Soaring costs are forcing musicians to skip meals as 83 per cent of Scots performers report a drop in gig bookings amid the cost of living crisis.

A survey by Encore of over 300 musicians found that 26% of professional musicians had skipped a meal due to the cost of living crisis, with more than half forced to take second jobs to make ends meet.

The biggest effect has been on those aged 18-24, with 75% reporting a drop in bookings due to the crisis.

Pop musicians were the worst affected with 77% saying the number of gigs had somewhat or definitely decreased, while women were worse affected than men at 70% to 64%.

Scotland was hit hardest of the countries surveyed, with 83% reporting a drop in bookings compared to 75% for Wales and 65% for England.

The Herald:

Angus Ware is a 64-year-old musician who works with the Highland Lonesome String Band among others, and has more than 10 album credits to his name.

He tells The Herald: “Things started taking their toll with Brexit, that kind of made some of the foreign trips a bit more tricky.

“Covid just shut everything overnight and streaming affects things as well.

“I gave up the day job in 2015, and quietly acquired a whole load of expensive kit to supplement what I already had. The upshot of that, of course, is that if you’re not showing a profit then you don’t qualify for furlough money or anything like that.

“Since all that venues have closed, they’ve cut back and they’re continuing to close.

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“I’m freelance for a few different bands and I know band members moved away during Covid to do other work.

“You look at the cost of living figures and inflation is still rampant, the fuel prices both for heating your house and also getting to and from venues all impacts.

“I’m in the lucky position of having a roof fund to dip into and just hope the roof stays alright on the house, but the cost of living has had a huge impact and it’s come in tandem with a reduction in earning ability.

“I’ve always thought it was cool to play with older musicians from when I first started out and a lot of them have just given up. It’s not worth putting fuel in the tank and driving yourself home at all times of the day.

“Others took other work during Covid and haven’t come back to it.

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“I have every sympathy for venues because their rates are going through the roof for heating but it doesn’t help me if I’m still getting the same fee I got five years ago for playing the same venue.

“All of my expenses have gone up, so much so that it brings into question: ‘can I afford to have my family visit me during winter?’.

“I live in an old house that’s hard to heat, my average fuel bills prior to the hike were £135 a month and my bill for last December when I had a house full on quite a few occasions, with babies and all the rest of it so the heating had to be on overnight, I was £690 for one month.”

As well as venues cutting back, corporate events have been hit as businesses try to cut costs.

A rock guitarist from Perth & Kinross, who did not want to be named, said: “For the first time there was a lack of New Year's Eve jobs this year. There were also cancellations due to the effects of companies and individuals not having the cash to spend.

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“I didn’t work on New Year's eve despite it being a Saturday and despite being available.

“New year’s Eve is the biggest pay night of the year and helps compensate for the low number of gigs available in January. I have also noticed a drop in audience numbers at pub and particularly social club gigs compared to previous years. There are also fewer corporate gigs on offer as companies have slashed budgets.

“This year is looking like the worst year ever for forward bookings, turning it into a week-to-week booked gig environment or last-minute gigs phoned to an agency. 

“I’m now limiting travel to gigs to Fife, Edinburgh and Perth due to petrol costs.”

And musicians have been hit with a triple whammy as the impact of the Brexit vote continues to affect touring outside of the country.

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Musicians travelling from the UK to the EU must now use an ATA Carnet to document the temporary movement of their equipment.

The cost of the Carnet comprises a Chamber of Commerce issue fee (which is a fixed amount) and security cover (which varies according to the value of the equipment.) 

The document costs a minimum of around £450 to cover up to £15,000. It covers any number of trips into and out of the EU, and can include countries such as Norway and Switzerland, but the geographical coverage required must be specified when the Carnet is issued, along with the number of trips to be undertaken.

Mr Wares says: “I’ve travelled to Burns Suppers with ceilidh bands and the like, Caledonian Society’s chieftain’s balls in Nigeria, Burns Nights in Norway, Lithuania, Azerbaijan.

“In the European countries I think it costs something in the region of £400 for a Carnet form to list all the kit that you take out so you can bring it back in without having to pay VAT and import duties on it.

“That takes what is a fairly marginal profit but a fairly satisfying few days away completely out of the equation because the people who take you out there aren’t willing to bear these costs.”

Musicians struggling with the cost of living crisis can find a list of resources here.Musicians who need pro bono advice on Brexit touring can visit