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ISM's COVID-19 manifesto

Our Senior External Affairs & Policy Manager Liam Budd outlines the ISM’s COVID-19 manifesto and discusses the actions we’re taking to lobby government.

Like many of you, we are extremely frustrated that while high street shops, restaurants and pubs are starting to fill up once again, musicians have not been given a clear indication of when they can safely return to work.

For months we have been lobbying the government tirelessly on behalf of our members and all those working in the music sector to ensure that no musicians are left behind during the COVID-19 crisis. Our Chief Executive Deborah Annetts is in regular contact with ministers and civil servants and feeding into discussion around a safe return to work.

We are pleased that the government committed to £1.57 billion support for the arts, which will help many venues and businesses stay afloat in these troubled times. We also welcome the newly published guidance for the performing arts, which allows some performances to resume in limited outdoor settings and provides information on how the music profession can train, rehearse, perform and manage audiences safely.

However, there is still no date for when live music venues can fully reopen and the vast majority of musicians are still not able to work. Without additional and direct support for freelancers, we risk a flood of talent leaving the industry.

COVID-19 manifesto


Today we launch the ISM’s COVID-19 manifesto, which outlines our key asks for Government. Many of these asks have been central to our campaigning work for the last few months, and if delivered they would have a significant impact on many of those working in the music sector.

We are calling for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to be extended to the end of the year alongside a clear and conditional timeline for reopening venues. The gaps in the Treasury support schemes must also be addressed as a matter of urgency. In addition, it is vital that musicians can continue to tour across Europe with ease after the transition period and as we begin the economic recovery from COVID-19.

ISM’s COVID-19 manifesto includes:

  • Extending the SEISS until the end of the year, so the freelancers in the music sector can continue to get the support they need, while uncertainty remains
  • Expanding coverage of the SEISS to ensure musicians do not fall through the cracks
  • Extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in full for the creative sector, including the 10 June deadline for employers to furlough their employees
  • Rates relief for music venues, use of tax breaks and a VAT holiday for the next 12 months on ticket sales, and the introduction of a new creative sector tax reliefs for music
  • A clear timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
  • Full consultation across the performing arts sector on any government commissioned research into managing risks arising from COVID-19 in the performing arts
  • Ensuring music education is at the heart of the return to schools’ agenda guaranteeing a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools regardless of their status
  • A package of support measures for musicians post Brexit, including a two year EU-wide multi entry visa, cultural exemption for the temporary transportation of instruments and equipment, and expansion of CITES-designated points of entry and exit

Lobbying work

Our lobbying work is shaped by our pioneering policy research, extensive survey work, and through the hundreds of individual cases handled by our widely respected legal and services teams.

Following the publication of our annual Brexit report, we have increased our engagement with civil servants and Ministers to safeguard the music profession in the post-Brexit world.

As a politically independent representative body, we engage extensively with MPs across all political parties and submit evidence to various parliamentary inquiries. Most recently our Chief Executive gave evidence in front of the House of Lords Digital and Communications Committee.

Taking action


For more information about ISM’s campaigning work please visit our website.Template letters for contacting your local MP are provided online alongside our recent webinar on how to take action