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UNLOCKED: Seven aspiring young musicians and their experiences of music during the coronavirus lockdown (long read)

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About the report

In June 2020, as some lockdown measures were beginning to be lifted, we hosted two online focus group discussions with young musicians (aged 18-25) at various stages of their musical careers. This report explores some of the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions implemented by the UK Government have impacted on the lives and careers of these seven young musicians.

Written by Katy Robinson, Research and Evaluation Officer at Youth Music

It is without a doubt that the outbreak of COVID-19 will be one of the most memorable and defining events to happen in our lifetime: it has affected every one of us in some way. Recent research has shown that young people are among those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and resulting lockdown restrictions: young people are more likely to have difficulty affording essential costs as a result of lost income than older groups (BBC), and they’re also reporting higher levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness than older groups during this time (UCL COVID-19 social study).

However, a recent report by Beatfreeks found that while 65% of young people reported feeling worried about their mental health in light of COVID-19, more and more young people are communicating with each other and addressing their mental health concerns together. Furthermore, a promising 92% of young people agreed that this lockdown “could be a moment to change society for the better” (p. 3, Take the Temperature), suggesting that this could be a great time for reflection, collaboration and action for young people.

The music and entertainment industries have also been drastically affected, with an estimated 30-50% of the live music industry’s workforce facing unemployment, and 90% of grassroots music venues under threat of closure (Let The Music Play, UK Music). These setbacks contribute to a growing list of barriers to the music industry for young people hoping to establish a musical career, meaning that now more than ever, support for young musicians is needed.

Youth Music has been working to consult with grantholders and music education professionals to understand how exactly our sector has been affected. We responded by launching an Emergency Fund (now closed) to support organisations in adapting their delivery to meet the increasing needs of young people during this time and ensure as much musical activity as possible can continue in some way. We also continue to facilitate online discussion networks to keep the sector connected during this time.

In July 2020, Youth Music also announced its new £2m Incubator Fund, designed to support aspiring young professional musicians in their aims of breaking into the music industry. Our Blueprint to the Future research (conducted in partnership with Livity) highlighted that the next generation of music industry professionals are ambitious and determined. Research for this report was conducted during early stages of the lockdown so undoubtedly participants had plenty to say on the topic, however, we felt there was further need to hear from young musicians themselves specifically about how the lockdown has affected their work to date and plans for the future.

In June 2020, as some lockdown measures were beginning to be lifted, we hosted two online focus group discussions with young musicians (aged 18-25) at various stages of their musical careers. Participants were recruited through Youth Music’s own Next Gen scheme, and Sound Connections’ Wired4Music Network, and we thank Sound Connections for their help in reaching them.

young person wearing coat sitting on stairs
Photo of Pritt, a research participant

Meet the young musicians

Becca, a singer-songwriter, performer and community musician living in Newcastle

CC, a DJ living in Liverpool

Elijah, a performing artist, producer and DJ living in Brighton

Pritt, a performing artist living in London

Tee, a writer and vocalist living in London

Tiffany, a singer and songwriter living in Nottingham

Timur, a composer living in London

All seven young musicians who we spoke to have a range of skills and ambitious career goals, representing the diverse pool of talent that is the next generation of music industry professionals. This report explores some of the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions implemented by the UK Government have impacted on the lives and careers of these seven young musicians.

“Everything just went in one go”: when lockdown first hit

COVID-19 has affected the majority of the UK workforce – and the music and entertainment industries have been one of the worst hit, with performance venues being forced to close their doors and cancel or postpone all events until it’s safe to be back.

Thankfully, some organisations have been able to make use of the government’s job retention scheme to support those staff on their payroll by placing them on temporary furlough leave, and at the time of writing, the Government had announced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts which was warmly welcomed by the music industry (UK Music). However, this announcement came with the caveat that while many jobs in the sector would be protected as a result of this financial commitment, there would still be redundancies (BBC).

My first focus was just like, ‘right, need to survive first’

- Becca

And of course, many professional musicians are self-employed and thus were not covered by the furlough schemes in place during lockdown, and may well be among those who will sadly not benefit from the Government’s support package for the arts. Government grants for self-employed people do exist, but most are only available to those who have been trading since 2018, meaning young people just starting out in their careers as self-employed musicians may not be eligible.

For Becca in particular, the lost income from several different community music jobs was a source of stress:

Everything just went in one go for me  […] I work for small organisations that just can’t afford it, so they were discussing with me, like, what we should do. So it was just negotiating things that I’d booked in and talking about what they could and couldn’t [pay for], but most of it was just sort of like, ‘it’s gone for now and there’s nothing we can do’, which I can understand, but I was just a bit like ‘what am I going to do?’ - Becca

Fortunately, other grant schemes from the likes of the Arts Council and Help Musicians do exist to support musicians and artists whose income has been affected by the situation. Becca was able to make use of these schemes and secure some emergency funding, while other young musicians we spoke to were able to rely on support from family or access the formal government furlough scheme as a result of having other jobs unrelated to music:

I spent some time applying for some emergency funding with the MU and Help Musicians, so that basically just got me through that period of moving things. […] My first focus was just like, ‘right, need to survive first’. So then I went for Arts Council funding later. It was basically just getting all that sorted so I could be solid and I wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills and things like that. - Becca

Having a part time job and being on furlough, like, without that I really do not know how I would have gotten through this. Cos obviously money, and a lot with music, invoicing and trying to follow up, people are not quick to pay. So that would have been a struggle. - CC

“The hardest thing to pull myself through”: lockdown’s negative impact on motivation

Despite eventually managing to find ways to support themselves financially, all seven of the young musicians we heard from told us about a variety of opportunities and events they’d been working towards, and the disappointment that came with having to cancel or put their plans on hold:

There was a couple of tracks that I was wanting to get done so that I could enter into a competition for a music award, and now, it’s like I don’t really know how I’m going to get it all recorded and finished. - Timur

While there was a widespread understanding and acceptance of the necessity of such sudden changes, it was of course disappointing, and caused an initial slump in motivation for some:

It’s a shame not seeing my band for example, we had gigs lined up, we were supposed to do a really cool gig in April and that’s been postponed, so we’re going to have to wait for that. Can’t jam with them, I can’t do rehearsals – that was like, my thing, every Wednesday I’d go and do rehearsals and now we can’t do that. - Tee

I really had to let myself down gently with some of the projects that I wanted to get going into lockdown.

- Elijah

I wanted to get collaborations and such and such, and no one’s allowed to come round the house anymore! So [that] really impacted my motivation anyway.

Alongside the general disappointment at the sudden changes in plan, there was also a sense of a halt in progress towards particular goals:

Every gig I was doing, I was feeling more like, “yes, I can do this”. You confirm to yourself, the more opportunities that you get, that you’re fine. But I don’t find performing that easy, so that’s been hard to lose that. But at the same time I’m back in my comfort zone in my safe little – “yay, I don’t have to go anywhere!” – but it’s also not nice. - Becca

We know from our recent research that the next generation of young music industry professionals are motivated to forge careers out of their passion: a love of music was the most frequently selected motivation (49%) behind respondents’ choices to pursue careers in music. This was certainly evident in our conversations with the seven determined and enthusiastic young musicians we spoke to for this report too. However, at times, these unexpected cancellations and barriers to progress understandably caused dips in the young musicians’ motivation to create music, as did limitations in other areas of their lives:

I think everyone was like “2020’s gonna be the year, you’re going to get so much done!” and then it was just like, “Boom. No you’re not!” – like at the start of the year, like any other year, everyone’s so motivated and everything’s on track, and then for this to happen, it was just like a setback. - CC

When you can’t do the other things in your life, like just even go for like a long walk around to see friends, and things that would normally prompt some kind of inspiration, I think for me, the motivation was the hardest thing to have to pull myself through. - Tiffany

“Looking at the people beside you”: adapting to collaborative working in new ways

Comments about staying motivated through connecting with others and feeding off the ideas of other musicians were common, and several participants talked about a lack of connection with like-minded people being one of the most challenging aspects of the first stages of lockdown:

I got into a bit of a phase of kind of like a musical depression, where I really didn’t see the point in making anything.

- Elijah

I’d definitely say that the social aspect, not being able to go out and just see people, that’s affected my motivation […] And then as that kind of set in, and I started to not see anyone else in person, and the social aspect of my life took a downward slope, it became more and more difficult for me to actually want to make music, and I got into a bit of a phase of kind of like a musical depression, where I really didn’t see the point in making anything. - Elijah

However, despite this initial slump in motivation for some, as the young musicians started to adapt their “new normal” [CC], different and novel ways of working started to emerge – particularly when it came to continuing collaborative projects with their peers and colleagues.

Some participants like Tee and Pritt were already well-versed in working online with producers in other countries, but learnt new tips and tricks for more effective remote working, such as using voice notes [a digital recording of someone speaking, usually sent over messaging apps] to communicate “exactly what you’re relaying” [Pritt], or finding tools for collaborative working such as WeTransfer and Splice [Tee]. 

For others who were still figuring out ways to bring their projects online, the experience was enlightening, although not without challenges:

We tried to do this online festival […] and they wanted us to record a video of us all performing, and like live stream it all in one go. But for me, I found that a really hard thing to do, because it meant that I could overthink my performance. Normally, like, you just get on stage, you do what you do, and then it’s done. When you’re recording something, you can watch it back, and then you’re like “hmm, I don’t like that bit, I want to do that bit again” and you end up spending twice as long for something that should have taken ten minutes. That was a real negative for me. - Tiffany

Despite being forced into such different ways of thinking about and working on their music, several participants spoke about how they’d benefitted from certain learning opportunities that may not have been so readily accessible if not for the lockdown:

I’ve been able to tap into networks of people that I wouldn’t have before. So I’ve attended quite a few things, like webinars and Zoom calls, there’s been some communities that have popped up, secret sessions and things like that, and there was an all-female musicians community, of women all over the country, and that was amazing, because we would just never have done that. […] Access doesn’t matter as much anymore, you can just be at home any time and do these things. - Becca

Performing online, or even just working to support other people online, it’s weird, but it’s also kind of a new creative tool. Which I was afraid of at first, my first performance online was terrible for me! And then over time I was like, “you know what, this isn’t that bad, I can do this, I can do that” – new opportunities have come up to me now because of it. - Tee

Our recent research has shown the next generation of young musicians are taking things into their own hands and making better use of each other’s skills through horizontal networking: they’re providing each other with “mutual support and career scaffolding outside of formal industry structures” (Blueprint for the Future, p37).

The importance of this horizontal networking and sharing expertise with one another was also discussed at length in the discussions reported here, and was illustrated perfectly by the participants’ requests to share contact details with one another and keep in touch following the session.

A separate report by Livity exploring young people’s life in lockdown found that 83% of young people claim to be spending more time on social media during lockdown, and again, this was echoed in our discussions with young musicians. “Spending more time on social media” [Pritt] and “always [being] on my phone and laptop” [Tee], as a result of lockdown was widely acknowledged in the focus groups, suggesting that horizontal networking between young musicians could be facilitated by this increase in use of digital communication tools during this time.

In particular, CC described how certain limitations associated with the lockdown had enabled her to connect with other aspiring music industry professionals:

It’s a case of how we can all benefit off each other rather than trying to benefit off the person above you that’s already at a higher level. I think even finding that is kind of forced upon us more, which I think is better, that, we’re all in a situation that’s like, “right, maybe I can’t afford to do this for this person”, or “I can’t afford to pay for like an expensive videographer”, so like now, it’s really been a case of looking at the people that are beside you and that are really struggling, and it’s like, “oh I can do this beat for you for free, if you can do this video for me for free” – that has been a big eye opener, seeing a lot more people, their creative side and what they actually like doing, coming out a lot more. - CC

“I’ve got to put my head down and work”: finding more time to create

As well as finding new ways of working collaboratively with peers and colleagues, after taking a little time to adjust to the lockdown and restrictions, the young musicians we spoke to started to view this period as a valuable time to work on their music and plan things for their career post-lockdown:

For me, this is a time where I’ve really got to put my head down and work […] With that focus and that drive, it allowed me to learn more, or use what I’ve learnt without any distractions now I’ve got no work to go to, I have the time to really plan out what I’m going to do. - Tee

I always told myself that I was going to learn to produce and I always said that I had no time, but now all I’ve got is time

- Pritt

I suppose it is a time to just keep creating. And then everything that you create doesn’t necessarily need to be out, so it can be a case of, now there’s a lot more to pick from, and what actually goes well, what you can actually plan correctly. - CC

Alongside using this time to create, young musicians have also been working on building up specific skills. Some were motivated by a desire to be able to become more self-sufficient as musicians, taking online classes and also teaching themselves a range of skills, from production and recording, singing and playing new instruments, and social media, digital artwork and marketing:

I’ve also learnt how to play the keys so that I can produce a bit more, and I always told myself that I was going to learn to produce and I always said that I had no time, but now all I’ve got is time, so I kind of just have to use what I’ve got around me. - Pritt

I think the more you know, you’re more empowered, but it’s been good to actually do the production and realise that it’s not – not that it’s not as hard, but there’s so much you can do. I’ve been able to record vocals that will end up on a song that’s been really well produced, and I’ll be like ‘yeah, I did that part myself!’, so that’s been really nice. - Becca

Others were simply appreciating having more time to develop and enjoy their craft, both for themselves and in order to benefit their audiences:

I have a music corner in my living room where I’ve got a piano and a bunch of sheet music and scale practice and stuff for when I’m ready to go and look at that. But I find myself just occasionally just sitting down at the piano and kind of just playing whatever I feel like playing at the moment. - Timur

I’ve kind of used that brief break from the cycle of being on the club scenes to just do an inventory of what I want to listen to, and what I want to play out. I’ve just been digging on SoundCloud non-stop, trying to find songs that make me want to move […] and trying to find stuff that is new, that people haven’t heard of, and really develop my own sound as a selector. - Elijah

“A chance to step back and think”: lockdown as a time for reflection and taking stock

While all seven participants shared examples of how they’d used their time to build skill and work on various aspects of their music, there was also an overwhelming sense among the participants that this period of lockdown has been a much-needed time to slow down and reflect on their careers.

For some, this was a case of “taking stock” [Elijah] of the progress they’d made this far and “tying up loose ends” [Becca] in certain areas of their multifaceted careers. Both Elijah and Becca also talked about how they’d used this time to think about the different music they’d created, and how they might recontextualise and take certain things forward after this time of reflection:

I think I used the word “inventory” before, but that’s a really relevant thing for me and my life where I’m at, of just working out what I’ve done so far, and what have I already got in the bag, and what, like, when everything is grinding back into gear, what are the things that I want to be taking out of this period. - Elijah

I’m finishing songs right now, and one of my next songs is about finding beauty in the in-between, like in the limbo state– I wrote it ages ago, and I’m only just finishing it up now. […] So I’m starting to think about what I’ve written in the past and how it relates to now, and how I’m going to frame it. - Becca

Despite this overriding sense of slowing down and contemplating their careers, the majority of participants spoke about how this period of reflection is likely to influence plans for their musical journeys going forward. For some, this was about re-evaluating the kinds of content and messages they hoped to communicate through their work, while for others, it was a case of researching and considering the different avenues they might take next:

I’ve been able to really think about the feel that I want, the genres that I want to actually delve deeper into.


I feel like it’s given me a chance to really step back and think about where I’m going, and come up with an array of different paths that I could possibly go down now. - Tiffany

Like Tiffany, other young musicians told us about the different opportunities they were seeking in order to help them progress towards their longer-term goals as artists. For Becca, this involves planning to make some significant life choices in order to pursue a Master’s degree in London once the pandemic is over:

It takes time to know what you want. And on a personal level, I think you can get in a bubble of things and you feel so tied to so many different things and you don’t get a chance to look at what am I doing and why? And I think that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s really painful. Yeah, re-evaluating what you’re doing and why, and I’ve decided to go for something that I really want, and like, move away from Newcastle, and that for me, is sort of totally life changing, and sad and amazing and hard. But you just have this time, and I don’t think I would have done it if this lockdown hadn’t happened. I think I would have just carried on doing what I was doing where I was, which was not dissatisfying, like, I love my life there and everything that I’ve done, but you have to go for what you really want and do those things. - Becca

“Things do go wrong”: learning to adapt to change

We know from our recent research that aspiring young music professionals are mindful of the barriers in their way when it comes to realising their goals of breaking into the music industry. Many place incredible pressure on themselves to work tirelessly to achieve these dreams, and there’s an unfair imbalance in the numbers of young people taking unpaid internships and burning the candle at both ends in order to gain the essential work experience the industry seems to require for new starters. It comes as no surprise, then, that several young musicians we spoke to in our focus groups spoke about being their own “worst critic” [Pritt] when it came to making progress and achieving important milestones.

Beyond the exciting new ventures the young musicians hoped to embark on in the near future, there was also a sense among many of them that this completely unexpected situation had taught them valuable lessons about what it means to be flexible, patient and forgiving of themselves when things don’t go to plan:

I think my perspective on things is going to be different. So this big curveball just hit me and I don’t know what to do next,  but I definitely know that going forward I’ll think about – I don’t know how to explain it , but just like, being aware that things do go wrong, and things will go wrong, and you just have to go past it and get over it and move on and find other ways to do it. - Pritt

I don’t think I would have that time if it wasn’t for this lockdown, I don’t think I would have had that headspace, while being immersed in the chaos that is the music industry, to actually just think “what am I actually doing here?” […] I can now take that out into the world and be like “ok cool, I can have patience, I don’t need to have all of these things, I don’t need to have everything together by the end of 2020, I don’t even need to have everything together by the end of 2022”. - Elijah

These adjustments in attitude displayed by the young musicians demonstrate self-care during an incredibly challenging time, and participants acknowledged the importance of taking a break from their music. We asked them about the other non-musical ways they’d been spending their time in lockdown, and were impressed to hear about a range of new hobbies and pursuits:

I’ve started doing salsa, so I’ve been getting into salsa music which is quite fun. I’m not working with a partner yet but […] I did a Zoom call and, because with salsa, there’s times when you’re with a partner, and there’s times when you’re with yourself. So I’ve been doing the parts by myself. It was quite fun. I learnt two steps! - Timur

I picked up learning a language, I was using Duolingo to learn Brazilian Portuguese - Elijah

Some young musicians talked about consciously spending their time doing things to positively impact their mental health:

I’ve been walking around in nice places, I’ve been trying to make good choices, just looking after myself […] I think a lot of that has taken most of my time, and I’ve structured everything else around that, ‘cos right now, for me, that’s the most important thing. - Becca

In terms of self-care, one of the most helpful things discussed by several participants was the idea of building a routine. Often, these routines grew from a place of feeling limited in what activities were possible:

When it was stricter, I was a bit more wary of whether I can actually go outside. You know when they’re like “you can go outside” but you’re like “can I?!”  - and I was stuck inside a lot, so I definitely started going out a bit more and walking and getting fresh air. But I think changing your routine up sometimes helps. - Pritt

One person who had a lot of praise for the idea of a daily routine was Elijah. After an initial period of demotivation caused by not seeing and connecting with other people, Elijah told us about the importance of “seeing progress” in order to “feel OK about the monotony of lockdown”. He built a routine out of the other activities he’d been doing (learning Portuguese and skipping to name just two!) and slowly began to realise that he could apply the same mentality to doing a little bit of music-making every day:

I realise that if I was doing 15 minutes of beat-making and 15 minutes of lyric-writing every single day, the same way that I’m doing things that I’ve learnt in lockdown, I feel like it would really be an asset to my skills. So I guess, for someone who has personally really rallied against the routine, and really hated repetitiveness in anything, I’m kind of learning the virtues of that, and how I probably should be putting the same mindset of “I need to skip every day, I need to do 15 minutes of learning my language” – if I was putting that into  regularly doing music at the same time, I think it would probably be really beneficial. - Elijah

“A time to re-inspire myself”: finding motivation and inspiration from unlikely sources

Alongside several new non-musical hobbies, the young musicians told us about how the lockdown has changed the way they listen to music. For CC and Elijah as DJs, this formed part of their work, and they both told us that they’ve been spending a lot of time researching new artists to play to their audiences once lockdown’s over:

It has been a breath of fresh air, of not having to listen to stuff that you wouldn’t intentionally first go to listen to. Like finding new artists that are more underground, and trying to bring light on that, and not conforming to what society is pushing you to listen to. - CC

However, for everyone, listening to music simply for their own enjoyment was a big part of the conversation, and there was a sense that lockdown had allowed them more time to dig deeper and discover new and different music to widen their tastes:

I haven’t been listening to as much of the same music that I was listening to before. I’ve found that I’ve been listening to remixes of different things, in particular. - Timur

I’ve also been listening to an album a day, just as a little challenge to take in more references, and see what others have done that’s been great. Like, genres I’ve never heard of before. - Tee

Tee went on to discuss how listening to new and different musical material was not only beneficial to his mood, but actually a helpful stimulus for creating his own music at a time when the usual places he’d seek inspiration were limited due to the circumstances:

I thought, ‘ooh, let’s not look at my old stories, let me go and consume some things and see what other people have done with their lives’, some people just – I don’t listen to the news that much, but I do read books and stuff like that, you know, listen to music. All of those things help me piece new ideas and stuff that will help me write music and write new things in general. So yeah, it’s been a time to kind of re-inspire myself. - Tee

This ties in with discussions elsewhere about the other places young musicians might go to for inspiration to create music during this time when the usual sources of motivation might be limited:

I know what you mean about getting stale quite quickly. I was initially like, on my lockdown walks, writing loads of things about my lockdown walks, and I was like ‘this is so boring’ [laughs] “you’ve posted three different songs of you being like, “trees!!”” - Becca

So trying to like, paint, which I wouldn’t usually do, but just something different to try and be creative in other ways, and then it sparks stuff, to be like “oh, let me actually try this instead!” …just trying to find new ways of what you usually do, but try and be more creative with it. - CC

For many of the participants, inspiration tends to be found in the company of others. Particularly for Elijah, the relaxation of the stricter lockdown rules was a great relief and provided a welcome surge in motivation to create music again:

As we’ve been kind of emerging back out of lockdown, we’ve been allowing a few people in a support bubble to come round the house and whatnot, I’ve immediately started wanting to get back into my desire to want to make beats and make music with other peoples – it’s kind of like an awakening. - Elijah

“Trying to find a new way of living”: what’s next for these young musicians?

Tiffany wasn’t the only participant to express her excitement towards what’s to come as we slowly emerge out of lockdown. Undoubtedly, it will be quite some time before the live music scene is back to any sort of normality: while the Government’s recently-announced support package for the arts is incredibly welcome, there is still much work to be done to rebuild the industry and the future is still uncertain for many. However, our focus group participants were realistic but hopeful about this future, and carefully considering how any long-term changes in the industry might affect them and their work:

Even when this COVID is over, it’s not going to be a case of “right everything that we did during lockdown is finished and we’re not going to think about that anymore and we’re back to reality” – like, it’s about trying to find a new way of living, of what happened, and what’s going on through lockdown, [incorporating it] into your real life as well. - CC

I’ve been planning my next releases, it’s been great to get my music together, and just finish it off, so I’m going to be focused on getting the next bit of music out. […] I have to think about all the framework around this, I’m hoping that I’m going to reach out and get some support, because I don’t know what the music industry’s going to look like after this. I feel like I haven’t even got a toe in the door, and now the terrain’s just changed! - Becca

Despite this uncertainty, the young musicians were eagerly anticipating getting back to their various projects and feeling positive about being able to work and enjoy music with their peers and colleagues again once it was safe to do so:

I feel like everyone is like “I want to do this, we’re going to get it done now” kind of thing, because we’re all missing each other and missing working with each other. So I think it’s placed a lot of value on actually having people around you to work with and having those spaces, and everyone I know is just saying “oh my god I just can’t wait to be back in the studio, I’m going to be there 24/7 as soon as we’re allowed to,” so I definitely think that’s a positive. - Tiffany

And perhaps most importantly, there was a sense that, whenever the time and opportunity comes for the young musicians to pick up from where they left off and carry on their musical journeys, they’ll be doing so having learned valuable lessons about themselves and reassessed their interpretations of progress:

I think we need to start seeing music careers as, like, you’re in it for the long game, and it’s about progress, not overnight, like, “this is it”..

- Becca

Definitely before lockdown I was really just trying to build a reputation and a career […] I was letting that get in the way of why I’m doing music, of what I’m doing music for, because I love music, and because it feeds my soul. And I was letting that be overtaken by a desire to build a team, get a manager, get a booking agent, get a lawyer – you know, to build some kind of external thing, which was just to platform me and put me on a pedestal so I could shout my music to more people. And actually learning that the tortoise will outrun the hare over time. - Elijah

I know I can be really hard on myself when I don’t get things done, and I think a lot of artists do feel like that as well. It’s just natural, you tend to be your worst critic. So it’s just not getting disheartened, and trying to be positive as much as you can without forcing it I guess. - Pritt

Final thoughts

While the young musicians we spoke to for this report faced their own set of challenges which shouldn’t be downplayed, it should be recognised that they were able to take part in this research and use this time in lockdown the ways they reported thanks to a number of different sources of support from family, friends, partners, employers and grantmakers. Many other young musicians may not have been as fortunate, and it is important to consider how we can understand their experiences of this challenging time.

Similarly, this report has focused on a small group of aspiring music professionals, but has not explored the perspectives of other young musicians whose music-making activities have been affected by COVID-19. For example, while supporting young industry professionals is a growing area of Youth Music’s work, we want to do more research to gather the viewpoints of the thousands of young people who have missed out on targeted music activity delivered by our grantholding organisations. Youth Music will consider how we can capture the experiences of these young musicians in addition to the usual evaluation data we receive from grantholders.

However, it’s clear from the conversations reported above that this group of aspiring young music professionals share many common experiences. Despite initial stumbling blocks, they’ve seen new opportunities opening up to them as a result of this period, and they’ve been given the time to invest valuable time and energy in transforming their passions into careers.

The personal accounts explored here resonate strongly with the findings from Youth Music’s Blueprint for the Future: that the next generation of young musicians are determined, resilient and ambitious. They have a thirst to drive things forward, with a tendency to take matters into their own hands and collaborate with each other to achieve their goals. Importantly, they have given themselves permission to slow down and reflect, and as a result they have demonstrated their great capabilities for adapting to change, particularly in the face of adversity. Finally, they’ve identified many exciting and positive outcomes from a time of great uncertainty, and we look forward to seeing what they achieve next!

I’m excited for the amount of diversity, and like, power, that’s going to come out of this whole thing, cos with everyone learning all of these new skills and stuff, it’s really going to come out through their music and it’s going to enable a lot of things, so super excited for that! - Tiffany

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