UK Music welcome Chancellor’s ‘step in right direction’ for self-employed – but warns ‘clock is ticking’ to save summer festivals

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UK Music has welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s expansion of support for the self-employed in his Budget, but warned time is running out to save summer festivals and gigs.

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said the music industry urgently needed a Government-backed insurance scheme to allow festival and concert organisers to proceed without the risk of the further Covid-enforced cancellations.

His call comes after nine out of ten festival organisers said they could not proceed with their events without a viable insurance scheme. Glastonbury and Download are among the major festivals that have already pulled the plug on this summer.

In his Budget, the Chancellor announced plans to:

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  • Extend the furlough scheme (Job Retention Scheme) until September
  • Extend the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to 600,000 new starters
  • Extend business rates relief to the end of June followed by a 66% rate until next April
  • Maintain the reduced 5% VAT rate on hospitality and tourism until September
  • Extend apprenticeship hiring incentive and increase payment to £3,000
  • Deliver a £150 million Community Ownership Fund

He also heeded a call from UK Music – outlined in our pre-Budget blueprint for the Chancellor – to extend the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund with a £300 million boost.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said:

“We’re glad the Chancellor has listened to our calls to further extend the economic support schemes.

“The expanded support for freelancers and the self-employed is a step in the right direction in an industry where three-quarters of the 200,000 workforce are self -employed. However, there are still many in our industry who fall in the gaps of the financial support schemes and need help.

“The £300 million boost to the Culture Recovery Fund is welcome and will be a lifeline to many venues and organisations – but the fund should be extended to include freelancers, as is the case in Scotland and Wales.

“We are grateful for the economic support we have received from Government, but we don’t want to draw on that support any longer than we have to. The best way to achieve this is to ensure activity starts to happen again as soon as possible and musicians can get back into work.

“However, the clock is ticking when it comes to staging live music events this summer. Organisers are making decisions in the next few days and weeks about whether they can proceed or will be forced to cancel.

“The live music industry urgently needs a Government-backed insurance scheme to protect against the risk of losses if a festival or concert is forced to cancel due to Covid.

“We want to create an unforgettable Summer of Sound and showcase the best of British music as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic. The music industry wants to play a leading role in driving the post-pandemic economic and cultural recovery.

“To make sure we can move ahead with live events, festival and concert organisers need the confidence that there is the safety-net of an insurance scheme that is already enjoyed by the film and TV industries.”

According to survey carried out by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), nine out of ten organisers (92.5% of respondents) said they could not stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as vital not optional.

Analysis by the AIF found that, for a festival taking place in early July, an estimated 40% of total costs will need to be paid before June 14th – the date when Government will make a decision on Step 4 of its roadmap about removing all rules on social distancing.

The expected total cost of staging a festival ranges from £130,000 to £12.4m, with an average cost of over £6m, according to the AIF. Costs include artists, production and infrastructure deposits as well as security, medical cover and licensing.

The music industry is working to three dates from the Government: April 12 for the start of pilot events; May 17 for indoor and outdoor events – with capacity limits and social distancing; and June 21 for large gigs and concerts with no social distancing.

The UK music industry contributed £5.8 billion to the UK economy pre-Covid and supports 200,000 people – three-quarters of whom are self-employed. UK music exports generate £2.9 billion a year.

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