Help Musicians has been providing support to professional musicians in times of crisis and opportunity for 99 years. Our programme supports musicians’ creativity, health and welfare and business needs.
This balanced approach is unique – we believe that all three elements need to be strong in order to sustain a career. In March 2020, tens of thousands of musicians immediately found themselves without income and the charity had to react urgently to adapt our normal support model and launch major new initiatives.
The first stage of our response to assist musicians in this crisis was to reach out to industry partners and collaborate to develop a new central resource hub “coronamusicians.info” launched within days - creating one place that musicians could go to for the best advice all organisations had to offer.
With live gigs, tours, festivals, rehearsals and recording sessions instantly wiped out, the financial impact on musicians had become an overnight crisis. As a result we built and launched a new financial hardship application and payment process with the ability to process, assess and pass funds to 1,000+ musicians per day - offering a one-off grant of £500 to musicians in financial hardship, to help tide them over until government help was launched/paid.
With £5m from our reserves and over £3m donated from all corners of the music industry, within four weeks we had provided nearly 16,700 musicians with financial support to allow them to fulfil necessities such as paying rent and bills and putting food on the table.
This first phase of hardship funding was a much-needed stopgap. We followed up with a survey of musicians in early April which showed that 87% identified as self-employed and 25% of these said they thought they wouldn’t be eligible for self-employed support due to the rules and thresholds in the government scheme.
The survey also revealed serious anxiety with those receiving only Universal Credit, describing themselves as being in ‘fight or flight mode’. This is not just a financial crisis but also a mental health time-bomb.
We will shortly launch our next phase of hardship support targeted at self-employed musicians who do not qualify for government schemes and other musicians who are continuing to experience significant financial hardship.
As well as hardship funding and creative funding opportunities (we have already run two rounds of our Do It Differently Fund, specially adapted for the covid crisis), we will be working hard to provide musicians with mental health support and structured business advice to ensure that musicians can continue to grow their income in.
We recognise that the scope of need will be broad, and that Help Musicians will need to help more musicians than ever in the months ahead.