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UK Musicians’ Union welcomes self-employed support scheme

The UK music industry has welcomed the government’s increase in its financial support scheme for the self-employed as England goes into its second lockdown, but remains concerned about the level of support beyond November.

Following the month-long national lockdown announcement over the weekend, the UK announced the extension of the furlough scheme, before yesterday announcing that support for the self-employed would be set at 80 per cent of average earnings in November, before returning to 40 per cent for December and January.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which will back the large number of freelancers in the music industry, will provide 55 per cent of average earnings over the quarter.

The Musicians’ Union and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, which is the UK’s professional body for musicians, have applauded the news, but argued there is still more that needs to be done to support performers.

MU general secretary Horace Trubridge said: “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.

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

“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.”

ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts added: “We are pleased that the government is supporting the self-employed with 80% of trading profits for November, which increases the total grant to 55% of trading profits across the November to January period.

“Today’s announcement, coming so soon after previous changes to SEISS, follows the ISM’s tireless campaigning on this issue. This is a further acknowledgement from the government that its initial approach was insufficient and that more had to be done to support the self-employed, including the thousands of musicians who cannot work while performance venues remain closed.

“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.”