An Oireachtas committee has been warned that cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in September may leave musicians and other live performers without any support this winter.
The Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) is "very concerned" that if a performer gets some employment in July or August, "they would be forced to sign off the PUP" and then be left without any support in winter.
Matt McGranaghan of the MEAI told the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media that activity in the music and live performance industry is seasonal by nature.
"We have a lot of very worried people out there", Jackie Conboy, an MEAI co-founder, said, adding that some are selling their equipment to pay bills.
"It's hard to believe" the volume of calls MEAI is dealing with on a daily basis, he told the committee.
He wants to see "test gigs conducted in licenced premises" to help to draft guidelines to allow for the return of live entertainment in those settings.
However, Mr Conboy observed "a lot of opposition" to antigen testing by those running venues and festivals, because of the added cost it entails, and the time involved in administering tests.
Mr McGranaghan said that the Music and Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme (MEBAS) is being stymied by "bureaucratic" details, including classifying musicians as a business, which is not how they see themselves.
Language "is a huge deterrent", he said, adding that the scheme had received "just over 300 applicants", which is "incredibly low".
Mr Conboy also criticised "the slow roll out of supports" the industry has been promised.
The MEAI warned against the changes to the PUP which will move those on the lowest rate to the Jobseekers Allowance - meaning that they will be classified as unemployed.
"That person would really have to wrap up their business" in order to receive a payment, Mr McGranaghan said.
Committee Chair Niamh Smyth, Fianna Fáil, expressed alarm at the fact that only €1m of the €50m MEBAS funding scheme has been allocated. That sum was allocated to the St Patrick's Festival in March, when the scheme was launched.
She said the committee would write to Arts Minister Catherine Martin to establish when the funds would be allocated.
MEBAS is the "only non-competitive support" given to the industry, Mr McGranaghan said.
Ms Smyth said that "it's really heart-breaking to hear of bands selling their equipment", and not getting a fair price because so many musicians are selling gear at the moment.
Mr Conboy also called for the sector's VAT rate to be aligned to the tourism and hospitality sector, saying that this would be a meaningful stimulus and support.