The ISM publishes updated review showing how global research is… Jump to main content

The ISM publishes updated review showing how global research is investigating Coronavirus transmission in the performance and education spaces.

This update to our earlier review is the only publicly-available document to collate this amount of reliable information worldwide. The purpose is not to give guidance but instead to bring together the wide amount of available research and share it with the music community and the public.

The evidence that we reviewed indicates that:

  • 'physical distancing is unlikely to be enough to reduce the potential of viral transmission in the absence of ventilation’
  • 'the key considerations for resuming group singing are volume levels (in both singing and speaking), number of participants, duration of activity, and ensuring sufficient ventilation.’
  • ‘there is still no clear consensus as to the role that children play, the transmission paths and the implications for the full return of schools in the autumn.’

The collated research paints a complex picture. In the UK there remains confusion around the clarity of guidance in some settings while the requirement of social distancing remains problematic for performers and venues which need to operate at close to full capacity to break even. So we repeat our call for the government to step in and create a tailored scheme for freelance performers. This will be essential to avert an exodus of talent in our diverse sector, which brings together musicians and technicians to create magical experiences.

Deborah Annetts, ISM Chief Executive said:


‘We welcome the continued growth in global research into the safe enjoyment of singing and the playing of brass and woodwind instruments. We hope these studies will provide some clarity to the students, music professionals and audiences that make up our vibrant community.’

Notes to editors

The ISM recommends that:


1. The Government increase support for freelancers who cannot work until venues reopen. Read our joint industry letter to the Chancellor (19 August) calling for an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme for freelancers until Spring 2021.

2. Research must now find how venues can be profitable while audience numbers remain limited.

3. The Department for Education must now publish guidance for resuming music in schools. Read our latest response to the DfE's revised guidance for providers, parents and carers.

About the study

The updated literature review was written by Kathryn Williams and Dr Jodie Underhill. The revised study was completed on 21 August 2020 while the first study was published on 20 July 2020. The purpose of this review is not to give guidance, but to bring together the current available information. It is important to note that there are further scientific studies currently taking place and therefore updates will be required as new knowledge is published in the future.

The literature review explores coronavirus, transmission and risk management in both the performance and music education space. The first section focuses on coronavirus issues in relation to performance and covers aerosol transmissions, instrument hygiene as well as issues relating to choirs and ensembles. The second section looks at the music education space and transmission with reference to children and young people and the mitigation measures for music education that countries have taken across the globe.

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 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.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact [email protected]