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Revolution in the Music Industry: The Rise of Self-Taught Musicians

New research from Skoove, a top piano learning app, and the research experts at Crafins Studio reveals that a staggering 71% of the top 100 artists on Spotify in the UK are self-taught, challenging traditional paradigms of music education. Only 13% of the Spotify top 100 have a music degree. An additional 3% started a degree, but didn’t finish it, meaning that the remaining 84% don’t have a music degree and didn’t even start one.

This trend points to the growing accessibility of music creation and the democratisation of the music industry, empowering artists without formal training to achieve success. From John Lennon’s lyrical genius to Ellie Goulding’s soulful melodies and Noel Gallagher’s anthems, self-taught musicians are dominating the charts with their innovative sounds and authentic expressions - with no formal education. 

Ed Sheeran is one of the most popular singer-songwriters currently making music. He’s won four Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, and six Billboard Music Awards. He’s also received the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors twice, in both 2015 and 2018. At 14, Sheeran headed to London and started gigging around London and eventually found success. He would crash with friends and couch surf while he was starting his career. He studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music for just 3 weeks (and is listed on their website as one of their alumni) but dropped out to go on tour. 

Today, it’s possible to learn an instrument, produce music and share that music independently without a traditional musical education. From apps and tutorials on YouTube to help you learn to play an instrument, to platforms like TikTok and SoundCloud where artists can share their music. In some ways, the playing field is now more level. 

The success of these artists shows that passion, creativity, and self-determination can break the barriers to entry, irrespective of their access to traditional education. This inspires musicians worldwide to pursue their dreams, regardless of their musical background.

This trend underscores the importance of supporting and encouraging all forms of music education, acknowledging that the path to success is as varied as the artists themselves. We’d love to see an era where the barriers to entry in music are being dismantled, paving the way for a more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant musical landscape.

Florian Plenge, CEO of Skoove, says “You could argue that learning outside of the regimented structure of formal education may allow self-taught individuals to express their creativity more freely as their learning and engagement with their instrument is unconstrained. Without traditional frameworks and support, they have to be resourceful in their learning and stand on their own two feet.”

About the data
The underlying data for the analyses came from multiple sources, including ChartMasters’ list of Top Spotify Artists, Wikidata, and manual research and aggregation. In order to extract insights about musicians who are in bands and groups, Skoove looked at characteristics of the lead composer or band frontperson. 

Credit: Skoove

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