Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Budget, there were key priorities for the music sector including the furlough scheme and government-backed insurance for festivals.
There was some good news on the extension of the furlough scheme to September, a business rates holiday until June (and a 66% rate until April), an extension of the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to 600,000 new starters, and £300 million for the Culture Recovery Fund. But there are still concerns for the live sector and the self-employed who don't qualify for support.
A corporation tax increase to 25% will affect the industry as it emerges from the pandemic. But there will be an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales to September. A £150 million Community Ownership Fund could potentially help grassroots venues.
Here’s the verdict on the Budget from across the music sector…
UK Music – chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin
“We’re glad the Chancellor has listened to our calls to further extend the economic support schemes. The expanded support for freelancers and the self-employed is a step in the right direction in an industry where three-quarters of the 200,000 workforce are self-employed. However, there are still many in our industry who fall in the gaps of the financial support schemes and need help. The £300 million boost to the Culture Recovery Fund is welcome and will be a lifeline to many venues and organisations – but the fund should be extended to include freelancers, as is the case in Scotland and Wales.
“The clock is ticking when it comes to staging live music events this summer. Organisers are making decisions in the next few days and weeks about whether they can proceed or will be forced to cancel. The live music industry urgently needs a government-backed insurance scheme to protect against the risk of losses if a festival or concert is forced to cancel due to Covid.”
LIVE – CEO Greg Parmley
“We warmly welcome the additional financial support the Chancellor announced in his Budget today, which is due recognition from government that the live music industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The extension of the reduced 5% rate of VAT, in particular, will provide significant support to businesses who have had their revenue decimated over the past year. The extension of the furlough and other employment support schemes will also be hugely important across the industry.
“Today’s Budget focused on helping live music to survive the long months of closure still ahead of us – and we desperately need that. But we also call on the Chancellor to look again at a government-backed insurance scheme, which would ensure we can recover, and get people back to work, as quickly as possible once it is safe to lift restrictions.”
National Arenas Association – chair Lucy Noble
“For the live music industry, today’s Budget, and specifically the extension of furlough to September, is enormously welcome. The whole sector has been grateful for a June 21 ‘not before’ date for operating at full capacity, and the extension of the 5% VAT rate on tickets is something we had been hoping to see. Uncertainty remains and the lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation is a huge concern – what the entire live sector wants is to be allowed to trade safely out of this situation and once more welcome people to come together for extraordinary shared experiences.”
The lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation is a huge concern
Music Venue Trust – CEO Mark Davyd
“Music Venue Trust welcomes the extensions to furlough, SEISS and the VAT cut on ticket sales. These measures are supportive of the next steps in the campaign to Reopen Every Venue Safely. On business rates, we note that the Chancellor has provided a 100% cut for the initial three-month period in which venues will not be trading. This period does not resolve the long running debate on business rates, and we look forward to a full discussion of this outdated and anachronistic taxation in the Business Rates Review in Autumn 2021.
“The Chancellor announced additional funding to be distributed by Arts Council England, but the purpose of this funding is unclear; we hope to work with ACE and DCMS to ensure it is effectively distributed, and includes sensible and structured capital investment that enables our music venues to become more Covid-secure. We look forward to hearing more detail on the Community Fund, which may prove an important contribution to tackling the issue of ownership of our cultural spaces.”
Music Managers Forum – CEO Annabella Coldrick
"The MMF welcomes the extension of eligibility for support to the self-employed. This is a really important measure that should have an impact on our community and their clients, many of whom faced real hardship during the pandemic, although unfortunately directors of limited companies are still excluded. We also welcome the £300m Cultural Recovery Fund for reopening although it was disappointing not to hear any developments on government-backed insurance for live music events which is urgently needed to get us back up and running in July. For a full longer-term music recovery, to a place where artists can perform to full capacity crowds and tour internationally, we will need this kind of targeted and continued support reaching into 2022."
Association of Independent Festivals – CEO Paul Reed
“We warmly welcome the extension to the reduced VAT rate on tickets, which will really help festivals during the 2021 sales cycle. For many AIF members, this is the first period in which they are selling tickets since the outset of the pandemic. We do, however, reiterate the recommendation of the DCMS Select Committee for VAT on ticket sales to remain at a reduced rate for three years so that the UK festival sector can fully recover.
"The Culture Recovery Fund has been a lifeline for many of our members so it's greatly encouraging to see a further £300m invested into this, though we would appreciate some further detail on this additional round and the time period it will cover.
“We also welcome the extension to the government’s furlough scheme and continued support for the self-employed. However, independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer. As we have repeatedly stressed, the only way they can do this is with a government-backed insurance scheme that covers Covid-19 related cancellation. The Chancellor today confirmed the extension of the government-backed restart scheme for film and TV productions – a similar safety net needs to be put in place before the end of March to avoid mass cancellations throughout the UK’s festival market.”
Musicians’ Union – general secretary Horace Trubridge
“We welcome the extension to the furloughing scheme and the SEISS, and we are pleased to see that the chancellor has listened to our call for financial help for the newly self-employed. However, there are still a good number of self-employed musicians who do not qualify for the SEISS, and we urge the chancellor to ensure that the new money pumped into the Cultural Recovery Fund is open to applications from the self-employed sector. This would at least go some way to plugging the remaining gaps in the SEISS. In addition, we are also hopeful that the government will agree to help our world-renowned live sector in securing the necessary insurances needed to enable gigs and concerts to take place in the summer.”
#WeMakeEvents – Duncan Bell
“It is good to see the Chancellor recognise some of the challenges the live event supply chain is facing and take steps in the Budget to address these. The extension of furlough and SEISS beyond the end of the roadmap will be vital and we applaud this decision. The additional funding allocated to the Cultural Recovery Fund is also potentially helpful but DCMS and Arts Council England must ensure that the live event supply chain receives a fair proportion of the additional money allocated, which has not been the case in the past.
“But critical barriers to recovery still remain and must be overcome. Most importantly, vast numbers of businesses and individuals in the live event supply chain remain excluded from support schemes and we urge local authorities to address this through the discretionary funds they have been allocated. The continued absence of government-backed Covid-19 cancellation insurance is also a block to live events getting going again and this must be announced shortly.”
The Community Fund may prove an important contribution to tackling the issue of ownership of our cultural spaces
Association of Festival Organisers – general secretary Steve Heap
“The chancellor appears to have heard our need for support and we welcome the holding of 5% VAT on ticket sales to September 30, 2021. This extension will give festivals the chance to sell tickets at the lower rate and provide much needed cash for our businesses.”
“Our industry needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow us to get back up and running in 2021. We will continue to campaign for this insurance support because without the certainty it provides the UK economy could lose most of our economic contribution to the economy.
“We are disappointed that without business premises and without business tax returns thousands of freelance festival staff will again fall down the cracks and [struggle] to survive on Universal Credit with its £20 per week extension.”
Michael Kill – NTIA CEO
“We welcome the extension of VAT and rates relief, and that more money is going to hospitality and the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). But both of these interventions again reveal the Chancellor’s inability to comprehend the specific challenges faced by night-time economy businesses, such as nightclubs, casinos and bars, many of which have been entirely unable to open during the pandemic and face higher costs relative to wider hospitality.
“While the roadmap announcement gave hope to our sector last week, the Chancellor is now at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With the money spent on support to date, it is ridiculous that many nightlife businesses may now fall at the final hurdle. The blame for this unnecessary personal hardship, and damage to the wider economic recovery, will fall at the Chancellor’s feet, unless he acts to ensure that proportionate sector specific grant funding is available immediately for night time economy businesses.”