A new research report shows that music is essential in young people’s lives, significantly improving their wellbeing. 85% of young people said music made them feel happy.

Large numbers also said it made them feel cool (41%) and excited (39%). When asked how they would feel if they had to go without music for even one day, overwhelmingly they said they would be sad.

“When I make music, when I play music, I can be myself… You don’t have to worry about what anybody else thinks, it’s about you, you can make yourself happy, and be how you want to be.”
– Finlay, 15, Manchester.

The Sound of the Next Generation is a new research report published by Youth Music, a national charity investing in music-making projects that help children and young people develop personally and socially as well as musically. The charity works particularly with those who don’t get to make music because of who they are, where they live, or what they’re going through.

Youth Music worked with Ipsos MORI to conduct online surveys with a representative sample of 1,001 young people aged 7 to 17 across England, as well as in-depth interviews with participants involved in Youth Music projects.

This youth-focused research offers ground-breaking insights into the diverse ways young people engage with and value music and music-making, bringing to light the positive and meaningful impact music has for them.

“[Without music] I’d probably be a lot more stressed out, I wouldn’t be a nice person to be around, cause it’s like the way I relieve stress and chill out, when music’s on you know you can just relax.”
Hannah, 19, Bodmin.

The research found that music is young people’s favourite pastime, equal to gaming and ahead of sport, drama, dancing, and arts & crafts. Well aware of how music affects their emotions, young people are drawing on it as a tool to support their wellbeing. They carefully curate the soundtracks to their lives. Just like a musical score for a film, young people are using music to convey and reflect their feelings, to change their emotional state, and to regulate their mood.

Furthermore, the research suggests that the creative process of making music has a deeper and more profound impact than listening to it. Young people interviewed said they see music-making as a vital part of their lives – something which makes them feel worthwhile and helps explore their emotions.

“I was in a terrible place, really depressed. I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I was back then. I used music as a tool to express myself, to talk without having to say anything to anyone.”
– Chi, 21, Oxford.

At a time when young people are more likely than any other generation to feel lonely, those who made music in the last week said they were less likely to say that they ‘often feel lonely’. One of the reasons why music helps combat loneliness is because it’s often undertaken as a group activity, and is a way of making new friends. And making music in groups has wider social value by providing opportunities to communicate and connect with other people, creating a sense of belonging.

Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music said: “Young people are using music as a resource to draw on, a coping mechanism to support their personal wellbeing. They’re doing this creatively, strategically and – often – independently. There’s an opportunity therefore for schools, charities and the music industry to support young people to use music in this way. To re-imagine the purpose of music and music education for social and wellbeing outcomes. And in doing so, make it more inclusive and impactful.”

The research also found:

  • 64% of young people think they are musical, up from 48% in 2006.
  • 97% of young people had listened to music in the last week.
  • Ed Sheeran, Little Mix and Stormzy were named as young people’s favourite acts, yet overall the 1,001 respondents named 633 different artists spanning more than 300 different genres.
  • 67% of young people make music.
  • 30% of young people play an instrument – of which 25% said that they are teaching themselves and 23% have been taught by a friend or family member.
  • 71% of 7-10 year old girls regularly sing.
  • 19% of 16-17 year old young men make music on a computer.


Ipsos MORI surveyed 1,001 children and young people in England aged 7-17 online between 27 February 2018 and 9 March 2018. Quotas were set to ensure a sample representative of location, gender and age, matched to ONS census data (mid-year 2016). Children under the age of 11 completed the survey with their parents.

Youth Music carried out a series of qualitative interviews with young people who have participated in projects funded by the charity, and Ipsos MORI conducted in-depth interviews with experts in a variety of music and youth-related fields.

Supporting materials
The full report and supporting case studies are available on Youth Music website: www.youthmusic.org.uk/SONG

About Youth Music

Youth Music is a national charity investing in music-making projects that help children and young people develop personally and socially as well as musically. We work particularly with those who don’t get to make music because of who they are, where they live, or what they’re going through. Young people take the lead in choosing what and how they want to learn, making music of every style and genre.

Youth Music’s work is funded by the National Lottery via Arts Council England. This enables us to support more than 350 music-making projects each year, reaching 89,000 children and young people aged 0-25. But we know there’s more to do. Right now, we can only invest in about 40% of the projects applying to us for funding. We’re very grateful to People’s Postcode Lottery and the other trusts, foundations, companies and individuals who donate and fundraise to help us provide even more music-making opportunities.

About Ipsos MORI

Ipsos MORI is a market and social research company that is passionately curious about people, markets, brands and society. We deliver information and analysis that makes our complex world easier and faster to navigate and inspires our clients to make smarter decisions. We believe that our work is important. Security, Simplicity, Speed and Substance applies to everything we do. Through specialisation, we offer our clients, such as Youth Music, a unique depth of knowledge and expertise. Learning from different experiences gives us perspective and inspires us to boldly call things into question, to be creative. By nurturing a culture of collaboration and curiosity, we attract the highest calibre of people who have the ability and desire to influence and shape the future.