Analysis November 2022: ‘The gigging system is not set up for fuel to be this expensive’

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With the cost of petrol, heating and food skyrocketing in recent months, the outlook for freelance musicians this winter is less than healthy

Freelance musicians who came through the worst of the pandemic without leaving the industry are now being hit by a cost of living crisis that threatens the viability of their careers. Although work opportunities have returned, musicians face increasing living and travel costs. The same cost of living pressures could also threaten audiences’ appetite for live events, and the ability of parents to afford instrumental lessons for their children.

One of the most noticeable cost increases for freelance musicians has been for petrol and diesel. According to price-tracking figures from motoring organisation the RAC, although the average price of unleaded petrol at UK pumps has fallen back from its July 2022 high of £1.91 a litre, in mid-September 2022 it was still 15 per cent higher than it was in January 2022, and 42 per cent more than it was in January 2021. The average price for diesel in mid-September 2022 was up nearly 30 per cent from a year earlier. ‘The gigging system is not set up for fuel to be this expensive,’ says fiddler Sam Sweeney, an award-winning traditional music artist from Stroud. ‘For a recent gig in Wales, the travel expenses alone for my band were £400 in diesel. So that’s a third of the fee gone, before the agency have taken their commission and I’ve had to pay the four other people I need in order to put a gig on. The industry is stretched beyond measure, and it would take a seismic change for venues to start offering travel expenses.’…

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