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Returning to work: Live performance

As venues reopen, we examine how musicians can return to live performing both safely and confidently. Our country-specific advice pages continue to be updated regularly. Check the pages for the most up-to-date information in your area:

What you'll need to consider:


Many venues insist that you provide evidence that you have Public Liability cover as a condition of hiring the venue, which is particularly relevant to self-releasing artists. All ISM members are protected by our Public Liability Insurance (PLI), with cover up to £10m. PLI provides protection against compensation claims and legal costs if you cause an accidental injury or damage someone else's property during the course of your work.

As well as protecting yourself, it's important to ensure that your instruments and equipment are also covered. ISM members can access discounted instrument and equipment insurance with several major suppliers, allowing you to tailor your cover to suit your exact needs.


Many musicians rely on verbal contracts which can be difficult to enforce. Others may rely on email threads as a form of contract: this is better than nothing, but a properly-worded written contract provides far stronger protection for both parties, and helps everyone to understand their obligations and to know their rights in the event of any dispute.

It is essential that contracts must be clear and avoid using unenforceable terms. To help with this, ISM members can access a template performance contract, drafted by our specialist in-house legal team. Members can also submit contracts to our team for review. Find out more about how to contact our legal team.

In our recent blog Returning to Work: Weddings, ISM Advice & Information Officer, Anna Wynne, goes into greater detail about what to consider when entering into a contract, and how the terms may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions. You can also find out more about negotiating contracts with advice from Victoria Barrett of ISM corporate member VLT LEGAL.


Rehearsals for professional musicians are permitted to take place in all four nations at present, however this is subject to the venue's risk assessment and may require additional PPE and social distancing measures.

ISM members can access a range of discounts on recording studios and rehearsal spaces across the UK. This includes ISM corporate member Tutti, the 'airbnb of creative spaces', who have introduced a new discount which offers £10 off any booking.

Looking after your mental health

The COVID-19 lockdowns have been very tough on music professionals, and the easing of restrictions may provoke feelings of anxiety. If you have concerns about the return to live performing, or any other topic that is causing you stress, the ISM offers its members access to a free, 24-hour personal support and advice helpline staffed by qualified counsellors. If further support is needed, you can also arrange six sessions of structured telephone counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

The idea of returning to performing in front of live audiences may feel daunting. If this is the case for you, the ISM Trust's publication Play: A psychological toolkit for optimal music performance might be helpful to you. This comprehensive resource takes an in-depth look at performance anxiety, and offers practical strategies and insights from research from both music and sport.

Staying safe

Returning to performing in venues can be daunting, especially as COVID-19 continues to be spread around the UK. Venues have a legal duty of care to ensure that you are safe, and a moral duty to operate at a level with which you are comfortable.

If you have any particular concerns or safety measures that you would like the venue to consider, you may wish to raise these at the point of contracting. All venues are required to conduct a risk assessment as part of their health and safety protocols. You should ask to see this assessment and suggest any specific requirements that you have. It may be the case that the venue is not willing to provide certain PPE (such as screens), in which case, you may wish to consider investing in these yourself.

You and your band/group members also have a personal responsibility to keep others safe. This involves following government guidance, checking that you don't have COVID-19 symptoms, and testing as needed.

You should think carefully about how you will travel to your performance, and how to minimise the risk between your home or rehearsal space and the venue. This might involve the use of PPE, cleaning and/or maintaining social distancing.

If you are selling merchandise or planning on interacting with the audience, do be aware that their comfort levels may be different to yours. You could consider using a contactless payment system or wearing gloves when handling items, demonstrating your understanding of their needs.

Ultimately, it is up to you as to the level of safety measures you want to put in place, however you should always follow the venue's risk assessment and protocols, and be understanding and conscious of others.

If you are an ISM member and have been asked to work in conditions that you feel are unsafe, please contact our legal team at the first possible opportunity.

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