Performers: Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

We outline some of the key issues in this article, but please note that this for information only and not a substitute for legal advice in relation to individual particular circumstances.


From 17 March 2020 for an initial period of 30 days the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel, this is to take effect immediately.For more information see the government website.

Your right to be paid

If a performance you have been contracted for is cancelled because of issues relating to coronavirus, your right to be paid will depend on a number of issues.

The first step is to check whether there is a 'force majeure' clause in your contract. Force majeure may enable the parties to suspend the contract because exceptional circumstances beyond the control of either party mean the contract cannot be fulfilled. Usually, the obligations on both parties remain, but are suspended until the force majeure event comes to an end. At that point, the contract is ‘re-activated’, unless both parties agree otherwise, or it is not commercially viable to do so, at which point the contract is brought to an end.

If there is no such clause in your contract, it may be possible that the common law doctrine of ‘frustration’ applies. This is similar to force majeure and ISM members should contact our legal team to find out what may apply to their situation.

The ability to trigger force majeure (or pursue frustration of the contract) will depend on your individual circumstances, in particular, what the government has advised in respect of the event type and location. If the government has advised that such events are cancelled then it is likely that all parties would be released from their contractual obligations, either temporarily or permanently.

Before seeking frustration of a contract, each party must make every attempt to fulfil the contract through other means and minimise the effect of the disruption. This could mean rescheduling the performance for a later date or finding an alternative means of fulfilling the contract, if viable.

If a promoter cancels an event contrary to government advice, you may have a claim for breach of contract. Such circumstances would require you to mitigate your loss eg by finding alternative work to replace the cancelled engagement. In these circumstances, you can only claim for the difference between the work lost and the fees obtained from the replacement engagement.

Government advice is updated frequently. We advise you to check government and health websites regularly and to contact us if you have any questions about your own situation.

Financial advice

If you are self-employed,please see our financial advice for self-employed musicians affected by COVID-19. This offers guidance on how to access benefits if you can’t work because you are sick or self-isolating, or if your income has dropped, as well as tax measures to support the self-employed.

If you are employed, please see our financial advice for employed musicians affected by COVID-19. This offers guidance on whether you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, and what to do if your job is under threat or you don't want to go in to work because of coronavirus.

Updated 26 March 2020

We are able to offer more specific advice to ISM members. If you need urgent legal support, please contact us at [email protected].

To help our team with your enquiry, please attach as much supporting evidence as possible to your email.

Members should note that, although we are prioritising cases with concerns relating to the coronavirus crisis, we have a high number of queries to process. Thank you for your patience at this time.