A new survey from the Musicians’ Union shows that 19 percent of musicians in the U.K. are considering quitting the profession. This possible exodus of one-fifth of the workforce comes from a lack of government stimulus in response to COVID-19.
Even among those who qualify for assistance, 26 percent say that they will still struggle financially in the period between payments. As economies around the world cautiously begin to reopen retail and dining, the live music industry is remains far from a soundcheck.
According to the survey from the union of over 32,000 musicians across the United Kingdom, the government’s stimulus package leaves severe gaps in coverage. Just as in the United States, musicians and other self-employed artists are more likely than most to fall into those gaps. Add that with the fact that the live music industry, given the frequency and necessity of crowded rooms and tight spaces, will be slow to reopen and it creates a severe disincentive for staying in the profession. Musicians’ Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge said of the results,
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.
This comes after U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced a £398 billion relief package for small businesses across the country in March. While the aid was designed to help local businesses pay rent and employees, even while closed, it left sizable red tape around self-employed workers with 38 percent of musicians surveyed unable to obtain any government aid. Additionally, the Musicians’ Union addressed gaps in coverage for those who are part self-employed (less than 50 percent of their total income), those who have been self-employed less than a year, those who function as a limited company, those with annual profits over £50,000, and musicians on maternity leave.
“In Germany, the total package for the arts is worth £46.3billion,” Trubridge pointed out. “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.”
Just like in the U.K., many musicians stateside are having trouble staying afloat during the pandemic, with the national government providing little assistance. Although physical gigs are non-existent and federal aid to musicians is about as plentiful, many artists are embracing their craft more than ever. As the amount of live streams has grown into a veritable flood, as well as the growing prevalence of online lessons from prominent musicians, the avenues of promotion for artists have simply diversified, rather than dwindled. Plus now that everyone is forced to stay at home, the pipeline from musician to fan is as direct as ever. English writer G.K. Chesterton said that “art consists in limitation,” and his countrymen and women back home are likely inclined to agree with him right now.
Read the full survey from Musicians’ Union here.