UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meant the future for venues, concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looked bleak.
Like other countries such as Germany and Australia, the UK needed the Government to help the music industry, which at the time contributed £5.2 billion to the economy annually and sustained almost 200,000 jobs, to ensure it remained world-leading following the damage caused by this pandemic.
Until businesses could fully operate again, government support was crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.
On July 2nd 2020, UK Music and members of the UK Live Music Group, alongside a coalition of live music businesses including artists, venues, concerts, festivals, production companies and industry figures launched a campaign, Let The Music Play, to highlight the importance of the sector to the UK’s economy.
Artists across the industry such as Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Paul McCartney joined together to sign a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for support.
3 key asks of the Government:
- A clear conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
- An immediate comprehensive business and employment support package* and access to finance.
- Full VAT exemption on ticket sales.
How has the Government responded?
Following the launch of the campaign, the Government announced a £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund support package for the arts. The support packaged was widely welcomed by the music industry, however there were still issues on eligibility for grants and loans to ensure maximum take-up from across the industry from those in desperate need of help. Also it was a concern that those that didn’t have a track record of public funding might be put at a disadvantage. UK Music sought urgent talks with Government to discuss further.
As part of his summer statement Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a VAT cut from 20% to 5% for businesses in tourism and hospitality, which includes concerts and shows.
The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also announced that there would be easing of restrictions to allow open-air performances to resume over Summer 2020 in a very limited way.
However, this was only the first stage on the long road to get live music back on its feet. It was more critical than ever that Government ensured the scope of its support was broad enough and continued for long enough to help the tens of thousands in the industry who were still unable to return to work.
What could you do?
Please write to your local MP to support Let The Music Play.
- Click here to find your local Member of Parliament.
- Support the campaign on social media with #LetTheMusicPlay.
- The core live music industry stands to lose at least £900 million if it remains closed for the rest of 2020.
- An estimated 30-50% of the live music industry’s workforce are facing unemployment, leading to a catastrophic loss of skills.
- The UK is home to the most popular arenas in the world, yet they are set to lose five million visitors due to COVID-19.
- Music festivals support 85,000 jobs, but with the entire summer cancelled, many are currently facing collapse with 59% redundancies expected across the sector without further support.
- 90% of grassroots music venues are under threat of closure. We are supporting the Music Venue Trust’s call for a £50 million cash injection to ensure vital parts of the music industry do not go out of business.
- The core live music industry generates £1.1 billion to the economy and impacts other parts of the economy including tourism to the tune of £4.5 billion.
- Musicians earn an average of £23,000 a year, well below the national average. Their income is under further threat due to the cancellation of live music because performances represent a major of income for musicians, composers and songwriters.
- Live music needs VAT relief on future ticket sales. It would save the live music industry up to £300 million each year and hugely help in its recovery.
- Music plays an important role to the economy. UK concert-goers spend almost double on live music events than those in France and Italy combined.
- The UK live music industry is the second biggest in the world but is at risk of falling behind. Following COVID-19 the German government has provided €150 million to its live music industry.
- The UK is host to the world’s biggest and most famous greenfield festival – Glastonbury and the world’s most successful ticketed venue – The O2. Every year almost 30 million music fans attend thousands of festivals, arenas, concert halls and grassroots venues.
- Live music events have a profound impact on local economies – Glastonbury generates £100m a year for local businesses and charities. Ed Sheeran’s 2019 gigs at Chantry Park generated £9m for the Ipswich economy.
- The Government’s Job Retention Scheme has provided short term relief to the many live music businesses and employees yet plans to wind down the scheme risk putting livelihoods at risk without further support.
- If the UK Government does not provide timely and well-targeted support to the music sector, the industry will lose core physical infrastructure, as well as musical talent technical skills, which will be impossible to replace, even if the industry is able to return to economic viability post-COVID-19.