Business News Industry People Top Stories

MU calls for measures to support self-employed and theatre musicians

By | Published on Tuesday 17 March 2020

Musicians' Union

While the COVID-19 crisis presents challenges for the entire music industry – and especially freelancers and smaller businesses – the artist community could be hardest hit as the live entertainment sector goes into shutdown.

The majority of musicians are freelance and many heavily rely on income from live shows. With that in mind, organisations like the Musicians’ Union are becoming ever more vocal on the need for government support for freelance music-makers.

The Union’s National Organiser For Live Performance, Dave Webster, said in a statement last night: “The safety and welfare of our members is of paramount importance and we appreciate the need to postpone or cancel events involving large numbers of people”.

“However”, he went on, “our members are now facing significant reductions in their income and we are deeply concerned about the impact on their finances, career prospects and mental health. We are calling on government to put in place measures to support our self-employed members while they are out of work, through a combination of sick pay, benefits and income replacement”.

Following the government’s unofficial shutdown of live entertainment last night, the organisations UK Theatre and the Society Of London Theatre urged their members to close their venues, a move that also impacts on the music community. MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl explained: “We have over three hundred musicians working in London’s West End who are facing the prospect of weeks or months without paid work as a result of this decision. Hundreds more are engaged on touring productions”.

Pohl said that the MU would liaise with the theatre sector – as well as government – to try to mitigate the negative impact of these developments. She continued: “We hope that the majority of theatre producers will want to avoid closing shows down permanently if there is the possibility of reopening in a few weeks or months. Naturally, we would like to preserve the continued engagement of musicians in the West End and on tour, where at all possible, and will be working closely with SOLT and UK Theatre to find a way of facilitating this”.

The MU has also set up a survey for musicians in order to help it understand the full extent of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the artist community, and where specific advice and guidance is required. Musicians can fill it out here.