UK Music Chief on How The Music Industry Will Keep Economy Upbeat In Post-Covid Recovery

19.10.2021: UK Music's Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin write for The Times Red Box on the value of the music industry to post-pandemic recovery following the launch of UK Music's This Is Music report. 

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19.10.2021: UK Music’s Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin write for The Times Red Box on the value of the music industry to post-pandemic recovery following the launch of UK Music’s This Is Music report. 

Last year should have been a positive year for the UK music industry. After years of double-digital growth, booming employment and continued international success, we were on course to be the British success story of the new decade.

Covid-19 stopped all that in its tracks. Overnight, the sector was brought to its knees, with live performances banned, international travel restricted, and hundreds of thousands of people unable to work.

As UK Music’s This Is Music report shows, the consequences for the music industry have been catastrophic. Having contributed £5.8 billion to the economy in 2019, that figure almost halved in 2020, to £3.1 billion. There was a 23 per cent hit to exports. Most worrying, employment plummeted by 35 per cent — that’s almost 70,000 fewer people working in the industry.

The past 18 months have been difficult for the music industry. Now, as we look to emerge from the pandemic, our mission is to recover, rebuild and return to being the national asset that we were before Covid-19 hit.

That starts with backing those working in the sector. The UK’s largely self-employed creative workforce has been hit hard by this pandemic, with many falling through the gaps in support and some being forced to leave the sector.

The future of the industry depends on its workforce — so government should secure our talent pipeline by providing funds to help freelancers to recover and investing in music education to support the next generation of British music success stories.

The UK is a global hub of music-making and it is crucial that we protect our domestic infrastructure. This means protecting the live sector by avoiding a return to enforced social distancing at events, continuing economic support while the industry rebuilds, and maintaining the reduced rate of Vat for hospitality to ensure we do not choke off the recovery we are starting to see.

Finally, as a major exporter it is vital we can continue to export British success. The sector continues to feel the effects of Brexit, with new rules on visas, work permits, carnets and cabotage hampering those who need to work and tour in Europe — government must resolve this crisis.

Schemes such as the Music Export Growth Scheme and the International Showcase Fund should be boosted. The fiscal incentives that have done so much to help other creative sectors such as film, TV and gaming should be expanded to the music industry.

It is vital that we support the music industry, and not only for economic reasons. As the report shows, the music industry’s value to the UK is more than monetary — music also carries huge social and emotional importance for millions of people across this country.

For the first time, we’ve conducted in-depth polling of the British public to understand the role music plays in all our lives. The results from Public First are incredibly revealing. Not only does the British public actively consume 60 billion hours of music annually – that’s the equivalent of seven million years – but music plays a central role in the lives of citizens across the whole country.

It gives us a sense of identity and national pride — 63 per cent of the public see the UK music industry as a key national asset, and the majority of us think music helps boost Britain’s global reputation.

Music helps and supports us in our daily lives – three-quarter of all adults say that music is important to them and their quality of life, while 71 per cent of people say listening to music makes them more productive.

Music also helped us get through the pandemic – a million people took up a musical instrument in lockdown, and 59 per cent of the public say music has helped their mental health and wellbeing this year.

The past 18 months have shown us just how important music is to the British public. Millions of us missed live music during lockdown, while listening to recorded music has been one of the things to get us through the difficult times.

So as we come out of this pandemic, it’s vital we ensure this sector makes a full recovery. It’s in all our interests to have a strong and thriving music industry that can deliver the positive economic, social and cultural benefits for the country that we know it can.

Music matters. It matters to the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the industry, it matters to the millions of people across the country for whom music is an indispensable part of their lives, and it matters to the billions around the world who consume and love British music. And we can’t value it highly enough.

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