Musicians’ Union calls for government not to “abandon” self-employed artists

The new grant "does not achieve parity with employed people on furlough"

The Musicians’ Union has urged the British government to match the support given to furloughed employees in order to achieve parity during the coronavirus crisis.

It was announced earlier this week that the furlough scheme for employees in England will be extended, meaning that employees who are unable to work during the pandemic will receive 80 per cent of their monthly salary. Additionally, support will be rolled out for a third, three-month installment of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

For the month-long lockdown in England, which starts on Thursday (November 5), self-employed workers eligible to claim the SEISS grant will receive 80 per cent of their average trading profits. But the remainder of the installment – from December 2020-January 2021 – will supply just 40 per cent.

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The #WeMakeEvents march in Manchester. Credit: Getty

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union general secretary, said the move fails to acheive equality with fuloughed employees. “We appreciate all the government has done to support our members through the furlough and self-employment income support schemes so far, but they must not abandon our world-class musicians who are the driving force behind the multi-billion pound UK music industry,” Trubridge told Music Week.

“This latest announcement clearly does not achieve parity with employed people on furlough, and we will lobby the Treasury on that point as well as continue to argue that the many musicians who have been ineligible for this scheme must now be included.”

He added: “We know from our research, that a third of musicians are considering abandoning the industry completely, due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Half of our members have already been forced to seek work outside of the industry, with seven in ten unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work. Once again, we strongly urge the government to recognise the unique situation that our members are in, and to provide sector specific financial support for musicians.”

The claims window for the SEISS grants will now be opening at the end of November rather than the middle of December as originally planned.

Trubridge spoke to NME last month about a need for a stimulus package to support people who work in entertainment, from musicians to backstage crew, in addition to the SEISS.

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“What we’re most concerned about is that we haven’t yet seen a stimulus package for our sector. While the £1.57billion cultural recovery fund is great for venues, organisations and institutions, it’s not putting the workforce back to work and it’s not putting money in their pockets,” he said.

And in September, new research claimed that 64 per cent of musicians are considering giving up music because of the financial impact of coronavirus, up from just 19 per cent in May. Read Mark Beaumont’s report here.

The Tate Modern is lit up in red as supporters also shine red lights from the Millennium Bridge as part of the #WeMakeEvents’ ‘Throw Us a Line Campaign’. CREDIT: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts, added to Music Week: “We are pleased that the government is supporting the self-employed with 80 per cent of trading profits for November, which increases the total grant to 55 per cent of trading profits across the November to January period.

“However, the increased rate of SEISS is only for the first month of the three-month grant period and three million self-employed workers continue to be excluded from receiving it at all. So maintaining a higher level of grant, expanding the eligibility criteria and developing a clear roadmap for the return of live performance are all now essential for preventing an exodus of highly skilled talent from our world-leading arts sector.”

The lockdown in England will last until December 2. The country will then revert back to the three-tier system imposed earlier this month.

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