Covid-19 forces change of tune for struggling UK musicians

Busker's guitar case

New research from the Musicians’ Union (MU) has found that one in five (19%) UK-based musicians fear they will have to abandon their career due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

The research indicates that a significant number of MU members – the majority of whom are self-employed – will struggle financially, with two in five (38%) falling short of the criteria required for the UK government’s assistance schemes.

Of those who do qualify, a quarter (26%) said they would still struggle to survive financially in the interim period before they receive payments.

Financial impact of Covid-19

The research from the MU has identified key gaps in the government’s current support for self-employed workers facing financial hardship as a result of the impact of Covid-19:

  • Those who are part self-employed (i.e. less than 50% of their total annual income)
  • Those who have been self-employed for less than a year
  • Those who run as a limited company
  • Those with annual profits of over £50,000

The MU is urgently calling for more meaningful support for those affected, including measures such as a method for musicians who are part self-employed (at less than 50% of their total income) to access the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and for the removal of the £50,000 cap.

The MU is also concerned that musicians who have taken time out for maternity leave are being disadvantaged since maternity leave is not being disregarded from the self-employed income support scheme.

‘A devastating impact on the music industry’

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said:

‘We risk facing a devastating impact on the music industry. From providing us with the joy of live music to teaching our children, musicians play a huge part in our everyday lives and to wipe out a fifth of that will have unimaginable consequences.

‘We’ve seen other countries recognise this and, importantly, act. In Germany, the total package for the arts is worth £46.3billion, with the government also promising financial support to micro-businesses of up to five employees.

‘Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have all announced funds and aid packages for the sector. We are calling on our government to take action by reassessing its SEISS package and considering how else it can help a sector that is so vital to our national community.’

‘Genuinely worried about what this will mean for my livelihood’

Musician and MU member, Sam Dunkley, said:

‘I have already lost thousands from my income due to work being cancelled in the wake of Covid-19.

‘I’m genuinely worried about what this will mean for my livelihood and my career unless the government steps in with more support.’


The Musicians’ Union is asking its members to write to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, asking him to protect all self-employed workers and ensure no musician is left behind.

For more information, please click here.

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