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Musicians: Cost of Living

Volume 729: debated on Thursday 9 March 2023

7. What discussions she has had with music industry representatives on the impact of increases in the cost of living on musicians. (903945)

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Ministers regularly engage with music industry representatives from across the live music and recorded music sectors. I met representatives from Live to hear directly about the challenges facing musicians. I look forward to meeting the Music Venue Trust shortly, to hear more from the grassroots music sector on the cost of living pressures.

I am sure the Minister will want to join me in congratulating Mae Muller on being selected as the UK’s representative at Eurovision in Liverpool.

Surely the Minister acknowledges that the creative sector has probably been the most heavily impacted sector throughout this cost of living crisis, and that musicians have probably been the most impacted within that sector. Earnings for recordings are next to zero, Europe is effectively closed to them, musicians who want to travel to the US face visa problems, and studios and rehearsal spaces are at great risk because of sky-high energy bills. The charity Help Musicians has found that 90% of musicians—the lifeblood of the music sector—are worried about how they are going to pay their next food bill, and half are thinking about leaving the industry. Does the Minister believe that this is the worst possible time to be an aspiring musician, and what is she going to do to rectify the situation and support our musicians?

As a musician himself, the hon. Gentleman is a tremendous champion of the music industry, and I appreciate all the work he does. He has raised a series of points. On an individual level, the Government have put forward a substantial package to help people through the cost of living crisis. That is an extension of the cultural recovery fund. We also have the Arts Council England fund for supporting grassroots live music. He highlighted issues about US visas, which I am very concerned about and on which we are engaging with US counterparts. I encourage him to get the industry to engage with that consultation, and I am happy to engage with him on some of the issues he raises.

Many musicians are self-employed and lose out on cost of living payments, particularly early on in their careers, because of the operation of the minimum income floor. They have variable incomes early on, which was raised on Monday with Department for Work and Pensions Ministers. Will the Minister and her DCMS colleagues give their support to meeting representatives of self-employed musicians, to find a workable way through and to make sure that they are not unfairly penalised by how they build their careers in their early stages?

The Department is very alive to the challenges facing freelancers, and we are looking at this in the creative sector vision. I know that my hon. Friend is passionate about this area, particularly in relation to opera. I assure him that it is something on which we continue to engage with other Departments.

Further to the pertinent question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), industry surveys indicate that half of musicians across the UK are contemplating leaving the industry. Not just individual musicians are affected. Grassroots music venues run at pre-tax profits of barely 0.2%. With the triple whammy of Brexit, covid and the cost of living crisis, many may have to close, destroying the ecosystem that nurtures and sustains emerging talent. What assessment have Ministers made of the potential impact that easing the tax burden on music venues could have on improving the outlook for this important sector of our music industry?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising those important questions, some of which we engage on regularly with the Treasury, particularly energy. As I said in my previous answer, we have schemes to support grassroots venues. The ACE scheme has been extended to March and we will continue to look at what more we can do to support this important sector.