More than 1,500 artists and thousands of venues and crew have issued an urgent plea for support from the UK government for a sector that contributes £4.5 billion ($5.6 billion) to the country’s economy annually, and is currently paralyzed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The campaign runs under the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay and has been co-signed by Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Dame Shirley Bassey, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sam Smith, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence + the Machine, George Ezra, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi, and Little Mix, to name just a few.
Alongside the operators of landmark UK venues like the O2 Arena, Brixton Academy and the Royal Albert Hall in London, or The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, as well as the crews that make up the backbone of this industry, they addressed the UK’s secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, in a letter.
In total, 1,500 artists, 560 venues and 4,000 production crew have added their names.
As well as supporting 210,000 jobs across the country, venues, concerts, festivals and production companies added £4.5 billion ($5.6 billion) to the UK economy in 2019, according to research by Media Insight Consulting in June 2020, building on UK Music’s annual Music By Numbers report.
The sector was all set for a record festival summer, when the government imposed bans on and distancing rules for public gatherings brought virtually the entire live events economy to a halt.
As UK promoter Kilimajaro Live points out, “the core live music industry stands to lose at least £900 million if it remains closed for the rest of 2020.”
Because concerts and festivals are unable to operate with any level of social distancing, they are unlikely to take place again in the UK until 2021 at the earliest.
It’s impossible to keep track of the redundancies that have already been made, and there’s potential for tens of thousands more to follow this year, as the participants in the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign point out.
Kilimanjaro Live estimates that 30% to 50% of the live music industry’s workforce are facing unemployment. Music festivals alone support some 85,000 jobs in the UK. The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals estimates that the indie festival sector is facing redundancies of 59% redundancies on average.
The joint #LetTheMusicPlay letter states: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.
“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”
The campaign launched today, June 2, and hundreds of artists, venues, concerts, festivals, production companies and others across the industry have begun posting films and photos of their last live gig under the banner #LetTheMusicPlay.
Fans are encouraged to do the same.
As far as concrete help from the government is concerned, the campaign is asking for “a clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing, a comprehensive business and employment support package and access to finance,” as well as “full VAT exemption on ticket sales.”
The “business and employment support package” should include “a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead; an extension of the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies; rent breaks for venues to allow them to reopen; an extension of business rate relief to the entire live music supply chain to protect our ecosystem; rolling-over fees for single premises event licences for festivals; and financial support for lost box office income.”
The £4.5 billion figure includes the economic impact of live music related tourism. Data shows that the biggest economic impact from the live music shutdown is likely to be felt regionally, where concerts and festivals have been proven to bring huge benefits.
For instance, “one sell-out full capacity night of live music in Birmingham would generate £3 million for the local economy. The Great Escape festival in Brighton generates £16 million worth of business for artists, managers, songwriters, producers and production services. TRNSMT festival in Glasgow generates a local economic impact of £10 million. Glastonbury Festival generates more than £100m a year for local businesses and charities.”
Said Glastonbury Festival promoter Emily Eavis: “The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges. If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”
More artist comments below.
Dua Lipa said: “It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK. From the very start playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career.
“I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels … small clubs, then theaters and ballrooms and into arenas, and of course festivals in between each touring cycle. But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”
Liam Gallagher said: “Amazing gigs don’t happen without an amazing team behind the stage, but they’ll all be out of jobs unless we can get back out there doing what we love. I can’t wait to get back to playing for the fans. But in the meantime we need to look after the live industry. There are so many great people in it and we all need to support them until we can get back to playing live.”
Beverley Knight said: “Alongside my love of music and theatre is my love of Wolverhampton Wanderers. We now need to see the same energy and ambition that brought football back applied to live music and theatre because, if not, the impact on the industry is going to be devastating and some elements may never come back.”
Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and the Venue Group said: “I’ve dedicated my life to music, on and off the stage. I was a teenager when I started running a monthly new music night called Communion with a couple of friends that has evolved into one of the UK’s most established concert promotions businesses, independent record labels and publishing companies.
“I was barely 20 when we were cutting some of the early Mumford & Sons demos in my parents’ attic and spending all of our spare energy in rehearsal rooms, and then cutting our teeth in venues throughout London. Now I’m a venue owner and operator of Omeara and Lafayette and watching our entire industry get decimated by this virus.
“Every day, literally, I hear of another friend in music losing their job, shutting up shop, switching careers. This pandemic has affected everyone, it has taken many lives and forever changed many more.
“Live entertainment has not been the headline, nor do I believe it should’ve been, at least until now. We really have to pay some attention to what our cultural landscape is going to look like on the other side of this and we’re hoping that #letthemusicplay will pull some of this into focus for a minute.”