New research has found that more than two-thirds of young people are active musicians.
The study by music charity Youth Music, in tandem with Ipsos Mori, polled more than 1,000 British children aged seven to 17 about their music habits. Unsurprisingly, 97% of them had listened to music in the previous week – but 67% had also engaged in “some form of music-making activity”. It’s a huge rise from 39% in 2006, when Youth Music conducted their previous survey.
Among those who said they made music, singing was the most popular means, with 44% saying they did so compared with 17% in 2006. Thirty per cent of surveyed children played an instrument – 39% of whom are somewhat self-taught – with the piano proving most popular. Eleven per cent made music on a computer – rising to one in five young men – while fewer than 10% rapped or DJ’d.
Music-making tends to fall off as children get older – 79% of children aged seven to 10 made music versus 53% of those aged 16 and 17.
Income affected the findings: 76% of children entitled to free school meals described themselves as musical, versus 60% of those not entitled. Activities including rapping, DJing, writing music and making music digitally were all markedly higher among children from lower-income backgrounds.
The research comes as enrolment in music qualifications is in decline, with the number of schools offering A-level music falling by 15% in the last two years, and 60% of schools reporting that the introduction of the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) was negatively impacting music eduction.
The report’s authors argue it is vital “to make music an indispensable part of school life”. But they also acknowledge the potential in mobile video apps like TikTok, saying: “While there may not be a lot of music involved, the app encourages young people to be creative, autonomous and hone their performance skills, often in highly humorous ways.”
Writing in the introduction to the report, Youth Music CEO, Matt Griffiths, outlines some of the problems around access to music for young people: “While we might have online access to more music than ever before, we still can’t afford to go to that festival, be a regular gig-goer, rehearse with a band or afford to buy that instrument we’ve always wanted. And if we’re at school, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to access music in the curriculum where its importance is in many cases being downgraded.”
The report’s authors recommend that “public music education funds should be targeted towards those who face greatest barriers to access”, and “those involved in supporting young people’s wellbeing should give greater consideration to the role that music can play, and how young people’s passion for listening to music and their everyday creative lives can be interwoven with wider strategies to support good mental health.”
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