Campaigning updates

Read about what our campaigns team have been up to recently.

If you have any questions, please email Liam Budd our Senior External Affairs and Policy Manager at [email protected]

Friday 29 May

In the last week the ISM has been busy campaign on behalf of our members and the music sector in response to challenges presented by COVID-19.

Re-opening of school

The re-opening of schools in England is scheduled to start from next week (1 June), with the phased introduction of year 1 and year 6 pupils. However, many schools across the country have said they cannot ensure safety and will not be opening.

While we consider the wider opening of schools to be desirable, it must only happen when it is safe to do so. We set out our view in our guidance of 15 May, and we have restated some key points here. As mentioned in our last update, we are liaising with Government and MPs highlighting increased importance of effective health and safety measures when teaching music.


Self-employed workers are currently facing a cliff-edge drop in income at the end of the month when the Self-employment Income Support Scheme ends. The ISM is campaigning for the SEISS to be extended, like the furlough scheme which was extended to October.
The ISM is one of the 700 signatories of the open letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for further Government support for the self-employed in the cultural sector.

This week we launched a survey to help us better understand how self-employed people working in the music sector have financially coped since the outbreak began. The results from this survey will help the ISM better understand the situation of self-employed people and work more effectively on your behalf. We are encouraging our members to take this survey.

Support for creative industries

The ISM's Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, took part in a cultural advice session with Queen Mary University of London via Zoom. Deborah discussed the need for an urgent sector-specific financial package for the creative sector to survive COVID-19 – similar to the €50 billion programme in Germany.
We have produced a detailed briefing on the impact of coronavirus on the music sector, which can be found online.

Thursday 21 May

COVID-19 update

The ISM has been working tirelessly over the last month to ensure no musicians are left behind during the COVID-19 crisis.

On 10 May Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on coronavirus where he actively encouraged people to go back to work as he unveiled a three-step 'road map to recovery' from the lockdown. However, the reality is that until concerts, gigs and festivals can return to normal, which is highly unlikely to happen in the next few months, the majority of the music profession cannot return to work.

On 7 May we wrote a letter to the Chancellor calling for an extension of the financial support schemes until social distancing measures are no longer enforced. We are delighted that the Chancellor has listened to the ISM’s concerns and announced on 12 May to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond July to October. This scheme will become more flexible from the start of August, allowing employees to bring furloughed employees back part-time.

The claims service for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is now open and eligible individuals should have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May, or within six working days of completing a claim. The ISM’s priority will be to call for a similar extension to the self-employment scheme whilst also asking for key measures to be revised to prevent many musicians from falling through the cracks. The government has also announced that schools and education settings will be opening from 1 June. Whilst classroom teachers will be expected to return to work in the coming weeks, there will be addition challenges for music educators who operate in closer proximity with their pupils.

We are currently liaising with Government and MPs highlighting increased importance of effective health and safety measures when teaching music. We also highlighted the challenges for music professionals in educational settings, such as visiting music teachers and music examiners in higher education, who are eligible for furlough payments but are not receiving financial support.

Take action: COVID-19

Write to your local MP

Writing to your local MP is a great way for them to hear about your concerns and take steps to support you. We have published a template letter online about extending the measures put in place for the self-employed, which you can use.

It is important to remember that MPs receive hundred of emails every day and will be under a significantly increased workload because of COVID-19. They aim to reply to their constituents within 2 weeks and will be prioritising COVID-related casework, so you should get a response within this timeframe. If you are waiting for more than 2 weeks, you can follow up by ringing up their offices and speaking directly with the MP’s caseworker. The office numbers can be found online. Another effective tool for getting the attention of your local MP is to Tweet them directly on social media and doing so in a respectful manner.

Attend an advice surgery

Most MPs hold surgeries in their constituency to give people an opportunity to meet them and discuss matters of concern. MPs usually hold surgeries once a week and advertise them locally or online. Because of COVID-19, MPs will now be holding telephone advice surgery and some are holding virtual advice surgery. We would strongly encourage you to reach out to your local MP to raise issues relating to COVID-19.

Submit evidence to Parliamentary Committees

There are a number of UK, Scottish and Welsh Parliamentary and Assembly Committees investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, education and culture industry. The ISM will be submitting evidence on behalf of our members. However, we encourage ISM members to submit to relevant inquiries to help influence decision-making:

UK Parliament

Treasury Committee (Inquiry into the economic impact of COVID-19). Deadline: 26 June

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (Inquiry into the lifting the lockdown). Deadline: 31 May

Education Committee (Inquiry into the educational impact of COVID-19). Deadline: 21 July

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors). Deadline: 19 June

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee (Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on culture and tourism sectors). Deadline: N/A.

Welsh Assembly

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee (Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 in Wales on culture, creative industries, heritage, communications and sport). Deadline: N/A.

Brexit update

On 13 May the ISM published its fifth annual report, titled Will Music Survive Brexit?, into the impact of Brexit on the music profession. The research, conducted in February 2020, captured the increasing impact of Brexit developments since the referendum and the damage already caused to the music sector.

We are very concerned that going straight from COVID-19 to the end of the transition period without ensuring enough time to negotiate new trading agreements will be devastating for the music profession and the wider music and creative industries. To avoid irreversible damage, we are calling for the government to recover some of the time lost to COVID-19 by requesting an extension to the transition period.

To allow musicians to tour easily the ISM is also calling for the government to introduce a two-year, multi-entry touring visa and a cultural exemption for the temporary transportation of instruments and equipment. Please sign up to the Save Music campaign and write to your local MP using our template letter.

Immigration update

On 30 April the ISM published a report How Open is the UK for the Music Business?, revealing the need for an urgent overhaul of the current immigration system which regulates musicians from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) visiting the UK to perform. This study highlights the significant threat facing the UK music industry if the current system for non-EEA nationals is applied to EU nationals, as outlined in the Policy Statement from the Home Office (February 2020).

On 18 May the Immigration Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons to repeal EU freedom of movement. This is the first stage of the legislative process for the Bill before it becomes law. If passed, it will allow the government to introduce the points-based immigration system from January 2021. Please read our briefing for more info.

Work in the EU is essential for the musician profession and the ISM is campaigning for this to continue under a future immigration system. We are liaising with Government and parliamentary officials to find constructive policy solutions, which are outlined in our recent report.

Thursday 16 April

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced a package of financial measures to support working people whose livelihoods have been put in peril.

On Friday 20 March, the Chancellor announced the setting up of a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”). Under the CJRS, employers will be able to ask employee(s) to stop working, while keeping them on their pay roll, and the government will pay employers cash grants of 80% of the wages of furloughed workers, up to a cap of £2,500. On Thursday 26 March, the Chancellor announced the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (“SEISS”) to support the self-employed through the coronavirus outbreak. This will pay cash grants worth 80% of total profits, up to £2,500 per month over a three-month period starting from March 2020.

We are deeply appreciative of the government efforts to meet the needs of musicians during this difficult time. However, we have heard from our members that these measures are not clear and many musicians are not receiving adequate financial help.

On 31 March, we wrote to the Chancellor calling for an urgent revision of the self-employed financial package to support freelance musicians with the loss of their earnings as a result of COVID-19. The letter captures the concerns of ISM members and musicians from across the sector who have raised concerns about the package not meeting the needs of the workforce. On 7 April, we wrote a further letter to the Chancellor seeking clarification and further amendments to the financial measures.

On 8 April, the Treasury Select Committee wrote to the Chancellor with their recommendations regarding the measures for the self-employed. We are delighted that the Committee echoed our findings and will continue to engage with the Committee on further recommendations for both the self-employed and the employed financial measures. On 8 April, we also published our flash survey revealing the severe financial impact of COVID-19 on music businesses and organisations.

We are continuing to monitor the situation very closely and engaging with government on behalf of the sector to ensure no musician or business is left without support.

Tuesday 3 March

Since the transition period began on 1 February, several important documents have been published by the Government regarding the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the rest of the world from January 2021.

On 19 February, the Home Office published a Policy Statement on the UK’s new points-based immigration system that is expected to come into force in January 2021 (after free movement ends on 31 December 2020). It’s important because it sets out how the UK Government intends to allow people from both the EU and the rest of the world to work in the UK, which may have an impact on the UK-EU trade negotiations. See our latest blog on immigration for more detail. In the past week, the UK has produced documents on their negotiating strategy with the EU and with the US. The ISM is in regular contact with civil servants and parliamentarians about all the latest developments and continues to represent the needs of musicians post-Brexit.

The ISM’s fifth Brexit survey is entering its final week, closing on 9 March at 5pm. Click on the link to have your say:

Monday 27 January

The Conservative Party's victory in the 2019 General Election and the Prime Minister's success in getting the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons means that the UK will leave the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020. We will then enter a transition period in which the UK and the EU will attempt to negotiate a complex trade agreement and decide upon the nature of the future relationship.

A multitude of areas concerning musicians travelling to the EU27 for work are still unclear; the validity of A1 certificates, the situation concerning the UK's possible divergence from the EU as a CITES regulator, whether carnets will become a prerequisite for soloists, orchestras and bands touring the EU and what sort of visas - if any - musicians will have to obtain prior to travelling within the EU27.

ISM representatives will be persistently lobbying parliamentarians and civil servants during the transition period, making firm representations of the needs of musicians throughout the UK.

Thursday 31 October

Brexit has been postponed once again and the UK will be going to polls for a General Election which will take place on Thursday 12 December 2019. The ISM will be campaigning to ensure that, whichever party is able to form a Government following the election, the effects of Brexit on musicians will be as minimal as possible.

We will be releasing our 'Manifesto from Musicians' in the next couple of days which we will send to all the major political parties. The manifesto has multiple policy asks which will safeguard the rights and livelihoods of musicians working across the country.

Tuesday 15 October

We are preparing for the next meeting of the APPG for Music Education which is being held on Wednesday 16 October on the Parliamentary Estate. Topics to be discussed include the recent Durham Commission report on creativity and education, the effects of a no-deal Brexit on music education and the future of Music Education Hubs.

As the Brexit deadlines draws closer, we continue to campaign for the Government to cover the costs incurred by touring musicians in the event of a no-deal Brexit. A template letter - explaining the difficulties that will be caused by a no-deal Brexit - for you to send to your local MP can be found here.

Monday 1 April

We are calling for our members and Bacc for the Future supporters to write a letter to their local MP outlining both their concerns about the disappearance of a creative education within schools and evidence of the EBacc's impact on uptake of creative subjects. Read the campaign's template letter for you to copy, paste and send, and also details on how to find your local MP on the Bacc for the Future website.

We are also calling for our members and Bacc for the Future supporters to respond to the Ofsted consultation on proposals for changes to the education inspection framework. The campaign has produced a template response that you can use, available on the Bacc for the Future website. The deadline to respond to the consultation is Friday 5 April.

We were also delighted to attend the latest Council for Subject Associations meeting last Friday, where the Ofsted consultation, curriculum fund and Early Careers Framework were discussed. The ISM is one of two subject associations for music, alongside Music Mark.

Monday 25 March

We were delighted to read the report by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee into live music, which was published last Tuesday. The cross-party report supported our Bacc for the Future campaign’s call for the Government to reform the EBacc to incorporate creative subjects, following evidence we provided to the committee last year.

We were delighted that the report also supports our call, made via our Save Music campaign, for an EU-wide touring visa to allow UK musicians to work easily in the EU after Brexit. This is especially important at such a tumultuous time in the Brexit negotiations.

We welcome the report and look forward to continuing to work with MPs on the committee in the coming months to ensure its recommendations are taken up by the Government.

Monday 18 March

Our survey on the impact of Brexit on musicians closed on 15 March, and we are now analysing the responses with a view to publish the result. With an extremely volatile political situation around Brexit, we are concerned that the needs of musicians are being ignored. Our Save Music campaign has a template letter which you can use to write to your MP asking them to protect musicians’ ability to travel easily to the EU for work after the UK leaves.

We were pleased to work with peers participating in the House of Lords debate last week on the impact of creative education on diversity in the creative industries. Concern about the decline of music education was a key part of the debate, with Lord Black of Brentwood raising the impact of the EBacc on music in schools. You can sign up as a supporter of our Bacc for the Future campaign, which campaigns for the reform or abolition of the EBacc to protect creative education.

We also welcomed the Royal Northern College of Music’s launch of RNCM Zero as a positive development and a step in the right direction in eradicating sexual harassment, harassment and bullying from the music profession. Our Dignity in Study report, published last year, revealed one in two students are at risk from bullying and discrimination including sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. We encourage everyone to sign up to the RNCM’s campaign as well as the joint ISM/MU Code of Practice to commit to a safer and more positive working environment.

Monday 11 March

Our annual teachers’ fees survey results, released last week, showed a music teacher workforce under increasing pressure. One of the key findings was that for the third year in a row, rates have not increased in line with the cost of living, rising by just 12p an hour in some cases. Only 42% of self-employed, part time music teachers in schools reported an increase in their rate since September 2017, with an average increase of only £1. Respondents who were self-employed teachers reported reduced hourly rates paid to visiting music staff, with reduced hours in state schools in order to accommodate additional maths and English teaching. Our findings back up recent research detailing problems facing the music education workforce, such as the Music Education APPG’s State of the Nation report, and our report from December on the future of music education.

We were delighted when Dr Ally Daubney was awarded the Excellence in Primary/Early years award at the Music Teacher Awards 2019, for her work on the Primary Music Toolkit published by the ISM Trust and supported by the Schools Music Association. Download the toolkit here.

We continue to monitor Brexit closely as the situation develops, and speak up for musicians in a rapidly changing political environment. Make sure you have your say by taking our survey on the impact of Brexit on musicians, which closes on Friday 15 March.

Monday 4 March

There were yet more major developments in Brexit last week, with the Prime Minister promising to give MPs a vote on extending the date of the UK’s departure as well as her withdrawal agreement and preventing no deal. Until 15 March we are running our survey on the impact of Brexit on musicians, giving working musicians in the UK have the opportunity to make their views heard and inform our response to Brexit- whatever the outcome.

We were also pleased to attend the Classical Music APPG’s meeting last week, where violinist Nicola Benedetti spoke about her new music education charity the Benedetti Foundation. We look forward to working with Nicola as part of our music education campaigning.

Monday 25 February

We were pleased to confirm that our Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, will be giving a keynote speech at the Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music in September. Our Dignity at Work campaign works for a music sector free of discrimination and harassment, and we continue to lobby the Government to improve conditions for musicians both at work and in education. Recent organisations signing up to the campaign include Latitude, Liverpool Sound City, and the Edinburgh International Festival.

Working musicians still lack any clarity over how Brexit will affect their ability to work and travel in the EU. We were very concerned that last week the European Parliament rejected a proposal for UK citizens to enjoy visa-free travel in the Schengen Area after a no deal Brexit. Unless the situation is resolved, this means that even travelling to the Schengen Area in the event of no deal will require a £52 visa, while working there will require musicians potentially jumping through even more costly bureaucratic hoops. With the Government announcing a second ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal will take place by 12 March, we encourage all UK-based musicians to take our survey on the impact of Brexit on musicians. The survey is open until Friday 15 March, and with or without a deal will be vital in informing our response to the UK’s exit from the EU.

Monday 18 February

Last week we launched our new Brexit survey. Although Brexit is scheduled for 29 March, it has already had a major impact on the sector, and we want to hear from musicians about how they have been affected. We strongly encourage any musician to take part, especially if they regularly tour in the rest of the EU. The survey follows from three previous surveys which culminated in our July 2018 report Musicians and Brexit, showing the devastating potential consequences Brexit will have on musicians and the music industry. Our Save Music campaign calls for freedom of movement to be protected for musicians after Brexit, or for the establishment of a two-year multi-entry touring visa for musicians. We also lead the FreeMoveCreate campaign seeking to protect freedom of movement for the whole of the creative industries or for a similar touring visa for creative professionals.

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, made a significant intervention last week in which he called for GCSEs to be scrapped and replaced with a broader set of exams taken at 18, with heavier focus on skills and vocational subjects. We agreed with Halfon that there is an urgent need for an exam system which moves away from drilling children in knowledge of core subjects and instead properly equips them for the challenges of the 21st century and the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. A crucial part of this is greater emphasis on creative subjects and creative skills in our schools.

Monday 11 February

Last week we were delighted to launch our report Music Education: State of the Nation, in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education and the University of Sussex. At an APPG meeting held to launch the report in the House of Commons, APPG co-chair Diana Johnson MP introduced and was followed by our Chief Executive Deborah Annetts, alongside Duncan Mackrill (Senior Teaching Fellow in Education, University of Sussex), Carl Ward (Immediate Past President of the Association of School and College Leaders), and Xhosa Cole (BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018). The report launch was heavily attended by parliamentarians and representatives from across the music and education sectors. There was unanimous cross-party agreement that the issues set out by the report show Government policy around music education has failed.

The report drills down into Government figures to show how music education is in crisis in England. It shows how Government policy around the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and other accountability measures are driving music and other creative subjects out of schools, even as the EBacc is failing on its own terms. The report also looks at the role of Music Education Hubs, primary schools, and the role of Ofsted, and proposes a series of recommendations to the Government and Ofsted to support music education in the future. Please download the report and share it with anyone you know who is worried about the decline of music education in our schools.

Monday 4 February

In yet another momentous week for Brexit, we were relieved that MPs narrowly voted to rule out no deal in principle. However, the vote to effectively renegotiate the withdrawal agreement makes no deal all the more likely. With Brexit just a few weeks away, the sector is on the edge of major disruption which could have a severe impact on many touring musicians’ ability to make a living. There was more bad news in the key vote by MPs to pass the Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. We have criticised this Bill, which ends freedom of movement after Brexit without putting in place a clear alternative which would protect mobility rights for UK musicians working in EU countries after Brexit. We have been engaged in talks with parliamentarians and civil servants from DCMS, BEIS and DExEU in order to educate policy-makers on musicians’ work and the need for a two-year multi-entry touring visa post-Brexit.

Monday 28 January

At the Association of British Orchestras conference in Belfast our chief executive, Deborah Annetts, chaired a panel discussion on the impact of Brexit on orchestras and spoke at a conference reception on the damage a disorderly Brexit could cause to musicians in the UK. At the panel discussion, panellists from across the sector, including Ulster Orchestra chair and former senior civil servant Stephen Peover, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Director of Finance and Operations Ivan Rockey, and International Artist Managers’ Association deputy chair Helen Sykes agreed that Brexit could seriously damage the musical profession in the UK by restricting musicians’ ability to travel to the EU to work. The ISM’s Save Music campaign calls for freedom of movement to be preserved for musicians after Brexit, or alternatively for the introduction of a two-year multi-entry touring visa for musicians.

We also commented on the announcement of a new Centre for Music in London. The new concert hall will be an excellent addition to the cultural life of London. However, we are concerned that while the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) continues to exclude creative subjects, music education will continue to decline and with it the opportunities for future musicians to make use of new developments like these.

Monday 21 January

Last week we launched the new website of our Bacc for the Future campaign. Bacc for the Future, with over 200 organisational supporters and over 30,000 individual supporters, campaigns for arts and creative subjects in schools by campaigning for the reform or abolition of the English Baccalaureate, a headline accountability measure for schools which excludes creative subjects. Take a look at the new website here.

Our Chief Executive Deborah Annetts appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters programme over the weekend, talking about the vital role played by amateur orchestras in our local communities. Listen back here.

We were very sorry to see that Newham Council are considering ending their prominent Every Child a Musician programme, which provides free music tuition and instruments to children in Newham. We responded to the consultation which unfortunately has now closed. We encourage ISM members and supporters to contact Newham cabinet to express their views before it makes its final decision on 5 February.

Monday 14 January 2019

We welcomed the Government’s announcement of £1.33m of additional funding for Music Education Hubs. Even small amounts of additional funding are important in ensuring hubs are able to provide the services young people deserve. Our December 2018 report on the future of music education recommended funding increases for hubs.

Just before Christmas we commented on the Government’s immigration white paper, where the Government laid out its plans for a post-Brexit immigration system. Although some aspects of the white paper were not as damaging as we expected, we believe the overall impact of the end of freedom of movement will be to significantly damage the sector. Find out more about our Save Music campaign to protect freedom of movement for musicians here.

We also commented before Christmas on the Government’s response to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment in the workplace. In particular, we were encouraged by the Government’s proposal to consult on laws in relation to third party discrimination, but we are calling for it to ensure depping musicians as well as volunteers and interns are covered by the Equality Act 2010. Read our comment here.

Monday 17 December 2018

We commented on the EU27’s confirmation that UK citizens will need to pay a 7 Euro fee and fill out a form if the UK leaves the EU under the Government’s proposed deal. Although this is a minor impediment to travel, we are concerned that the end of freedom of movement will lead to far larger barriers to musicians’ mobility being imposed in future. See our full statement here.

Our report on music education, published on Tuesday 4 December, has continued to gain positive coverage. The Times’ Richard Morrison called it “brilliant”, adding: “Every politician, and everyone responsible for devising, implementing and inspecting the curriculum delivered in schools, should read it.” Read the full report here.

Monday 10 December 2018

Last week we launched our report on the future of music education, drawing on evidence provided by members in our surveys over the summer. The report makes a series of recommendations for both music education in the classroom and any revised National Plan for Music Education. You can read the full report here.

The ISM’s concerns around the impact of the Brexit deal on musicians were raised in the House of Lords during the marathon parliamentary debates on the deal. You can read our Save Music campaign’s position statement here.

Monday 3 December 2018

Last week our Chief Executive Deborah Annetts spoke at a Westminster Forum event on the curriculum in English schools. Deborah talked about the need for the Government to review the English Baccalaureate as part of our Bacc for the Future campaign. You can find out more about Bacc for the Future here.

As Parliament debates the Brexit deal this week, you can read our Save Music campaign’s position statement on the deal here.