VIEWS: Music Industry Still Fails Professionals with Disabilities

Phil Collins is without a doubt one of the biggest stars in the history of UK music. After surgery to fix spinal damage that was brought on by years of poor drumming posture, Collins was left with nerve damage in his foot, making it impossible for him to stand for long periods at a time. This was not the first of Collins’ health challenges and it would not be his last either. Visibly frail and clearly living with far-reaching disabilities, Collins was seen performing sitting down during the Genesis reunion tour last year. As one of the biggest names in the industry, he was fortunate that every effort was made by concert organizers to ensure his comfort and safety. Countless other musicians living with disabilities are not as fortunate.

A Tough Industry Became More Brutal

The already-brutal music industry became even more relentless during the past two years when more than 33% of industry workers found themselves unemployed in 2020.  While this is undoubtedly an unfortunate situation for any professional musician, it is even direr for those living with a disability.  Not only do live music venues across the country continue to fail musicians with disabilities, but many industry professionals also choose to keep their disabilities a secret out of fear of how it would impact their careers. In a recent study, 88% of participants revealed that they hardly ever or never disclose their disability despite it putting their health and safety at risk.

A Severe Lack of Accessible Facilities

According to a survey conducted by Attitude is Everything (AiE), many musicians with sight and mobility concerns have found that venues often fail to provide an acceptable level of accessibility.  It has also been determined that the failure to make venues accessible stems mostly from a lack of understanding on the part of the venue owners and operators. In order to understand the challenges faced by a musician living with a disability such as cerebral palsy, for example, it is important to ask very specific questions such as what is cerebral palsy and how does it impact the life of someone living with it?  While every disability is unique in one way or another, the general challenges faced by musicians are very similar.

Change is Needed

In order to make the industry more accessible overall Michael Dugher, the CEO of esteemed industry body UK Music, called on live music venues to break down barriers to the best of their ability. While some disabilities, such as those Phil Collins is living with, are visible, others are not. For this reason, it is of vital importance that every effort is made to create environments within the industry that are increasingly inclusive. AiE will continue to actively address accessibility-related concerns within the industry in an attempt to make it easier for musical professionals with disabilities to perform and record.

Many UK musicians are living with one or more disabilities that have a direct impact on their lives. It is vital that venues and other operators within the industry make improved accessibility and inclusivity a top priority.