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'Musicians are facing a cliff edge of the government’s own making' - the ISM responds to government's failure to support freelancers

Responding to the Chancellor's ‘Plan for Jobs to help the UK's recovery’, Incorporated Society of Musicians Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘This latest package may help some businesses and staff in the music sector. However the VAT cut is far too small for the few live performances which are taking place largely online. The music sector needs a VAT holiday for the next 12 months while it rebuilds following the pandemic.

We are dismayed that for a second time in a week a government package has been announced that simply does not address the urgent needs of freelancers in the music sector. The vast majority of musicians are still not able to work and yet the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) runs out in August.

Musicians are facing a cliff edge of the government’s own making. We desperately need the SEISS to be extended to at least the end of the year.

If this does not happen, then we risk losing many talented musicians who simply cannot continue in the profession because of financial hardship. This would be all of our loss, as much as theirs.’

Notes to Editors

Music and creative sectors

  • Creative Industries employed 2.10 million people in 2019, an increase of 34.5% from 2011 (Source: Creative Industries Federation, 2020). It is estimated a third of this workforce is self-employed.
  • In 2018, UK Music estimates the music sector produced some £5.2 billion in GVA and created nearly 191,000 FTE jobs. Most of these are freelance workers.
  • Music is central to the UK’s soft power and its place on the world stage but the UK has already slipped to second place in the global rankings of soft power (Portland Soft Power 30 Index 2019).

ISM Self-employed survey

Over a two-week period in late May and early June 2020, the ISM surveyed 478 self-employed professionals working in the music sector. Findings from this survey show self-employed professionals struggling to financially survive the impact of COVID-19, even with support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), though as the survey shows many self-employed professionals in the music sector cannot even access this scheme. Here are some key findings:

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

Of those that received payment through the SEISS:

  • 50% reported that this covered only 50% or less of their usual income over a three month period
  • 41% reported that the payment was £2500 or less for a three month period.
  • 41% said their payment was not sufficient to cover the costs of living.
  • 53% are also currently reliant on personal savings, while 42% are reliant on financial support from partners/family/friends (respondents could select multiple choices).
  • 42% reported that they anticipate that it will take 12 months plus for their income from self-employed work to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, while 40% anticipate it will take 7-12 months.

Of those that could not access payment through the SEISS:

  • 61% reported that this was because less than 50% of their income traditionally comes from self-employed work.
  • 85% have not received support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, indicating they have received no government support.
  • 59% are also currently reliant on personal savings, while 42% per cent are reliant on financial support from partners/family/friends.
  • 87% say that payment through the scheme would have made a positive difference to their financial situation.
  • 31% report a considerable decline in standing of living as a result, while 16% report significant financial hardship.

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 approximately 10,000 musicians 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].