British orchestras could be at risk because of a funding crisis that has seen musicians' pay fall to "woeful" levels, the Musicians' Union (MU) says.
Most musicians' instruments are worth more than their salaries
The average rank and file orchestral musician has been in the job for 21 years and earns £22,500 a year, a MU survey has found.
That is half the average salary of their professional siblings, it says.
The orchestral occupation could start "dying on its feet in a few years", MU orchestral organiser Bill Kerr warned.
"People who would normally be attracted to join the profession will go and find other things to do because there simply isn't the money in it to be able to have a normal life and support a family," he told BBC News Online.
"It is getting worse. Orchestral salaries have fallen woefully behind."
Some 86% of musicians have to take second jobs to make ends meet, the survey found, with more than half saying they now take more outside work than three years ago.
The £22,500 salary is less than the instruments that many play are worth, with the average instrument valued at £22,900.
Salaries are dependant on an orchestra's funding, Mr Kerr said, adding that they were trying to find "radical" solutions and attracting private benefactors.
"We're trying to get anyone and everyone who's interested in orchestras and classical music to get their collective heads together," he said.
"We're not here just to hit the Arts Council and government over the head and just say endlessly 'more, more, more money'.
"But there's got to be a way of revitalising the finances of the orchestras so that we can offer the musicians better security and better salaries.
"Otherwise the profession will start dying on its feet in a few years."