In the 2010s, a number of music industry and academic reports (DHA Communications 2012; UK Music 2018; Webster et al. 2018) offered a range of insightful perspectives on the types of work UK musicians undertake and their conditions of employment. Likewise, research from outside the UK (Bataille & de Brabandère 2019; Mulligan & Joplin 2019; Thomson 2013) has also contributed to the ongoing debate on how society values musicians. In summary, their findings broadly support Baumol and Bowen’s (1968) longstanding assertion that musicians predominantly perform at their own cost. Until recently, that cost was primarily measured in financial terms, however, the recognition of the precarity of working as a musician has prompted a recent focus on musicians’ mental health (Gross & Musgrave 2016). The research presented in this paper navigates a midway point between musicians’ practical and psychological activities by exploring music makers’ decision-making. First, the research presents a conceptual model that proposes a method of categorising the common types of decisions all musicians make. It then applies the decision taxonomy outlined in the model to the survey responses of 500 UK music makers. The resulting analysis demonstrates how the types of decisions musicians place the most emphasis on changes as they transition through their different career stages. In essence, the findings illustrate that career progression alters the way musicians think while the discussion explores how a better understanding of musicians’ decisions can inform approaches to enabling their ongoing professional development. The paper concludes that even though we now have a good understanding of how what musicians do affects their professional and personal well-being, developing a better appreciation of how they make decisions could enable musicians to make more informed creative and career choices.   


Bataille, P. & de Brabandère, L. (2019) Musical work and its tempi: some thoughts from the Belgian case [Online], Working in Music. Available from: (Accessed: 10th February 2020).
Baumol, W.J. & Bowen, W.G. (1968) Performing arts – the economic dilemma: A study of problems common to theater, opera, music and dance, Cambridge (MA): M.I.T. Press.
DHA Communications (2012) The working musician report, London: The MU.
Gross, S.A. & Musgrave, G. (2016) Can music make you sick? Music and depression: a study into the incidence of musicians’ mental health, Report Number Part 1: Pilot Survey Report, Help Musicians UK, MusicTank
Mulligan, M. & Joplin, K. (2019) Independent artists: the age of enpowerment,
Thomson, K. (2013) ‘Roles, revenue, and responsibilities: the changing nature of being a working musician’, Work and Occupations, vol. 40, no. 4,pp. 514-525.
UK Music (2018) Measuring music 2018 report, London: UK Music.
Webster, E., Brennan, M., Behr, A., Cloonan, M. & Ansell, J. (2018) Valuing live music:The UK live music census 2017 report, Live Music Census Website. Available from: (Accessed: 10th February 2020).

Biography Mathew Flynn is a lecturer in Music Industry Studies at the University of Liverpool. Before moving into higher education, Mat was a self-employed practitioner in the music industries, owning rehearsal rooms and an independent record label. His doctoral research modelled the everyday decision-making processes of 500 music makers performing in a variety of roles and at different professional levels across the UK music industries. He has previously published on DIY musicians and entrepreneurship, the types of listening attention paid to music and the impact of music streaming on musicians and audiences. In 2017, Mat coordinated the Liverpool section of the UK Live Music Census project and from 2018 has been a member of the Liverpool City Region Music Board.

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