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Musicians sign letter to the Chancellor urging him once againto extend self-employment support

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

On Saturday night, the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown, extending the furlough scheme but not extending help for the self-employed.

We decided to make our voices heard once again on the self-employed vs salaried employee front and in just 12 hours, over 300 musicians signed this important letter to the Chancellor:

Monday 2nd November 2020

Dear Chancellor,

In light of the new national lockdown, you have just extended the furlough scheme, allowing workers to continue to receive 80 per cent of their salaries whilst restrictions continue.  If lockdown ends, as planned, in December, your Winter Economy Plan will cover “at least 95 per cent of the total employment costs” of salaried workers “until February”.

The self-employed, on the other hand, are being required to survive on just 40 per cent of their usual salaries. 

We simply cannot understand why you continue to discriminate against the self-employed workforce in this way.  We are doing everything we can to survive, as the whole country is, but there seems to be no good reason for treating PAYE employees so differently to the self-employed.

This situation affects the music industry in particular.  More than 75 per cent of musicians are self-employed and whilst much of the economy has been able to return to some sense of normality over the last few months, our places of work have been shut down, by law and circumstance, the entire time. 

In addition, a quarter of the self-employed workforce (1.2 million people) have been entirely left out of government assistance packages altogether since March – including hundreds of West End and orchestral musicians - along with around 3 million sole company directors who have also received no support.

Musicians earn an average of £23,000 a year, well below the national average.  40 per cent of that is impossible to live on.  As far back as July the DCMS Select Committee called for “enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies” in order to avoid “mass redundancies and the permanent closure of our cultural infrastructure”, yet the government has done little to address this.

The British music industry contributes over £5bn to the economy each year, and that work generates huge tax revenues for the NHS and other public services. Musicians like us don’t want a government handout – we are desperate to get back into the orchestral pit or onto the stage, and devastated to have had no music in our lives in 2020.

If we are not allowed to work, if audiences are not allowed to return, and if venues are forbidden from opening, the government risks doing irreparable damage to the UK’s live music, cultural and entertainment sector if it doesn’t provide the same level of support to self-employed musicians as it does every other type of worker.

We don’t run unviable businesses – demand for live music and entertainment is still there; we’re just being prevented from delivering it to our audiences.  Venues were the first businesses to shut their doors and will be the last to open them and a third of UK musicians are already considering leaving the industry. 

It is unfair and short-sighted to expect musicians and live entertainers to be able to survive financially on their own when we are being told we can’t go to work.  We cannot get through this crisis on our own and we need your help just as much as anyone else.  Otherwise we will needlessly create thousands of job losses, rack up the welfare bill, lose a generation of talent and decimate an entire industry.

This isn’t just about musicians’ livelihoods – it’s about the sort of country we want to live in when we are through this health crisis.  Nobody wants to get through this only to find that we’ve got no live music to dance or sing along to, yet that’s exactly where we’re heading.  So please support musicians and venues today because we will not only help get our country and economy get back on its feet again, but we will remind people what life is supposed to be about.   

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