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67% of young people are making music, just not in a way traditional educators might recognise

By | Published on Friday 1 February 2019

Book stack with headphones

A new research report reckons that music – whether consuming it or making it – is the favourite pastime of young people. In a survey of 1000 people aged seven to seventeen across England, 97% had listened to music in the previous week, while 67% were involved in some kind of music-making activity.

The research was commissioned by music charity Youth Music and undertaken by Ipsos MORI. In terms of participation in music making, this has increased significantly since the charity undertook a similar survey in 2006. The increase has come about because of digital tools and platforms that make it easier for young people to pursue music projects by themselves.

Youth Music, which specifically seeks to work with young people who – for various reasons – don’t have access to formal music education, added that its research shows how “those from lower income backgrounds have quite different patterns of engagement with music than those from higher income backgrounds”.

“Many young people with limited financial means are experiencing a rich musical childhood”, the charity went on. “It just looks different to that of their more affluent peers. It’s more likely to emanate from their home, have a DIY feel to it, and less likely to be taught in a formal way”.

It’s no secret that budget cuts and education policies that place less importance on creative subjects have had a negative impact on music education in schools. This remains a concern, as it means a decent formal music education is increasingly only available to those whose parents can pay for it.

Though Youth Music’s research also shows that music-making – and learning about music-making – can take many forms. Which means that music educators and decision makers in music education need to better understand the bigger picture, so that they can engage with and support young creative talent in the best possible way. And make the best possible use of what budget is available.

The Youth Music report notes how creating music videos, producing beats and bars on a computer, DJing, rapping and even karaoke are not activities that have traditionally been part of a formal music education. But they are all ways in which young people are interacting with the music-making process.

Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, said: “This is a missed opportunity to engage young people and support them in their musical development. If young people don’t have access to professional guidance, they’re less likely to have support to progress to more advanced levels of technical competence, to learn from expert role models, to understand the career paths available to them”.