Easing the lockdown: What new measures mean for musicians

As lockdown continues to ease across the UK, we provide regularly updated guidance on the restrictions in place in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and their effect on musicians and the music sector.


On 23 June, the government announced significant changes to lockdown measures in England, to take effect from 4 July. The changes may be reversed by government in response to increased risk. Measures announced include the following:

Social distancing

The two-metre social distancing rule will be changed to a ‘one metre plus’ policy. This means people are encouraged to maintain two metres apart ‘wherever feasible and mitigating the risks at one metre where not’, by taking precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

It is important to emphasise that the guidance is still that two metres should be observed. It is not strictly accurate to say that the social distancing rules has reduced to one metre apart. It is worth noting what the Prime Minister said in his speech:

'Where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should.

But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’, meaning they should remain one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.

We are today publishing guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.'

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, is quoted as saying at the press conference announcing the measures on 23 June that ‘the advice on two metres remains’ and that one-metre plus is for when two metres is not possible.

Business are asked to help by changing office layouts to avoid face-to-face seating by, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand sanitiser and changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.

What business can reopen?

Most business in England can reopen, including:

  • Places of worship will be able to open for prayers and services, including weddings with a maximum 30 people and subject to social distancing.
  • Hospitality – restaurants and pubs in England are allowed to reopen from 4 July, providing they follow safety guidelines. All hospitality indoors will be limited to table service, and contact between staff and customers limited. Customers will also have to give contact details when they enter a pub or restaurant.
  • Leisure facilities including cinemas, museums and galleries, outdoor gyms and playgrounds, theme parks and community centres can reopen if they can do so safely.
  • Wrap-around care for school age children and formal childcare will restart over the summer.
  • Primary and secondary education will recommence in September with full attendance, and children who can already go to school should do so.
  • Public services such as courts and police stations are anticipated to resume face-to-face proceedings.
  • What about music and live performance?

    On 25 June, the government announced a five-step roadmap to get music, theatre, and other live performance venues back to full operation.

    The five steps are:

    Stage one
    : Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)

    Stage two
    : Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)

    Stage three
    : Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience

    Stage four
    : Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)

    Stage five
    : Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

    Whilst it is welcome news that the government has published a plan to get music and the performing arts back on their feet, we are calling for clarity on the timing of the phases, so that venues and performers can start preparing in the safest way possible. We will add to this advice with further information when it is provided.

    Can I play at a wedding?

    On 29 June, the government released further guidance on small marriages and civil partnerships in England from 4 July.

  • Group singing should not take place in groups due to 'possible additional risk of infection in environments where individuals are singing or chanting as a group, and this applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.'
  • Solo singing or chanting is permitted only if it is required for the marriage ceremony. Use of plexi-glass should be considered to protect guests.
  • Wind instruments must not be played. The guidance states that playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided due to possible increase in infection risk.
  • Use of other instruments: The advice says that 'organs can be played for a ceremony, as well as general maintenance, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.' It implies other non - woodwind instruments are also allowed.
  • Receptions should not take place take place. ​'Small celebrations' after a marriage or civil partnership should only take place if following current social distancing guidance, ie in groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors.
  • The full guidance on small marriages and civil partnerships can be read on the government's website. It states that research into transmission risk of various activities will be made available at later date.

    ISM members needing advice on any contractual matters relating to wedding engagements should contact our legal team at [email protected].

    What about musicians who work from home or who visit other people’s homes?

    We recommend that members involved in private teaching who have moved their teaching practice online continue to operate in this way until further notice.

    We understand that the Department for Education (DfE) is seeking changes to coronavirus regulations which would allow activities in out-of-school settings (including private face-to-face instrumental tuition) to resume from 4 July in England.

    We will update members as soon as possible. In the meantime please see our health and safety and risk assessment guidance.

    Next steps

    The changes in the social distancing rules have implications for a number of environments in which members work where health and safety guidance has already been developed (eg in schools). Read our guidance regarding the reopening of schools.

    We have produced health and safety and risk assessment guidance for members looking to resume private face-to-face teaching.

    We are aware of risks relating to activities such as singing and to specific instruments including brass and woodwind. There is an increasing body of research into these areas although the provisional conclusions from such studies do not yet provide an agreed understanding of risk and appropriate mitigating measures. We will continue to review this area and update members accordingly.

    We will update members as new information emerges.

    ISM members can contact the legal team on [email protected] is to seek clarification on specific circumstances.

    Northern Ireland

    Social distancing was reduced from two metres to one metre in Northern Ireland on 29 June, with some restrictions. The Stormont Executive agreed that people should keep two metres distance where possible, but can come within no less than one metre where appropriate mitigations can be made.


    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on 24 June key indicative dates in Scotland’s phased move out of lockdown. All dates are subject to review and are dependent on continued suppression of coronavirus in Scotland.

    The social distancing minimum of two metres is still in force in Scotland.

    Announcements about communal worship are expected by 9 July and will depend on the prevalence of the virus in Scotland at that time. The earliest date considered for reopening for communal worship is 23 July.

    The Scottish government have indicated that opening theatre and music venues will require further public health advice. Opening might be able to go ahead as part of the third phase of their lockdown easing plan, at some point after the 23 July.


    Social distancing in Wales remains unchanged for adults at present: the two metre rule is still in force, but there are some differences for children in schools.

    We have further advice about what easing lockdown of measures means for those working in schools.

    Updated: 3 July 2020

    As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift, the ISM is working with the sector, Government, and our members to fight for the future of music and get the best deal for music professionals. Find out more about our campaigning, including how you can help.