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£6M Monthly Losses Leaving British Orchestras Struggling to Survive

We’ve joined forces with the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) to highlight the urgent need for extra funding for freelance musicians.

royal albert hall interior
The MU and the ABO are both concerned about the future of the UK’s orchestras and the talented musicians who rely on that work and who are at the heart of this key sector. Photo: Shutterstock

Together with the ABO we’re working to persuade the government to provide immediate additional funding for self-employed musicians affected by the continued shutdown of live performances.

While over one thousand employed musicians have been furloughed, an equivalent number of freelance members – along with many thousands of additional musicians – have relied solely on the Self Employment Income Support Scheme. Industry research shows that 30% of freelance musicians, shockingly, have not benefited from this scheme.

Furthermore, whilst the Culture Recovery Fund will be used to maintain arts organisations on life support until they can reopen fully in Spring 2021, there is no certainty at present as to which orchestras will benefit from the Fund. It will certainly not help, in the short-term, the many freelance musicians who depend on earnings from concerts and recordings.

This parlous state for a vital part of our cultural landscape is exacerbated by the concern that the last payment under the SEISS will be in August, yet a return to concerts with full audiences is not expected until 2021.

The ship is sinking and we need a lifeboat

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said:

“The MU and the ABO are both deeply concerned about the future of the UK’s orchestras and the highly-talented musicians who rely on that work and who are at the heart of this key sector. For our orchestral members the ship is sinking and there isn’t a lifeboat in sight.

“This government either doesn’t understand the damage that is being done to the orchestral sector, or it doesn’t care. We have repeatedly called upon the government to offer a lifeline to freelance orchestral musicians, but they simply choose not to listen.”

Orchestral musicians are being missed by support from the Government

Director of the ABO, Mark Pemberton added:

“Our members reported earned income of £70m in 2019 and therefore over six million pounds a month is being lost in cancelled performances for a sector that was already struggling from the years of austerity.

“The many thousands of freelance musicians who have helped to make UK orchestras world-renowned are on their knees hoping that the government will finally recognise their plight, and step in with much needed funds to tide them over until the concert halls can reopen.

“Our own research suggests that up to a third of freelance orchestral musicians have been unable to access the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and with no work on the horizon, they are contemplating a very, very bleak future.”

Lobbying for sector specific support

We’re continuing to lobby the Government for appropriate, sector specific support. Read more about it in our latest lobbying update.


Published: 06/08/2020

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