AS reported by NME, figures from the music industry are adding more volume to the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign to demand that the government share arts funding to protect the future of artists, touring crew, and the individuals working behind the scenes.
Last month, more than 1,500 artists and industry figures came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the launch of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. After months of campaigning from fans and the world of music, the UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection of £1.57 billion to help the arts, culture and heritage industries survive the impact of closures brought on by coronavirus – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.
While the relief for venues was welcome, many warned that without urgent government clarity, support and action, the pipeline of talent that plays within them could be cut short – declaring that musicians and crew were facing their “biggest crisis since the 1920s” without support.
Now, the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign seeks to highlight the size and scale of the jobs and companies that make up the UK live music industry which need urgent support and “ensure that the government cannot ignore the complex ecosystem that supports live music in their funding decisions”.
Featured Artists Coalition General Manager David Martin argued that many musicians won’t qualify for government funding and “are continuing to struggle”.
“There are many more who are nervous as the end of furlough/self employed support measures draw closer,” Martin told NME. “We’re asking that in distributing funds, thought is given to ensuring the whole pipeline is served. A closed venue which has its overheads covered serves only to keep that venue in business a while longer, whereas subsidising that venue to be open at a reduced capacity, where safe to do so, helps to distribute finance throughout the supply chain to artists, crew, managers, agents and others who would otherwise get nothing.
“In July, #LetTheMusicPlay launched to celebrate the UK’s music industry,” Martin told NME. “We came together to recognise the gigs, festivals, performances and performers that we’re all missing so much and the challenges they face.
“As we make our voices heard again, it is imperative that government funding is used to support the broadest cross-section of our industry.”
He added: “From artists to managers, crew to engineers – we must protect the individuals that make up our treasured music scenes.”
Andy Lenthall, from the Production Services association, agreed that many of the workers who run the heart of the live music world were in danger.
“Sound, light, rigging, catering, drivers, stage managers, production managers, tour managers – they only get paid when they’re on tour, they all got sent home in February and March, they’re unlikely to get back to work until next March at the earliest,” he said. “Like many other self-employed people, far too many have fallen into the gaps in government support.
“With the complete withdrawal of any support beyond this month, the crews that put your favourite bands on stage are facing a tough winter.”
Artists and many within the music industry have taken to social media to voice their support:
Last month, Musicians’ Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge told NME that while it was good news that venues and establishments had a lifeline, something must also be done for the people who perform in them and allow them to operate.
“What we really need to see is some kind of sector-specific financial support package for musicians and ancillary workers until they can get proper work again,” he said. “That’s just not on the horizon at the moment.”
He added: “The Musicians’ Union hasn’t had a crisis like this since the 1920s when movies with talking first came in. Silent movies meant great employment for musicians because cinemas had orchestras and string quartets. As soon as the talkies came in, they got shot of them all. It is looking bleak.”
“There’s nothing there for us at the moment, and we need financial support. This industry is worth £5.2billion per year to the economy. The treasury can’t afford to lose all that money in the long run, so put your hand in your pocket now and make sure that the talent stays.”
While venues with social distancing measures in place for audiences may be allowed to reopen later this month, it is argued that this is not a realistic or financially viable alternative for the vast majority of spaces and events in the UK, and that they should be “mothballed” until it is safe for them to open at full capacity.
Last week, the organisers of a government pilot socially distanced gig with Frank Turner performing at London’s Clapham Grand acknowledged that the event “did not succeed” in creating a viable blueprint for the return of live music.
NME has contacted the DCMS for a response.