UK Music has urged the government to urgently plug the "alarming gaps" in its support package for the self-employed during the COVID-19 crisis. The cross-sector music industry organisation highlights two groups in particular - company directors and the recently self-employed - who are not currently covered by any government support schemes.
Ensuring that self-employed people were provided with financial support during the COVID-19 shutdown was always a key priority for the music industry where 72% of people work on a freelance basis. A programme was then launched by the UK government for those formally registered as sole-traders, but since then no new support has been forthcoming for the people caught up in the gaps that were almost immediately identified.
"Many in our industry are directors of their own small firms", UK Music points out in its new statement. "However, company directors are disqualified from the self-employed scheme and cannot furlough themselves as this would stop their businesses from operating. They need urgent government help to make sure these individuals, often low earners, do not slip through the net".
It also notes that anyone who became self-employed after 28 Feb is not eligible for support, saying: "We urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to allow the newly self-employed to file their 2019-20 tax returns now so they can get the same help as other self-employed workers and not fall victim to this unjust cut off".
UK Music then points to stats from various other music industry trade bodies highlighting the huge amount of money already lost as a result of COVID-19 - including the £50 million lost by artists affected by the live industry shutdown, and the 70% dip in income for producers and sound engineers.
Noting the various hardship funds launched by a number of music industry bodies, UK Music says that these alone are unable to keep everyone who needs support afloat in the current situation - and are certainly only equipped to provide help in the very short term.
Identifying further gaps in the government's support initiatives, UK Music says that those who earn less than 50% of their income from self-employment should be allowed to access a mix of government schemes. And beyond the self-employed, business rates relief and grants for small and middle-size enterprises should be extended to a wider range of companies.
On those latter points it says: "The Chancellor should grant a business rates holiday to private and commercial recording studios which are not covered by the rate relief scheme, as well as ensuring music SMEs that don't pay business rates due to being in shared offices can still access the Small Business Grant Fund".
The organisation says that plugging these gaps will "avoid the loss of thousands of jobs and businesses".
"We want to work with the government to help expand the support on offer and minimise the impact of coronavirus on our world-leading industry", it concludes. "The music industry has stepped up and is doing all we can. We need the government to address the holes in the safety net so no one in the music industry is excluded from the help they desperately need".