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Taking Action to Protect Musicians

It’s more important than ever that we come together and support each other through the global Covid-19 Pandemic.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you can do to take help make life easier for musicians and other freelancers affected by coronavirus, and what we have achieved together so far.

There are lots of different ways you can get involved. We’ll be keeping this page up to date as the situation changes.

Members in Northern Ireland: the Executive has effectively banned live music. Take urgent action now. Write to your MLA, you can use our template letter and add your personal experiences.

MU lobbying asks

Based on research and consultation with members, key lobbying asks include:

  • Plugging the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Expanding the SEISS to cover more than 40% of monthly profits
  • Measures to make sure re-opening venues is economically viable

Measures backed by the MU to ensure live performances can continue including a ‘Seat Out to Help Out’ scheme, reducing social distancing when it is safe to do so, a ‘moonshot’ audience testing plan, and a Government backed insurance scheme that also covers musicians and performers’ losses in the event of cancellation due to Covid-19.

You can stay up to date by reading our latest lobbying updates. Make sure you’re signed up to our regular coronavirus update, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to make sure you’re getting the latest news.

Covid-19 Impact Poll results

Since March 2020, the MU has conducted three impact polls to get data on the impact of Covid-19 on musicians and support our lobbying work.

The first and second Covid-19 impact polls, which revealed that 38% musicians are falling through gaps in support and 19% were considering leaving the profession, were instrumental in making the case for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

Our latest Covid-19 impact poll reveals that 34% are considering abandoning their career in music, while 37% are not sure.

The poll also reveals:

  • 47% musicians have been forced to look for work outside them music industry
  • 70% are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work
  • 36% musicians do not have any work at all

With the Government’s job retention schemes coming to an end:

  • 65% musicians are facing financial hardship
  • 87% musicians will be facing financial hardship as a result of the Government’s income support schemes ending in October
  • 87% musicians will be earning less than £20,000 this year – well below the UK average income of £29,600

As a result, 88% musicians do not think that the Government has done enough to support musicians during the pandemic.

Thank you to everyone who has taken our Covid-19 Impact Polls so far.

Write to your MP – updated 22 October

Writing to your MP is one of the best ways of making sure your voice is heard in decision-making.

They have the power to make representations to Government on your behalf, asking questions of key decision-makers and making sure your experiences are considered in decision-making processes.

Ask your MP to make your voice heard in Parliament. You may have written to your MP before the latest changes to the scheme were announced. Please write again. Even if your MP does not engage positively straight away, the higher the number of constituents who contact them about an issue, the more likely they are to take action in the future.

You can find your MP’s email address on the Parliament website. You can still write to your MP if you’re a British citizen living abroad, and if you have no fixed address.

You can use our template letter if you’re not sure what to say. Remember to include how you are affected too – personal stories make all the difference.

Dear [Find out how your MP is via Parliament UK or Write to Them],

As my MP, I would like you to take action to support musicians and freelancers in our constituency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rishi Sunak made a statement in the House of Commons on 22 October 2020 announcing an increase in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme to 40%.

This is still not good enough.

Self employed people deserve parity with employees, who receive much more through the Job Support Schemes.

Gaps in the SEISS must also be closed. Musicians’ Union research shows that 38% musicians fell through gaps in the Government’s previous income support schemes. This is unacceptable. Everyone should have access to meaningful support through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Musicians’ Union research also shows that 87% musicians will be earning less than £20,000 this year – well below the UK average income of £29,600.

  • 70% are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work
  • 47% have been forced to look for work outside them music industry
  • 36% musicians do not have any work at all

As a result, 34% are considering abandoning their career in music, while 37% are not sure about their future.

[Use this space to share your personal story. Explaining how this is affecting you now, and will affect you through to the end of January 2021, is more likely to result in a response or action]

Can you put pressure on the Government to urgently:

  • Plug the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Expand the SEISS to cover more than 40%, and
  • Take measures to make sure the safe re-opening music and arts venues is economically viable, such as ‘Seat Out to Help Out’?

You can contact the Musicians’ Union directly for briefings and more information about how you can support musicians in your constituency, and across the UK.

Yours sincerely,

[Add your name and full address including postcode]

Thanks to everyone who has written to their MPs with MU template letters since March. We know from conversations with MPs that you are having an impact – it really does make a difference.

Your stories

Orchestral, theatre and chamber musician and MU member Louise Braithwaite talks about her experiences with the previous SEISS scheme:

“When the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme was announced, a nerve-shredding week after the furlough scheme, I was on just the right side of the percentages to qualify. But it was a very close call. My award was a fraction of that which an employee on the same wage would receive…

“The SEISS scheme can’t cope with blended employment, short term contracts or zero hours working. These employment styles have grown under this Government but its financial rescue package failed to address them adequately.”

Blogging on Medium, musician Cheryl Law explains what it’s like to state into a hopeless abyss, “In 23 years of being a musician I’ve never felt more desperate than I do right now”

What your taking action has achieved so far

Government relief for the self-employed

In March, the Government announced a financial relief package for the self-employed, following weeks of MU lobbying MPs and Ministers, publicising the dire situation for musicians, and members taking action across the country.

This falls in line with one of our key asks at the start of the crisis: “Implement a Universal Basic Income of £400 per week for the self-employed (which equates to the living wage) OR, as in Norway, pay them 80% of their average income over the past three years.”

Thanks to every member who filled in our first and second Covid-19 Impact Polls and wrote to their MP.

Extending the SEISS

The original Self Employment Income Support Scheme lasted only three months. It’s thanks to lobbying from freelancers like you and organisations like the MU that this was extended to October.

We didn’t get everything we want – the SEISS was reduced, and Government did nothing to close the gaps in support. But we’re still fighting to make your voice heard on this at the heart of Government.

MPs pushing to close the gaps in Parliament

MPs across the House of Commons have been fighting to ensure no-one is left behind by Government support. The issue of those excluded from the SEISS has been raised time and time again – that is thanks to everyone who’s contacted their MPs with their stories.

Donations to our hardship fund

The MU Coronavirus Hardship Fund has raised over £70,000 to help musicians in financial hardship as a result of Covid-19. We’re grateful for every fundraising event, every gig, and every contribution from musicians and fans.

Find out more and donate via Crowdfunder.

Find out more and donate via the National Fundraising Scheme.

Petitions you can sign