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Creative organisations warn Treasury of devastation of the performing arts and exodus of talent without targeted support for freelancers

An open letter coordinated by the ISM and Equity and signed by over 120 organisations and industry bodies from across the creative industry was sent to the Chancellor (19 August) calling on the government to extend financial support for freelancers working in the performing arts and entertainment industries until the spring of 2021.

Creative industry bodies have warned that cultural venues cannot afford to reopen on the basis of social distancing and stated that without a financial intervention targeted at the freelance community, the government risks the devastation of the performing arts and an exodus of highly skilled talent.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said:

‘Many of the ISM’s members are in despair. From full time gigging musicians to top flight opera singers, they have had no work since March and are without any prospect of work.

‘The reality of socially distanced performances means that most venues simply cannot afford to reopen leaving the vast majority of musicians without work. Musicians are in desperate financial difficulty. Some are leaving the profession while others are working as delivery drivers to make ends meet. This is not the way to look after our talented musician workforce.

‘We call on the government to put in place a tailored financial support scheme for the self-employed creative workforce, who are the lifeblood of the performing arts until venues can properly reopen. If the government does not support actors, musicians and technicians until they can work again in those venues, then we are looking at the devastation of the performing arts and an exodus of highly skilled talent.

Paul Fleming, Equity's general secretary-elect said:

‘Equity’s members are heading toward a cliff edge with a parachute full of holes. The SEISS excluded some of the lowest paid and most under-represented self-employed artists from the beginning, and now it’s going to be ripped away from even those who were covered. Taxpayers are seeing their money used to shutter buildings instead of supporting artists they love and funding safe reopening. Unless the government introduces meaningful income support for our members until reopening and beyond, we’ll barely have a workforce left.’

See the open letter and full list of signatories in support of the letter to the Chancellor below

The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
11 Downing St
London, SW1A 2AB

19 August 2020

Dear Chancellor

We are writing as representative organisations from across the creative industries in response to the recent announcement that socially distanced live indoor performances can now take place from 15 August.

We welcome this news, which is a step in the right direction as part of the government’s five-stage roadmap for reopening. However, we are requesting that you extend government support for freelancers working in the performing arts and entertainment industries from the end of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until the spring of 2021 to provide vital support for the many thousands of creative professionals who still cannot work because of COVID-19. Without this, our sector risks an exodus of talent and a sudden decline.

Actors, musicians, dancers, singers, stage management, variety acts, creative team members and other freelancers have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Many of them have lost all their scheduled work from March 2020 on into 2021, leaving them in severe financial hardship. The SEISS has helped some creative professionals get through these challenging times but it is due to come to an end very shortly, which presents serious problems for the health of our sector.

The recently announced £1.57 billion arts support package is extremely welcome and will undoubtedly help many venues and performing arts organisations, but there is no indication yet as to what will be available to the freelance workforce. Freelancers make up approximately one third of the creative industries workforce, and in the case of musicians, performers and the creative team, the majority.

Socially distanced indoor live performances can now take place. However, the difficulties venues will face in covering costs with reduced income from tickets, audience uncertainty, and the time it takes for venues to schedule and prepare, means that over the coming months the number of live performances taking place will be some way short of what it was pre-COVID-19.

With a return to full live indoor performances unlikely to happen in the near future, the earnings potential for creatives across the sector will be severely curtailed for at least the rest of this year.

So far, the SEISS has provided some financial support for freelancers in our sector– but many have been inadequately covered. New graduates, international artists, parents and carers, and working class artists have disproportionately missed out on any support. However, even those who are eligible for the second payment will only be covered by the scheme until August. From September onwards, every single freelance creative will be without government financial support and unlikely to be able to return to their work in full. This will be devastating for them, and for the industry.

For example, the majority of musicians earn less than £20,000 per year–well below UK average earnings–and the same is true of actors, variety artists, stage management, creative team members, singers and dancers. Without further targeted government support for freelancers, many of our most talented creatives will be forced–because of circumstances beyond their control–to leave their professions. This would be all our loss as well as theirs. Therefore, in the interests of our sector and the country, we ask that the SEISS is extended until the spring of 2021.

We need a new scheme for our sector in its unique circumstance which covers all of its freelance artists, no matter what their career or background. Our organisations have multiple cost-efficient solutions for how such support can be given, and we extend an open invitation to engage with us on closing the gaps and securing our multi-billion pound sector of the economy.

Without support for our freelance workforce in the months to come, the great global success story which is our industry is in unprecedented peril.

Yours sincerely

    List of Signatories

    To add your organisation's name please e-mail our Senior Communications & Policy Officer, Bruce Rothberg on [email protected]

    Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians
    Christine Payne, General Secretary, Equity
    Maureen Beattie, President, Equity
    Paul W Fleming, General Secretary-Elect, Equity
    Alan Watt, Chief Executive, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
    Paul Pacifico, CEO, AIM
    Clarice Goff, Marketing Manager, Allianz Musical Insurance
    Russell Martin, Director, Artquest
    Freya Jewitt, Marketing and Communications Manager, Arts Emergency
    Sue Sandlee, Director of Development, ArtsEd
    Mark Pemberton, Director, Association of British Orchestras
    Paul Pacifico, CEO, Association of Independent Music
    Adam Mezzatesta, Owner, Bands For Hire Ltd
    Susanne Kittlinger, Marketing & Office Manager, British Association of Picture Libraries & Agencies
    Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu, Bectu
    Daniella Gluck, Founder and Managing Director, Black Dress Code Ltd
    Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive, BPI & BRIT Awards
    Dan Hayhurst, Senior Manager: Special Projects, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine
    Claire Cordeaux, Director, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine
    Dominic McGonigal, Chair, C8 Associates
    Kathron Sturrock, Artistic Director, Fibonacci Sequence, Chamber Music Ensemble
    Sandra Booth, Director of Policy, CHEAD Council for Higher Education in Art and Design
    Ian George, Director of Festivals, Cheltenham Festivals
    Michael Smith, Director, Cog Design
    Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive, Creative Industries Federation
    Simon Yeo, Head of Service, Cumbria Music Service/Music Education Hub
    Kathryn Templeman, Chair of The Board of Trustees, Dalcroze UK
    Andy Harrower, Chief Executive, Directors UK
    Jonathan Thorne, CEO, Duet Group
    Peter Futcher, Director of Education, Duet Group
    Philippa Dodds John, Trustee, Edgar Bainton (UK) Society
    James McAulay, CEO, Encore Musicians
    Katy Spicer, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, English Folk Dance & Song Society
    Lorna Aizlewood, Chair, English Folk Dance & Song Society
    Rachel Elliott, Education Director, English Folk Dance and Song Society
    Jan Hassan, Freelance Creative Pattern cutter, Fashion industry
    Fashion Roundtable
    David Martin, GM, Featured Artists Coalition (FAC)
    Laura Hennessy, Freelance Drama Education Practitioner, Freelance
    Jonathan Tunnell, Orchestra Manager - Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra, Glyndebourne
    Lynne Williams, Principal, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
    Naomi Cook, Music Publisher, HarperCollins
    James Ainscough, Chief Executive, Help Musicians
    Geraldine Allen, Partner, Impulse Music Consultants
    David Saint, Chair, Incorporated Association of Organists
    Atholl Swainston-Harrison, Chief Executive, International Artist Managers' Association
    Crispin Hunt, Chair, Ivors Academy
    David Ward, Executive Director, JAMES: Joint Audio Media Education Support
    Peter Broadbent, Music Director, Joyful Company of Singers
    Vicky Prior, Director, League of Culture
    Carole Coombes, Music Publisher, Lindsay Music
    Nina Swann, Executive Director, Live Music Now
    Lee Ward, Director of Music, Liverpool Cathedral
    Chrissy Kinsella, Chief Executive, London Music Fund
    Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director, London Symphony Orchestra
    Tom farrell, Manager, Mansons guitar Shop
    Claire Murphy-Morgan, Artistic Director, Monkfish Productions
    David Kesel, Managing Director, MTB Exams
    Paul Martin, Director, Mundo Music Gear
    Sharon Heal, Director, Museums Association
    Fiona Pendreigh, Chair, Music Education Council
    Dr Elizabeth Stafford, Director, Music Education Solutions
    Paul McManus, CEO, Music Industries Association
    Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, Music Managers Forum
    Christopher Barrett and Phil Meadows, Managing Directors, Musicians’ Movement
    Bridget Whyte, CEO, The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark
    Cameron Craig, Executive Director, Music Producers Guild
    Roberto Neri, Chair, Music Publishers Association
    Simon Toyne, President, Music Teachers' Association
    Fran Hannan, Managing Director, Musical Futures
    Peter Filleul, Producer, Publisher, Production Management, Musician, Musicare
    Horace Trubridge, General Secretary, Musicians' Union
    Dave Lee, Chair, Musicians' Union
    Aine Lark, Chair, National Drama
    John Madden, Artistic Director, National Schools Symphony Orchestra
    Lizzie Melbourne, General Manager, National Student Drama Festival
    Paul Smethurst, Resident Artist, New Adventures
    Douglas Coombes MBE, Composer & Conductor, New English Concert Orchestra
    John Bergin, CEO, Newham Music
    Michelle Stanistreet, General secretary, National Union of Journalists, NUJ
    Sinead O'Carroll, Director, O'Carroll Artist & Project Management
    Andrew Hurst, Chief Executive, One Dance UK
    Andrew Staples, Co-founder, OneVoiceCampaign
    Sarah Hennessy, Chair , Orff Society UK
    Anthi Papadopoulos, Chief Operating Officer, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra
    Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer, PPL
    Chris O'Reilly, Chief Executive , Presto Music
    Andrea C. Martin, Chief Executive Officer, PRS for Music
    John Padley, Director of Music and Freelance Musician, Queen Anne's School, Caversham
    James Murphy, Chief Executive, Royal Philharmonic Society
    Alistair Platt, Director of Business Development, RSL Awards Ltd
    Raphael Wallfisch, International Concert Cellist, Self employed
    David Jones, Director, Serious and EFG London Jazz Festival
    Glynis Murphy, Head of Service, Slough Music Service
    Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive, Society of Authors
    Victoria Johnson-Henckel, Head of Digital and Audience Engagement , Sound and Music
    Philip Flood, Director, Sound Connections
    Jacinda Vincent, Music Teacher, Southbank International School
    Paul Pacifico, Founder, Specific Music
    Sarah Gee, Chief Executive, Spitalfields Music
    John Kenward, Music Publisher, Starshine Music
    Sarah Leonard, Chairman, The Association of English Singers & Speakers
    Stuart Worden, Principal, The BRIT School
    Sharon Mark-Teggart, Director & Co-Founder, The Curious Piano Teachers
    Sir Mark Featherstone-Witty, Founder/CEO, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
    Abbie Royston, Manager, The Musician's Answering Service
    Hugh Lloyd, Clerk, The Musicians' Company
    Eddie Nixon, Artistic Director, The Place
    Paul Hoskins, Director of Music, The Purcell School for Young Musicians
    Professor Ross Brown, Intrerim Co-Principal, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
    Evan Dawson, Chief Executive, The Royal Photographic Sociey
    Marie-Sophie Willis, Chief Executive, The Sixteen
    Paul Reynolds, Chair, The Society for Producers and Composers of Applied Music
    Adel Al-salloum, Director, The Spark Arts for Children
    Stephen, Director, The Unsigned Guide
    Adam Milford, CEO, Theatre Workout Ltd
    David Ward, Managing Director, TiME. Technology in Music Education
    Sir Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor, UAL
    Tom Kiehl, Acting CEO, UK Music
    Julian Bird, Chief Executive, UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre
    Professor Ian Cross, Chair, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge
    Dr. Stewart Thompson, Qualifications Director, Victoria College of Music and Drama, London
    Susan Heaton-Wright, MD, Viva Live Music
    Ellie Peers, General Secretary, Writers' Guild of Great Britain
    Lisa Holdsworth, Chair, Writers' Guild of Great Britain
    Susan Jones, Independent arts researcher
    Paul Crew, Freelance musician

    About the ISM

    The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally-recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession.

    We support over 10,000 music professionals across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds.

    We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

    For more information, please contact [email protected].

    Notes to Editors

    Creative industry letter to the Treasury

    A letter coordinated by the ISM and Equity and signed by over 120 organisations and industry bodies from across the creative sector was sent to the Chancellor warning that without targeted support for freelances, the creative sector risks an exodus of talent and a sudden decline. Creative industry bodies called on the government to extend financial support for freelancers working in the performing arts and entertainment industries until the spring of 2021.

    Read the full text of the letter and list of signatories
    Read the Guardian story

    The return of live performance

    On 17 July the government announced further details of its five-stage roadmap for the return of live performance in England. Partial capacity and socially distanced indoor live performances (Stage 4) were due to reopen from 1 August subject to the success of pilot studies. However, this was subsequently delayed until 15 August.

    On 13 August Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that indoor performances with socially distanced audiences will be permitted from 15 August.

    There is no fixed date for the return of full indoor live performances (Stage 5). Oliver Dowden recently stated that he would not be able to give a date for Stage 5 until November 'at the earliest'.

    Due to the difficulties venues will face covering costs with reduced income from tickets, audience uncertainty, and the time it take for venues to schedule and prepare, the number of live performances taking place will be some way short of what it was pre-COVID-19. Because of this, the earnings potential for performers across the sector will be severely curtailed for the foreseeable future, as even those venues in receipt of government grants and loans will be unable to provide the necessary level of work opportunities for most of the workforce.
    Financial support for freelancers

    The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been a vital lifeline for many in the music sector. Over a two-week period in late May and early June 2020, the ISM surveyed 478 self-employed professionals working in the music sector.

    o 67% of those surveyed were able to access the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), while 33 per cent were not.

    o 59% said their payment was sufficient to cover the costs of living.

    However, there are substantial loopholes in the SEISS, which mean a significant number of self-employed professionals cannot access support during the pandemic. This is particularly important when we consider the prevalence of the self-employed within the music sector workforce. The main reasons for exclusion from the scheme are:

    o The threshold of self-employed income to qualify for the scheme is currently 50%, which excludes many musicians whose career portfolios are a mix of employed and self-employed work. The ISM recommends this threshold be lowered to 25%.

    o The scheme currently does not allow those with profits of over £50,000 to claim. The ISM recommends the removal of this cap, which does not apply to those claiming through the CJRS, in relation to salaries.

    o Individuals who operate under a Limited Company and take dividends as a source of income are also ineligible to claim through the scheme. It is important to remember that such people make up a significant number of the self-employed and do not necessarily generate high incomes.

    In response to calls to extend the SEISS scheme the government announced that a second grant will be available to cover a further three months' worth of profits. The amount of money available is reducing to 70% of average monthly trading profits, up to a maximum of £6,570. Whilst the first grant covered March to May 2020, the second grant is not time specific: grants are for a nominal three month period with the only condition being that to claim you will need to confirm that your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020. You can read ISM's guidance on the second grant.

    On Monday 6 July the government announced a £1.57 billion financial support package for the arts. On 28 July the government announced that Arts Council England will oversee £500 million of the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund to support arts and cultural sector institutions including theatres, music and comedy venues and museums.

    On 29 August ACE published further detail on the grant application process and stated that “this fund is to enable cultural organisations… to stay afloat, providing them with support over a 6-month period to ensure that by 31 March 2021 they can reopen, either fully or partially, or operating on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis until they are able to reopen at a later date.”

    Additional financial support for cultural organisations is essential to aid the recovery and revitalisation of the music industry ecosystem and was generally welcomed by the creative sector after months of lobbying by organisations and businesses. However, until music venues can reopen and the money can move through the supply chain, those working in the music sector who are predominantly self-employed will not benefit.

    About Equity

    Equity represents over 48,000 members in the performing and creative arts, in television, theatre, circuses, night clubs and many more, including actors, stage managers, comedians, voiceover artists and variety performers.