How can we #MakeMusicWork?

About the Freelance Performers Support Scheme

The ISM has announced a partnership with the Musicians Movement to campaign to #MakeMusicWork and help musicians to start earning again through live performances. We are proposing a new Freelance Performers Support Scheme to make it financially viable for the reopening of music venues within social distancing safety requirements across the UK.

To summarise, this new scheme combines:

  • A box-office 'top-up' for venues to cover the shortfall in ticket sales due to reduced, socially-distanced audiences.
  • A guaranteed subsidy for each performer to help venues secure a fair deal for artists in line with industry rates and protect against last-minute cancellations.
  • A cultural exemption on VAT for all tickets in both the commercial and non-commercial sector.

We are keen to work with others in the sector to develop this proposal further and build support for it. Our aim is to create a flexible model balancing conflicting needs within the sector and so we would welcome further discussion as we continue to develop how it would work in practice.

Grants for venues

The grant, distributed by Arts Councils, is based on a venue's full capacity and designed to cover the loss of income due to the reduced ticket sales required by social distancing guidelines. As a safeguard, venues and promoters will need to be pre-approved and meet eligibility criteria, including demonstrating their activity before coronavirus. This grant would be in addition to the income generated from ticket sales on reduced, socially distanced performances.

Because this proposal is based on a venue’s fixed total capacity, it has three key advantages:

  1. It is simpler to calculate than relying on available capacity, because that rises and falls as government guidance changes.
  2. It requires less administration and provides income for start-up costs, unlike a model based on ticket sales.
  3. There is no regional disparity and bias between types of performance.

Guaranteed fee for performers

With a guaranteed fee for each performer, this proposal puts freelancers at the heart of a sustainable funding model for venues. It is a scheme to get more money from the government into the pockets of musicians, without reducing their income or undercutting industry rates.

A cultural exemption on VAT

In addition, a cultural exemption on VAT for all tickets in both the commercial and non-commercial sector would maximise the impact of the grants and build on the success of the previous reduction in VAT – from 20% to 5% until January 12 2021. This would not just benefit to musicians but would also contribute to the well-being of communities that they work in.

Rebuild confidence

The proposal would rebuild audience confidence for attending live events and keep the industry ready for a full return once all safety restrictions are removed at the end of the current crisis. Its success would depend on an accessible and efficient application system as well as the payment of grants even if government guidance changes at short-notice at either a national or local level. We anticipate that the Arts Councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland together with Creative Scotland will be best-placed to manage the grant-making. Naturally, the scheme would need to be updated regularly in response to the ever-changing situation and would be funded by new government spending.

For more information, please contact [email protected]

Improving the Self Employment Income Support Scheme

Freelancers form the bulk of our internationally acclaimed and vibrant music sector. But, whilst most venues remain closed, the opportunities for musicians to earn an income remain extremely limited which has had devastating consequences. Thousands of musicians and the associated workforce have been unable to work since March 2020 and recent ONS figures found that the arts, entertainment & recreation is the sector worst affected by coronavirus.

The ISM and the Musicians Movement are calling on the government to deliver on its pledge to ensure parity between employees and the self-employed by maintaining the existing level of support provided by the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and expanding the eligibility. Specifically, the criteria should meet the particular needs of creative freelancers, and those musicians whose income is derived from a mixture of employed and self-employed work.

Many musicians have already fallen through the gaps in the SEISS and will continue to be excluded under the new measures announced in the Chancellor’s 'Winter Economy Plan'. In addition, reducing the level of support down from 70% to just 20% of average monthly trading profits will not provide an adequate safety net for our members when they are unable to generate any income at all.

This should be seen as a bridging scheme until the music sector can go back to work and start contributing fully to the economic and cultural health of the country once again. The UK music industry makes a huge contribution of over £5bn annually to our economy and plays a crucial role in the UK’s worldwide influence. It is therefore an investment worth making because, without support for the lifeblood of the performing arts, we are looking at an exodus of highly skilled talent.

More information

The ISM announced its new #MakeMusicWork campaign partnership with the Musicians Movement.

The campaign began with a joint letter to the Chancellor.

Read our response to the Chancellor's 'Winter Economy Plan'.

More information about the Musicians Movement can be found on their website.

For more information, please contact [email protected]