Tens of thousands of freelance workers are still unable to access any financial support.

• Equivalent support schemes are in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• As it stands, institutions with access to CRF in England cannot provide trickle-down opportunities to individual workers, with restrictions still in place.

An open letter from the UK Council of Music Makers: freelancers need specific support now or we face losing a significant proportion of this highly-skilled workforce and their great economic value

LONDON – March, 2021: The UK Council of Music Makers (CMM) – comprising FAC, The Ivors Academy, MMF, MPG and the MU – calls on the Treasury to make £80m of the Culture Recovery Fund available to creative freelancers in England.

As the united voice of music creators and performers, CMM writes to you in consideration of the many creative freelancers who still do not qualify for either the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS) or Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

The UK’s music industry, worth £5.8bn annually to the UK economy prior to the pandemic, has a 72% freelance workforce. Over 90% of music makers are freelance.

We call on the Treasury to make £80m of the remaining Culture Recovery Fund available to freelancers in the arts who have fallen through the gaps of Government support. This has happened in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and has been hugely welcomed by the arts and music sector in those devolved nations.

Institutions that have access to the Culture Recovery Fund in England do not have the ability to provide sufficient trickle-down opportunities to individuals that make up the workforce at this time, with restrictions still in place. We must see specific support for these individuals, now, before we experience further, damaging industry-wide loss. Grants provided by the likes of Arts Council England for project work and Help Musicians UK for hardship do not replace the huge financial losses and accruing debts faced by so many freelancers. These funds, in any case, have seen an unprecedented increase in demand and a drastic reduction in the proportion of successful applicants.

Cross-referencing findings of Covid-19 Impact Polls by the Musicians’ Union, looking at the impact of the pandemic on musicians in particular, at the time of writing at least 31% still do not qualify for either SEISS or the JRS. Given the Union’s 31,000 strong membership, this represents almost 10,000 music makers who have fallen through the gaps in support. While we gratefully welcome the extension of the two schemes to the newly self-employed, which accounted for around 15% of excluded music makers, this has not taken care of all those who missed out.

In the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, over 20,000 music makers applied to music industry hardship funds and many of them are still struggling to pay their bills. The majority of music makers are not dormant when they are unpaid; they continue to practice, write, rehearse and record, to a certain extent, whether they are paid or not. However, many have had to seek alternative work and 40% have indicated that they may have to leave the industry for good. With prospects of returning to full-time paid work in music still months away, they need to be able to access urgent financial support to sustain them while the industry plans to reopen.

We want to preserve our world-leading music making workforce and avoid a haemorrhage of talent. The Government can help artists, musicians, songwriters, music producers and their support teams to survive this last stage of the crisis and get back to what they do best when restrictions on live performance are lifted, not just in the UK but globally.

Our collective memberships – musicians, songwriters, composers, producers, sound engineers, artists and their managers – are central to the UK’s music industry and the wider economy. Their all-important contribution within the ecosystem as the value creators should not be ignored.

As much of the workforce faces further redundancies, financial devastation and irreparable damage, we need action now before we lose our talent and economic value for good.

Yours sincerely,

Council of Music Makers (UK)

Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) / Ivors Academy (IA) / Music Managers Forum (MMF) Music Producers Guild (MPG) / Musicians’ Union (MU)