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UK Music urges Chancellor to plug gaps in support for self-employed

Exactly one month ago everything changed. The Government’s advice that people should avoid mass gatherings set in motion a sequence of events that has seen Glastonbury cancelled and gaping holes across the whole of the UK live music calendar.
Since then, it has been immensely heartening to see the music industry pull together and come up with a range of help for all those hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Every part of the commercial music sector is doing as much as it can in the battle to help those whose income has dried up entirely or, at best, drastically declined.

The Government unveiled a welcome package of support last month.  However, alarming gaps have emerged that need to be urgently addressed if the music industry is not to be left behind.

An estimated 72% of our industry are self-employed workers and many of them face a real fight to stay afloat.

The scale of the crisis has been laid bare by members of UK Music, the umbrella body for the commercial music industry.

The Music Managers Forum and the Featured Artists Coalition found £50 million has been lost due to the live sector shutdown. A further £68 million will be lost if more events are cancelled in the next six months.

The Music Producers Guild found producers and sound engineers have lost an average 70% of their income, while the Musicians’ Union said musicians had already lost around £21 million in earnings.

There are a range of steps the Government must urgently take to help the music industry which supports 190,000 jobs in the UK, contributes £5.2 billion a year to our economy and is a such a huge part of our culture.

We need clarity on the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to ensure support is available to all those who need it.

Many in our industry are directors of their own small firms.  However, company directors are disqualified from the self-employed scheme and cannot furlough themselves as this would stop their businesses from operating.  They need urgent Government help to make sure these individuals, often low earners, do not slip through the net.

Another group that are not covered are the recently self-employed. Workers needed to have started their jobs by February 28 to qualify, meaning many are not covered.

We urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to allow the newly self-employed to file their 2019-20 tax returns now so they can get the same help as other self-employed workers and not fall victim to this unjust cut off.

The Government should also acknowledge the portfolio nature of the work of many in the music industry and allow those earning less than 50% of their income through self-employment to qualify for a mix of Government schemes designed to support the employed and self-employed.

The Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is not set to go live until June, which means many self-employed people have to endure a long wait before they will get any cash.

The music industry is doing all it can to support creators, musicians and songwriters and everyone else involved in the sector.

For example, charities like Help Musicians and the Music Venue Trust are administering hardship funds to assist people and small businesses.

PPL is pledging £700,000 to three music industry hardship funds, including £500,000 to Help Musicians Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund, along with £100,000 to the Muscians’ Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund  and AIM’s Covid-19 Crisis Fund.

The Musicians’ Union has opened a Coronarvirus Hardship Fund for members. PRS for Music has an immediate PRS Emergency Relief Fund, while the PRS Foundation is offering support via its Sustaining Creativity Fund.

AIM has launched a support fund aimed at contractors and freelance workers with assets of £500,000 already committed from AIM and its community.

Other help from a range of groups including the major labels and Apple Music is also welcome.  But more support is still needed to plug the gaps in support and ensure people can pay bills, rents and mortgages.

The Chancellor should grant a business rates holiday to private and commercial recording studios which are not covered by the rate relief scheme, as well as ensuring music SMEs that don’t pay business rates due to being in shared offices can still access the Small Business Grant Fund.

Those involved in our industry are facing unprecedented hardship. We strongly urge the Government to look at fixing the gaps in the support on offer to avoid the loss of thousands of jobs and businesses.

We want to work with the Government to help expand the support on offer and minimise the impact of coronavirus on our world-leading industry.

The music industry has stepped up and is doing all we can.  We need the Government to address the holes in the safety net so no one in the music industry is excluded from the help they desperately need.

* Tom Kiehl is UK Music's Acting CEO

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