Horace appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to give evidence on the impact that COVID-19 has had on musicians.
Expanding on the extensive written submissions that the union has sent to the committee, he led with the results of the MU impact survey, which demonstrated that most musicians lost all of their income in March and that there is no certainty of when they will be able to return to work.
Whilst accepting that the Government support schemes had been a lifeline for some members, he highlighted that 40% of musicians did not qualify for either scheme and gave some case studies from members.
MU members are encouraged to take action by writing to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on him to close all the gaps in Government support and sharing their thoughts on social media.
A full review of the streaming model is urgently needed
Horace went on to explain that the vast majority of musicians today make most of their money from live work, which of course is currently largely impossible. Support for venues is vital to ensure key workplaces survive and secure the talent pipeline.
At the same time, the collapse in royalties for recorded music should be urgently addressed. “At a time when record labels are making record profits it cannot be right that established musicians are left to rely on hardship funds… There needs to be a full review into the streaming model to see where the money is going, because it is not going to the musicians' pockets,” he explained.
The Musicians' Union in partnership with the Ivors Academy is calling for an urgent review, with greater transparency and fairness at the forefront of the call. Over 13,000 musicians and fans have signed a petition in support, and MU members are encouraged to add their voice to the call.
Financial support for the music industry is vital
Horace also argued strongly for further assistance, “Music is worth 5.2 billion to the UK economy and the Chancellor needs to bear that in mind. Our industry is the envy of the world, but we won’t retain it unless we invest in it during this difficult time. Our sector must have further financial support from the Government if it is to survive in any shape or form.”
He put forward the German model as an example, which supports different areas of the industry including theatres and orchestras.
Many of these institutions also provide essential social functions, “Our wonderful orchestras do masses of outreach. They are in care homes, schools, prisons, they are in hospitals helping patients... All of that stuff has stopped. That’s a great loss to society, not just to the music world,” Horace explained.
Safety of musicians is the most important concern
When asked about whether social distancing could ever work in the live sector, Horace emphasised that the safety of musicians was his most important concern.
He also hoped, though, that as the infection rate went down the medical experts would examine whether the two-metre distancing guidelines were necessary in every setting and whether there were any measures that could be introduced to bring it down to the World Health Organisation’s suggestion of one-metre.
Highlights from the committee
Horace called on Government to:
- Close the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
- Extend Government support schemes for our sector beyond October until normal work can be resumed
- Support for safe ways of working
- A Government cultural fund, ideally based on the German model
- A review into the streaming funding mode.