like wow! We’ve got such a wide like diverse group of people, so that was my first impression and that just filled me with warm fuzzy feelings, I felt like we’re all kind of in this together, and it’s not just one type of person that is gonna be working on this [podcast].” – Lydia on the NextGen Podcast Team

Networking with peers

"Everyone had different levels of experience and everyone had gone through completely different routes, education wise and career wise, so it was great because I was meeting people at different levels of education and their life." – Gemma

Many Youth Music NextGen members spoke to us about the benefits of networking with other creatives. Youth Music’s recent report, A Blueprint for the Future, further explores the potential and impact of horizontal networking: “And all the evidence suggests these informal collectives and forms of ‘horizontal networking’ only grow in importance as young women and people from under-represented backgrounds mature in their careers, providing mutual support and career scaffolding outside of formal industry structures.”

This is especially necessary in industries where there is a disparity felt between those at the top of their craft, those who have made significant progress more recently, and those who are starting out.

These networks provide the opportunity to tap into different perspectives and groups with diversity in their experience. Reflecting on how Youth Music could provide a different perspective to the young people within her own network, India told us:

“Just to hear about different people’s paths, it seems like everyone’s been to university! And yeah, I know that there must be some people that haven’t and I want to hear about how they did it.” – India


In autumn 2020, we asked NextGen how much impact we were having and what more we could do to facilitate the development of young creatives’ careers. Respondents could then opt-in for a follow-up interview.

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