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NextGen's Mission for Change: Innovating from Within

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young man with afro holds out a microphone
Photo from Pedestrian. Photo by Dean Leivers

At Youth Music, we have long been on a mission to equalise access to earning in music for 18–25-year-olds, whatever their background. But our latest research into the views and ambitions of this group has highlighted that they don’t just want our support. They want to champion the change themselves, leading from the front.

We spoke to members of our Youth Music NextGen community about their experiences pursuing a career in the music industries. Many of them told us that, aside from their own ambitions, they thought about how they could create change for others in the industries.

Georgina is an accomplished musician, having started playing the tenor horn when she was seven years old before moving to the French horn when she 12. She has toured Europe with orchestras and now plays with the National Open Youth Orchestra.

Georgina worked with Youth Music as a co-researcher on our Reshape Music research project, that explored the barriers faced by Disabled young people in the music industries. Through this research, she identified accessibility issues in music, particularly within Music Education Hubs.

“My local Hub was all very traditional and if you couldn’t play a traditional orchestral instrument, then you couldn’t be involved,” says Georgina. “I just don’t think that’s fair. It’s not someone’s fault if they can’t hold or play a traditional instrument. They could still have the opportunity to make music through the music service, but they don’t.”

Another member of our Youth Music NextGen community, Natalie, had also experienced barriers in the sector.

Natalie worked on a Youth Music Incubator Fund project at Kaleidoscope, an artist development company, where a group of interns developed and launched a brand-new record label.

Before the project, Natalie had worked in events management building up credible industry experience. However, she found that due to her young age, businesses would exploit her with unpaid work. This was often done under the guise of providing experience in the industry: “That’s part of the problem with saying it’s work experience but it’s just free labour.”

As found in our report, A Blueprint for the Future, unpaid internships create barriers in to the music industries as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less able to access them.

Instead of continuing to operate in these spaces, Georgina and Natalie have decided to do something about it.

Along with a fellow co-researcher, Georgina presented the findings of the Reshape Music report to conferences both in the UK and abroad. Discovering a real passion, she plans to continue speaking at conferences. Along with this, thanks to skills she learnt at Youth Music as a co-researcher, she will also look to take part on more projects and continue to raise awareness about barriers in the music industries.

In addition to this work, Georgina is currently in the process of securing her inclusive music practitioner certificate, enabling her to share her knowledge and skills in a practical way, too.

“I'm doing this project with the Lincolnshire Music Service where we're going around special schools and helping them develop their music curriculums,” says Georgina. “And I'm really enjoying that, so I will hopefully be doing more.”

a girl in a wheelchair plays the trumpet
Photo from The OHMI Trust

Taking part in the Youth Music Incubator Fund project with Kaleidoscope inspired Natalie, along with other interns, to continue the record label they launched outside of the project.

Keen to tackle the issues faced by marginalised genders in the music industries, Natalie set up the charity Tits Upon Tyne. Originally designed to support those with breast cancer, their message has since grown.

“I run a charity […] that’s all focused on breast cancer fundraising,” says Natalie. “But also abuse in the creative industries and recognising women and non-binary people as needing specific criteria for it to be a safer space.”

It’s a cause that Natalie wants to get more people behind. She hopes to go on to do a PhD in Women in Music at her university so she can influence government policy.

Unlike those she worked with earlier in her career, Natalie wants to make sure she provides opportunities that are there to support young people, not take advantage of them.

“I’ve got a lot of friends that have started asking me if they could do work experience with Tits Upon Tyne,” says Natalie. “I wanna make sure that if you do, you’re gonna get the best out of it.”

Natalie is a positive example of a young leader crafting opportunities that look to benefit everyone involved. In her own words, the experience of being paid for work lead to her “identity as an industry professional feel a lot more prominent.”

Georgina and Natalie are just two examples of young people determined to make a difference in the music industries. It’s clear that the Youth Music NextGen community are not only looking to join the mission for change, but to lead it, too.



The 2021 NextGen Stakeholder Survey received 62 responses and nine follow-up interviews were conducted between September and October 2021.


Are you aged 18-25 and chasing a career in music, but finding it tough, closed off and hard to break in to? Start finding your way in with Youth Music's NextGen Community. By signing up you'll be the first to get information about our funding for young creatives, freelance work, as well as job and training opportunities. Join our NextGen community here.