The ISM responds to the government’s roadmap for performing arts return

Responding to the government’s five-stage roadmap for performing arts return, Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:


‘It is welcome news that the government has now provided some detail on its plan for getting the performing arts back on their feet.

Clarity on when each of the five phases can begin is urgently needed, so venues and performers can start preparing in the safest way possible.

But the central issue remains the same: without considerable financial support and investment, music and the performing arts will suffer long-lasting damage from COVID-19. The government must expand the coverage of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, maintain its current furlough contributions, and accelerate discussions on a wider support package. Now is the time for a bold vision and firm action.’


Notes to editors


A long-term financial support package for the creative industries


The ISM is calling on the government to put in place a long-term financial support package for the arts, in particular the music sector, making use of tax reliefs.

Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and New Zealand have all intervened to protect creative industries. The German government unveiled a €50 (£54 billion) aid package for artists and cultural Businesses hit by COVID-19.

Scaling back the government’s contribution to furlough payments


The ISM has written to the Chancellor
to ask him to reconsider his decision to scale back the government’s contribution to furlough payments, which risks the long-term health of music industry.

With social gathering restrictions set to stay in place for the foreseeable future, there will be no immediate return to business as usual for large parts of the music sector, especially the thousands of music venues that require near full capacity crowds to turn a small profit.

Extending the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)


The ISM has written to the Chancellor on multiple occasions calling for the SEISS to be revised. Currently many musicians and music professionals have fallen through the cracks and are not eligible for any financial support, including the newly self-employed, limited company directors, and freelancers operating through short-term PAYE contracts. Read our latest letter.

The ISM recommends that the government:

  1. lowers the threshold of income from 50% to 25%;
  2. removes the £50,000 cap;
  3. allows graduates, those who have been on sick leave or maternity leave, or those who have returned to work in the past three years to discount years that do not reflect their current position;
  4. extends eligibility to individuals who have been self-employed for less than a year or provide equivalent meaningful support to these workers;
  5. extends eligibility to individuals who operate under a Limited Company and take dividends as a source of income or provide equivalent meaningful support to these workers.

Impact of COVID-19 on music sector:

Widespread venue closures have caused huge financial difficulties for music organisations and businesses, particularly live music venues and festivals, which have lost an entire year of trade. For example, the Southbank Centre, which is the UK’s largest arts and cultural organisation, warned that it will have used up its financial reserves by September, forcing its closure until April 2021 unless it gets further government support.

Today it was announced that Hamilton, Les Miserables, Mary Poppins and The Phantom of the Opera will not return to London's West End until 2021.

In April the ISM conducted a survey to understand the financial impact of COVID-19 on music businesses and organisations. Of the 70 music businesses and organisations who responded:

  • 83 per cent of music businesses and organisations reported that COVID-19 is significantly impacting their business financially;
  • 33 per cent of respondents reported that their business/organisation is at imminent risk of failing.

The ISM’s survey findings echo data published by various organisations in the creative industries. For example, according to research carried out in April by the Creative Industries Federation:

  • 42 per cent of creative organisations estimate that their income has decreased by 100 per cent since the outbreak;
  • 63 per cent of creative organisations predict a decrease in annual turnover of more than 50 per cent by the end of 2020;
  • 1 in 7 creative organisations believe they can last less than 4 weeks on existing reserves.
  • The UK music industry contributes £5.2bn to the economy each year.

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).

The ISM has written a detailed briefing on the impact of coronavirus on the music sector.

    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].