By LightField Studios /

Amid the ongoing debate around artists’ income from streaming, and the impact of Covid-19, here’s a curveball: what if musicians were paid a universal basic income (UBI) to sustain their careers? This isn’t just whimsy on our part: it’s an idea mooted in a new report by Ireland’s Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, commissioned to plot the path forward for the arts and culture sectors there post-Covid.

It’s the report’s main recommendation, in fact: “Pilot a universal basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audiovisual and live performance and events sectors.” Which, if you’re new to UBI, means a payment from the state to cover basic living costs plus some financial security, with no conditions attached.

The report suggested that such a pilot would be opt-in, for artists, creators AND other workers in the cultural sector, and would be set at minimum-wage level (which is about to go up to €10.20 an hour in Ireland – around $12.12). The scheme would be aimed at both employed and self-employed people, with its costs calculated based on the current ‘PUP’ (Pandemic Unemployment Payment) in Ireland. The report suggests a UBI scheme would cost €2.5m a year per 1,000 participants, over and above the current PUP cost.

It’s a report making suggestions in a single country, with no guarantee that such a pilot will be introduced, let alone rolled out to the entire arts and cultural sector. But (and this is the reason we’ve picked it as our lead story today) with discussion warming up around the world about UBI for the general population, now might be a good time to think about how the model might apply to arts and culture in particular, and how we as a society value the people working within it.

We’ll be keen to see how musicians and the teams around them react to the idea both in Ireland and elsewhere, as well as monitoring the response of the Irish government to the report’s recommendation.

Image by LightField Studios /

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