NEW ISM REPORT: The music sector will not survive COVID-19 and Brexit without an extension to the transition period

  • The music sector, worth £5.2bn per year facing ruin from dual threats of COVID-19 and Brexit
  • ISM calls for Government to recover the time lost to COVID-19 by requesting an extension to the transition period
  • The report contains devastating testimony from musicians about the disastrous impact Brexit has already had on their careers, with many now considering leaving the profession altogether

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the professional body for the UK’s musicians has today, Wednesday 13 May 2020, published its fifth report, titled Will Music Survive Brexit?, into the impact of Brexit on the music profession.

The research, conducted in February 2020, is the fifth report in a ground-breaking series which has captured the increasing impact of Brexit developments since the referendum. It reveals the damage that Brexit has already caused to the music sector.

The report’s findings, coupled with the impact of COVID-19, demonstrate a sector at a crossroads, in clear need of support from the Government to secure its survival. The outbreak of COVID-19 has had disastrous consequences for the music sector with cancellations, closures and the loss of work and livelihoods overnight.

The ISM calls on the Government to learn from Germany and France, who are actively providing robust financial support for their cultural industries by putting in place a comparable package. The ISM also calls on the Government to keep in place the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-employed Income Scheme for the very many musicians who are faced with incredible hardship.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:


‘The UK music sector, which contributes £5.2bn to the economy each year, is facing ruin from the dual threats of COVID-19 and Brexit. For many years, the ISM has been highlighting how essential it is for professional musicians to work easily across the EU. In this time of great uncertainty, musicians need to know that their livelihoods will be protected.

Going straight from COVID-19 to the end of the transition period without ensuring enough time to negotiate new trading agreements will be devastating for the music profession and the wider music and creative industries.

Therefore, to avoid irreversible damage, we call for the Government to recover some of the time lost to COVID-19 by requesting an extension to the transition period.’


The recommendations of this report relate to the current negotiations between the UK and the EU and the set of measures which need to be put in place if music is to survive in the post-Brexit world.

Based on the findings of this report, the ISM calls for:

  1. The Government to negotiate an extension of the transition period for two years beyond 31 December 2020.
  2. The Government to negotiate a two-year, multi-entry touring visa that is cheap and admin-light.
  3. The Government to negotiate a cultural exemption for the temporary transportation of instruments and equipment, or cover the cost of carnets for musicians.
  4. The Government to further expand the list of CITES-designated points of entry and exit to include Eurostar, Immingham and Tyne (Newcastle).
  5. The Government to scrap plans to introduce a charge for Musical Instrument Certificates.
  6. The Government to maintain European Health Insurance as provided by the EHIC scheme, or provide an equivalent.
  7. The Government to ensure that the A1 certificate system continues to be recognised in the EU or provide details of a suitable equivalent as soon as possible.
  8. The Government to provide detailed information on new arrangements well in advance of the end of the transition period so the music sector can adequately prepare.
  9. The Government not to adopt the US visa system as a model for temporary work when negotiating with the EU.
  10. The Government must ensure that UK copyright laws are not undermined by post-Brexit future trade deals with the United States or any other nations.

Notes for editors

The ISM’s fifth Brexit survey ran for five weeks in February and March 2020 and had 629 respondents. Respondents were from a cross-section of the music workforce including but not limited to performers, composers, directors, artist managers, teachers, and music technicians. Respondents covered the range of genres, from classical to goth pop, jazz to musical theatre, folk to film music. The majority of respondents (91%) were UK-based. Read the full report at ism.org/reports.

The headline findings of the report include:

  • Just over 50% of survey respondents have identified an impact on their professional work since the EU referendum in 2016 – 99% of whom said it was a negative impact. This is a slight increase from last year and reflects a year-on-year increase – 19% in 2016, 26% in 2017, 40% in 2018, just under 50% in 2019, just over 50% in 2020.
  • 71% of respondents cited difficulty securing future bookings in EU/EEA countries (for reasons such as reluctance from EU promoters to offer work and musicians’ inability to confirm future work due to uncertainty caused by Brexit).
  • More than half of survey respondents (56%) said they expected to be offered less work now that the UK has left the EU.
  • 92% of respondents said they were concerned about their future ability to work in EU/EEA countries, of which 64% were ‘very concerned’ and 28% were ‘mildly concerned’
  • Nearly a fifth of respondents (18%) claimed they had experienced a loss of earnings due to reduced or cancelled work in the EU/EEA as a result of Brexit, and a further 36% were not sure
  • There has been a 14% increase in the number of respondents not earning in the EU/EEA since the referendum. Overall, respondents are earning less in the EU/EEA than they were before the referendum.
  • 78% of respondents visit the EU/EEA at least once a year; 20% of respondents visit the EU/EEA more than 11 times per year.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents spend more than a week in the EU/EEA per year; roughly a third (32%) of respondents spend more than a month in the EU/EEA per year.
  • 11% of respondents have less than a week’s notice between being offered work and taking it.
  • Nearly two thirds (61%) of respondents reported that they were concerned about the transportation of instruments and equipment to the EU/EEA in the future.
  • Nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents claimed they would not be able to afford private health insurance if the EHIC scheme is revoked without an equivalent in place.
  • 96% of respondents want reciprocal arrangements on tax and social security to remain in place, or equivalents negotiated.
  • Just over a third (34%) of respondents said that they travel to the USA to work, and more than a third (37%) of respondents travel to the Rest of the World (e.g. Japan, China, Russia) to work.

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]