Written evidence submitted by the Musicians’ Union
Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors
- The MU represents over 32,000 professional musicians working across all sectors of the UK music industry. According to our impact survey (not attached due to submission requirements but available on request) 92% of musicians have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The MU expects to submit further evidence as it becomes available, particularly on the recovery plans for the sector, but for now we would like to respond to three of the committee’s questions.
What has been the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector?
- The impact survey (not attached due to submission requirements but available on request) demonstrates the terrible impact that COVID-19 has had on musicians, with more than £22 million estimated loss by the end of April alone. Musicians’ work has dried up overnight and there is no clarity on when they will be able to return to paid engagements.
How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?
- The MU welcomed the package of support for self-employed workers announced by the Chancellor, but we are very concerned that a large proportion of musicians are not eligible for the scheme and are falling through the gaps.
- The Chancellor initially claimed that the scheme would work for 95% of the self-employed and that those not covered would be the richer self-employed. A new MU survey of members has shown that this is categorically not the case for musicians.
- 1459 musicians responded to the survey.
- 38% of respondents said that they do not qualify for the Government’s assistance schemes for employed or self-employed workers.
- Even of those who said that they do qualify for SEISS, 26% said that they would struggle to survive financially in the interim period before payments are made.
- 45% of respondents stated that they usually earn under £20,000 net in an average year.
- 19% of respondents said that the problems caused by Coronavirus may force them to abandon their career as a musician in the long term. 35% were unsure.
The full survey results can be viewed here:
- Musicians who do not qualify for Government assistance currently fall into the following main categories:
- Self-employed less than 50%
- Self-employed for less than a year
- Limited company
- Yearly profits of over £50,000
- We therefore urgently need:
- Meaningful support for those who have been self-employed for less than a year.
- A way for musicians who are part self-employed (at less than 50% of their total annual income) to access support through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.
- The removal the £50,000 cap in the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, as no equivalent cap exists for employed people. Failing this, support to be provided up to the £50,000 cap for those with larger profits.
- Support for self-employed people who run as limited companies and pay themselves in dividends through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.
- A speeding up of the Universal Credit application process to cover the gap until support via the Self-employment Income Support Scheme is made available in June, or an alternative method of covering the income gap.
- We are also concerned that members who have taken time out for maternity leave may be being disadvantaged, since maternity leave is not being disregarded from self-employed income support scheme.
What will the likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 be on the sector, and what support is needed to deal with those?
- The live music scene has been temporarily wiped out by social distancing and urgently needs support. The MU urges the Government to consider some assistance funds for musicians and the creative industries along the lines of what has been set up in other European countries and indeed in other nations in the UK.
- Some examples of these are:
- In Denmark the Government has launched a £10.95M package of direct aid for those who would otherwise be organising gatherings (festivals etc) of over 1,000 people.
- In Germany, the total package for the arts is worth £46.3B and the German government is also promising financial help to micro businesses of up to 5 employees of a grant of £8,330 rising to £13,890 for those with up to 10 employees.
- In France, a support fund for music professionals has been established with the National Music Centre administering individual grants from a total budget of £9.14M.
- As well as Denmark, the other Nordic countries have also announced that they will be setting up specific grant funds for the culture sector. £22.59M in Norway, £37.4M in Sweden and a more modest £1.34M in Finland. Norway has also announced that there will be a VAT and employer’s contributions holiday in April and May.