The Social Value of Music: Nordoff Robbins policy position

At Nordoff Robbins, we know the social value of music and music therapy, in the difference we see music making to the vulnerable people we work with, and in music’s ability to reach the most isolated people in our society.

The social value of music: Nordoff Robbins policy position

At Nordoff Robbins, we know the social value of music and music therapy, in the difference we see music making to the vulnerable people we work with, and in music’s ability to reach the most isolated people in our society.

For many people who face health problems or social exclusion, music is a crucial means of self-expression, experiencing their abilities and making a positive contribution to society. That’s why, as the UK’s leading music therapy charity, we make the case for access to music for everyone everywhere, starting with high quality music education and continuing with lifelong access to music-making opportunities. It’s an essential means of staying well, of promoting social bonds and strengthening communities.

Music therapy is well-established as a paramedical intervention, and a growing body of evidence supports its effectiveness in achieving individual health outcomes in areas such as neuro-rehabilitation, dementia care, and autism. It has been shown to facilitate physical and emotional wellbeing, and to improve cognitive functioning, motor skills, communication and emotional development. Furthermore, music therapy has been found to reduce agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia, and the arts therapies are proven to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while increasing resilience and wellbeing.1

But for most of the people we work with, its benefits are also fundamentally social. Skilfully crafted musical opportunities enable people who may find social interaction very challenging to flourish alongside others in ways that words do not permit. This is as true for someone with advanced dementia as it is for a child who has not yet developed language, or for a teenager who finds it difficult to convey their frustrations. Importantly, this is not about “giving” them therapy – it is about allowing their voices to be heard and affirming their contribution to society.

Music therapy is one way of making use of music’s social power: along with others in music, we will continue to argue for the valuing of music for its social impact – on individuals, communities and society at large. We urge policy-makers to look at the value of music in terms that are broader than simply economics – and we are actively working to develop the evidence base for the social value of music and music therapy, and how they positively contribute to our health and wellbeing, support education, and enrich our lives. We also campaign for access to suitable music-making opportunities to be understood as a right for people who stand to benefit most from them.

Nordoff Robbins are holding a conference on the Social Value of Music in December 2019, bringing policymakers, researchers and music practitioners together to join-up thinking, interrogate, discuss and develop the evidence base for the social value of music and make the case for why music is crucial to our health and wellbeing, within our schools and to our lives. As the leading voice for music therapy, we anticipate that this conference will act as a launchpad for future collaboration and new research into the social value of music.


1 The All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017. Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing report.

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