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Leeds musicians need action for the self-employed now

Leeds is a city rich in culture and its Universities, and renowned music college, dance and art schools ensure that we are a home for those making a living in the creative industries.

But many are now feeling the impact of the loss of trade as coronavirus sees the closure of venues and schools, the cancellation of events and the sudden downturn of private tuition.

Steve, a Leeds musician told us “all my concerts and gigs have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. It is going to be lot longer than the 12 week timeline the Government seem to be working towards and it’ll take years for our industry to recover. I am worried about how I am going to pay my Mortgage in the future as Universal Credit is not enough for me. The Government need to take proper control of the situation.”

Rebecca Frodsham a Leeds based vocalist pointed out the “disparity between what we are currently entitled to in comparison to the employed. Especially given that our industry (as in music and events) was one of the first, and quite possibly (along with travel) the worst affected industry. We pay Tax like everyone else, the government has imposed these measures and they should be offering adequate compensation and swiftly.”

Michael said “My biggest anxiety is starving to death but professionally is never recovering lost work. The government should step in and offer more help for self-employed workers. It’s disgusting we are being ignored and treated like we don’t matter.”

Rob Eaglesham manages Leeds band the Marsicans whose debut Album was set to be released at the end of May and were booked to play the international music industry conference ‘South By Southwest’ in Texas this month as well as a string of live shows in May and multiple festivals over the summer. So far, the cancelled bookings have meant losses of earnings in the thousands of pounds for the band. For the individual members of the band, the closing of bars and restaurants has meant the jobs which pay their rent and living expenses have disappeared in a heartbeat. No-one is sure what happens now.”

Many musicians rely on school and private tuition to make up their income. Alex Wibrew runs – a Leeds based platform that connects music students with professional, self-employed students.  He says “government guidance has seen a reduction in face to face lessons and a move towards online learning. However some students are reticent to try online learning meaning a reduction of work available to tutors. This, coupled with cancelled performances, workshops, and school sessions means the outlook is incredibly bleak for musicians. Many in my network are currently confused about how to access government support – and disappointed in the lack of measures arranged for the self-employed.”

Music producers and engineers are also hit by this sudden change to their industry. Ed Heaton, a self-employed Leeds producer said, “I’ve already had multiple jobs cancelled, producing is a collaborative process so people need to be together. That obviously can’t happen, so it means that work is drying up. I’m not totally sure how the bills are getting paid at the end of April.”

So how can Government help? Whilst workers in PAYE jobs are able to claim 80% of their wages through the wage replacement scheme, there is nothing yet in place for the self-employed. A petition to ask for a similar scheme to be rolled out to the self employed based on median income has 150,000 signatures.

Last week I organised a letter signed by 150 MPs and Peers demanding the introduction of Universal Basic Income as an emergency measure to ensure the livelihoods of everyone in the country for the duration of the crisis.

Critical times call for critical action. We cannot allow millions of self-employed people to lose their livelihoods and industries, like the music industry, to crumble. The self employed need their government to support them. The time for action is now.


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