The Incorporated Society of Musicians responds to the results of the recently published PERFORM trial

Responding to the results of the PERFORM trial published today, the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, said:

‘While we welcome this research, there remains cause for concern that musicians will not be able to fully return to work until performance venues can safely reopen without social distancing. The Government must produce clear, evidence-based guidelines to address the challenges highlighted by this study around the volume of vocalisations, the number of participants and the duration of the activity. This is essential to enable more of our members to transition safely back to work and help rebuild the music industry.

‘However even with such guidance, there will still be virtually no work for the vast majority of musicians. This important study follows close on the heels of the open letter coordinated by the ISM and Equity, which called for an extension of financial support for freelancers until the Spring of next year. Signed by over 120 organisations from across our sector and published in The Guardian earlier this week, we asked the Chancellor to prevent an exodus of talent as many freelancers have had no work since March.

‘Unless venues are supported to address the specific problems relating to ventilation raised by this research, both small, grassroots and world-renowned heritage venues will be disproportionately impacted. With many venues likely to remain closed as a result, freelancers will not be able to earn a living through live performance.'

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 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].