Are you a gigging singer or instrumentalist and wondering how you’re going to pay your bills through this period of closures and lockdown?
Freelance musicians’ financial support as self-employed during COVID-19 pandemic is now available for those in need. Funds, schemes and packages are being swiftly created by charities and the government on a daily basis in this fast-moving global crisis.
With so many events cancelled or postponed due to Coronavirus/COVID-19, we’ve put together the below to outline what is being offered by whom, as well as basic eligibility criteria and how to apply.
Freelance musicians’ financial support as self-employed during COVID-19 pandemic
Since the government announced temporary closures of all venues – including pubs, concert halls, recording studios and theatres – all live events have ground to a halt, not only in the Uk but in much of the world.
Additionally, with the population ordered to stay at home unless absolutely necessary (for exercise, essentially jobs and buying food), any group activities cannot go ahead until further notice. Musicians can still perform online, but as many rely on gigs, recording and session work to survive, this is a worrying time.
Self-employment in the music industry
If you earn your living from freelancing in the music industry and fill in an annual tax return, you are classed as self-employed. Almost as soon as the announcement of closures were made, the government pledged to support businesses and pay 80% of the salaries of many PAYE (pay as you earn) workers whose jobs had been affected by the crisis.
Perhaps you’re unsure whether which category you fall into. Are you sent a monthly or weekly payslip? If so, you are classed as a PAYE employee. As a musician or singer, this is most unlikely/.
With a huge number of freelancers and self-employed people being left without income and unable to work, there have now been moves to extend the support to those not classed as employees. The arts sector has been particularly badly hit – almost everyone in these industries works on a freelance basis and very few of its businesses have been able to continue operations.
Government self-employment package
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has just announced a rescue package for those who are already registered as self-employed and have annual profits of up to £50,000. This will provide a grant of 80% of earnings up to £2500 per month (based on the average profits of the individual, as calculated in the previous three years’ tax returns). It aims to match the offer made to PAYE staff who are unable to work.
If you are eligible, you do not need to do anything. Instead, HMRC will identify those who will be entitled to the payouts and will make an automatic back payment in June. And you can continue to undertake freelance work. 95% of freelancers will be able to claim. Only those who have recently become self-employed and those who make only a small part of their income from self-employed gigs and have additional PAYE work will be excluded.
More COVID-19 grants and funds
If you are in need right now and are unable to wait till June, or are very recently self-employed and hadn’t yet filed a tax return, there are other options to access help.
The Arts Council
The Arts Council has announced £160 million worth of new funding streams to support creatives during this time. £20 million of this will be made available to individuals. Bear in mind that this covers the full spectrum of the arts of which music is just a part. So there will be lots of people trying to unlock this funding.
Help Musicians is a handy source of information and has a financial hardship scheme of £5 million, offering £500 payments to individuals in great hardship. This is by application and you must be eligible. You can apply and find out more here.
The Musician’s Union
The Musicians’ Union has a £1 million fund for those experiencing hardship due to the Coronavirus pandemic. To apply, you must have been a full paying member of the MU for at least a year.
PRS for Music
Similarly, PRS for Music has just launched an emergency relief fund, with grants of up to £1000 for those who have been PRS writer members for at least two years, who have earned at least £500 of royalties in that time and who are in genuine hardship.
Freelands Foundation Emergency Relief Fund
For artists and freelancers in England and Northern Ireland in partnership with a-n The Artists Information Company.
The £1.5m Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund is supported by the Freelands Foundation, as part of a landmark commitment of £3m towards emergency funds for artists and freelance creative practitioners across the UK affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
If you were due to pay a tax bill, speak to HMRC. They are currently offering deferred and instalment options to ease the cash flow strain.
If you have a disability or health condition, you can apply for ESA (employment and support allowance).
Not Covid-19 specific, but The Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain has a hardship fund to which musicians can apply.
And if you’re in need of mental health support at this difficult time, you can contact Music Minds Matter, a charity experienced in offering emotional support to the music community.
Remember, for many musicians, especially those who are fit and healthy, there may be lots of other ways to bring in an income, even during closures and lockdown. People are listening to music more than ever, keen to learn online and watching YouTube avidly. Take advantage of this and see how you can progress your career even in these uncertain times. Doors may open that otherwise wouldn’t.
- Do musicians pay tax?
Yes, anyone who earns over £12500 per annum must pay tax. And anyone bringing in £8,632 must pay national insurance contributions. Even if you earn well below these amounts and/or you work part-time on a freelance basis alongside another PAYE job, you must register as self-employed.
- How much do musicians make per gig?
This can vary from nothing at all to expenses only, to thousands of pounds. It will depend on the type of gig, how long it lasts, who you’re working for, where it is, what experience and how high profile you are as an artist. If you fill in a self- assessment tax return, you’ll be able to calculate your annual income as a musician.
- Are musicians self-employed?
Most are, however, a small minority are on the payroll of companies and organisations. Especially those who teach or play/sing as part of large scale ongoing groups. Even those few who are salaried usually gig on a self-employed basis too.
Are you a freelance musician needing self-employment financial support at this time? Or have you found ways to move your work online during this period of self-isolation and public distancing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.