Music industry calls lack of insurance scheme in 2021 Budget “disappointing”

© Danny Seaton

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the details of his spring Budget today (3 March).

As promised by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden yesterday (2 March), £400 million will be allocated to the arts sector, with the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund set to receive a £300 million boost. To help the live music sector, the Government will extend its five percent VAT rate on ticket sales for the next six months. Furthermore, the UK’s furlough scheme has been extended to September and there’ll be financial support for self-employed individuals.

Organisations across the music industry have responded to the news, such as The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said: “Today’s Budget hits the right note for many musicians, with the Chancellor announcing a further £400m for the arts alongside the extension of support for those eligible for the self-employed scheme, furlough and the Universal Credit uplift. These are all essential, because thousands of our members have not had any work for a year and are waiting for venues to safely re-open. The Government must invest in the UK’s cultural industries until this crisis is over, including measures to help the estimated three million excluded freelancers.”

However, some have also expressed disappointment in the lack of a Government-backed insurance scheme for the live music sector. The chief executive of UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, said the absence of a cancellation insurance scheme will leave festival organisers in a difficult position.

Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee said: “It is welcome that the Treasury has listened to the case pressed by this committee for additional support for our outstanding arts, creative and sporting sectors that have been hit so hard by the impact of the pandemic.”

“However, it is greatly disappointing that the Government appears not to have heard our call to give its backing to cancellation insurance schemes for festivals, which would provide a safety net should organisers need to cancel plans and enable more to go ahead with confidence this summer.”

LIVE has also issued a statement, which reads: “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.”

The General Secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers, Steve Heap, added: “The Chancellor appears to have heard our need for support and we welcome the holding of five percent 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.”

This week, AIF stressed the importance of an insurance scheme, warning that UK festivals could be cancelled this summer in the absence of one. Music Venue Trust also announced that 20 grassroots spaces in the UK are still at risk of permanent, imminent closure.