A couple of decades ago, long before the term ‘austerity measures’ had become widely known, young people who wanted to devote their life to music could also devote their dole money to buying an amp or hiring a van in order to get to an unpaid gig. Many top international acts have emerged from such humble beginnings, claiming government subsidy during early stages of musical development.
Times have changed and you can certainly no longer claim the dole whilst you hang out in your bedroom practising guitar riffs. With funding cuts across the arts sector also taking their toll, financial support for nurturing talent has become harder to find.
True, the industry offers some bursaries, apprenticeships and internships, but for many young people nowadays, it’s the bank of mum and dad filling the gap. But what if you don’t have a dad, and mum stacks shelves in the local supermarket? What if you’ve been brought up in care? Or you’re disabled and simply can’t afford music lessons to overcome the challenges you face?
Embarking on a career in the music business also has its risks. Coming from a moneyed or comfortable background often means that you can follow this path safe in the knowledge that there’s family backup if it goes horribly wrong. However, many don’t have this support network and end up sacrificing their dream to focus on taking regular, reliable work that pays the bills. It seems so unfair that these potentially talented musicians, managers, producers and promoters of the future never get beyond go.
With funding cuts across the arts sector also taking their toll, financial support for nurturing talent has become harder to find
At Youth Music, we know what a life-changer it can be to fulfil your potential in music. We’re a leading national music charity offering music-making opportunities to young people in challenging circumstances. For example, they might be living with mental health issues, facing poverty or experiencing life as a young refugee. Since 1999, the projects we support throughout the UK have offered regular workshops in instrument learning, music production, singing, song-writing and performance, across all musical genres.
Every year we take over 75,000 young people on a journey that helps them build their confidence and self-esteem alongside their musical know-how. The goal isn’t necessarily to support their entry into the music business, though for many that becomes their aim. Through music, we help them to overcome the significant challenges they face in their lives. Take Darren, a young man who took part in one of our music projects run by Skimstone Arts in Newcastle. We’ve seen how live music making has changed his life from despair and homelessness to independent living with hope for the future.
In Darren’s words: “I was in a really bad situation, really low. I was living in hostels and it was miserable but I had no choice. I never saw my family and only had two friends. People would kick my door and punch me when I was walking to the toilet or kitchen. I just used to stay in my room all day. No one even said ‘hello’.”
That all began to change when a friend suggested he go along to Skimstone Arts. Two years on from joining the project, Darren now has a job and recently moved into a flat. He saved up to buy a bass guitar and plans for his new band to go on tour locally and make a name for themselves.
“If it wasn’t for the project, I’d still be depressed, on my own, on Jobseekers’ Allowance and going to the Job Centre. I couldn’t believe that my life could change for the better like this: I feel like a different person”
Darren adds: “If it wasn’t for the project, I’d still be depressed, on my own, on Jobseekers’ [Allowance] and going to the Job Centre. I couldn’t believe that my life could change for the better like this: I feel like a different person.”
Darren is just one the many thousand lives we help transform every year. So how could the live music industry help us to help young people like him? One way would be to offer us your corporate support by, for example, making us your charity partner for a live music festival, major gig or concert tour. Or you could support our Give a Gig fundraising initiative.
In 2016, we’re building on the grass-roots success of Give a Gig, which has seen gigs put on across the UK in every possible venue from back gardens to Bush Hall in West London, and from Arundel Cathedral to the Rock Bar in Leeds. Give a Gig doesn’t necessarily mean just putting on a special gig, although we’d really like that. You can also support the initiative by providing a venue for free, offering your services to help promote or run the gig on the night or donating just some of the proceeds to Youth Music.
So join us in our mission to help disadvantaged young people like Darren, through music. Visit www.giveagig.org.uk or find out more about Youth Music at www.youthmusic.org.uk.