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Attitude is Everything tackles barriers to disabled musicians

The charity recently conducted an online survey as part of the Next Stage initiative, aiming to make the music industry more accessible for artists with access requirements. The results reveal obstacles in many areas

Attitude is Everything conducted a nationwide online survey, the results of which were recently released and uncover the hidden barriers facing Deaf and disabled artists and musicians.

In response to the results, the charity is calling on the music industry to commit to true diversity, access and representation for all artists.

Next Stage is an Arts Council England funded initiative to champion disabled talent and make the music industry more accessible for artists with access requirements. The survey found that these artists face obstacles in all areas, from rehearsing, recording and performing, to applying for funding and attending industry events. 

96 artists, from songwriters to DJs, from around the UK shared the multiple barriers they face in developing a career in music:

  • Half have encountered access barriers when seeking to rehearse.
  • Of the 56 artists who have used recording studios, almost half had encountered barriers.

Of the 79 artists who have played live:

  • Half encounter access barriers at most gigs.
  • 2 in 3 have had to compromise their health or wellbeing to perform.
  • 1 in 5 have had to cancel a show due to bad access.
  • 70 per cent have withheld details about a condition or impairment due to concerns it would damage a professional relationship.

According to Attitude is Everything, the results show that disability is not a binary. Most survey respondents had multiple impairments, and not all identified as a Deaf or disabled person. Over 15 different impairments were represented, with mental health conditions (43 per cent) and chronic physical health conditions (41 per cent) being most common.

Despite initiatives to tackle diversity and mental health in music, discussion around artists with access requirements has been limited. 

Next Stage aims to change that by tackling five key areas of the industry:

Next Stage Artists

Creating opportunities for artists to connect with each other, and platforms to influence the industry and push their music forward. Sign up to their artist mailing list here.

Next Stage Funders

Forming a new steering group in partnership with Next Stage artists and funders Arts Council England, PRS Foundation, Jerwood Arts and Help Musicians UK to investigate and overcome barriers.

Next Stage Spaces

Collaborating with Pirate Studios to demonstrate best practice in rehearsal and recording spaces, and working with partners to ensure industry events are truly open to all.

Next Stage Venues and Festivals

Working with venues and festivals to improve access for artists and connecting with bookers to promote Next Stage Artists.

Next Stage Promoters

Building upon Attitude is Everything’s DIY Access Guide, new guidance and training to support promoters at every level to make their shows as inclusive as possible.

The charity’s CEO, Suzanne Bull MBE said:“These findings will make uncomfortable reading for many in the UK music industry, but our respondents clearly raise some fundamental issues that need to be addressed. Disability cannot be treated as a taboo.”

Blaine Harrison, Mystery Jets said: “Making a living from music is tough enough. But for musicians with access requirements, it can be even tougher. In 2019, it is absolutely heartbreaking that so many artists are still encountering barriers and obstacles between them and their audience.”

Ruth Patterson, Holy Moly and the Crackers said:“It is normal for venues to expect me, the lead singer of my band, to be heaved around by my band members because of a lack of access. I can’t think of any other another industry where this is common place and the music industry has to step up and make serious changes. I look forward to a time where seeing someone like me on stage isn’t “inspirational” or “admirable”, but just the same as seeing a disabled person in any other form of work, and that is what our future generation of artists need to see and aspire to.”