Words by Alex Payne
Artwork courtesy of The Concert Promoters Association
As of this week, over 1500 British artists have publicly declared their support for the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. Launched by UK Music, the umbrella organisation that’s responsible for representing the national music industry in parliament and media, the campaign calls for increased aid from the Government in response to Coronavirus, which has seen all venues closed since late March.
Radiohead, Ed Sheeran, Iron Maiden, Dua Lipa, The Rolling Stones and Coldplay are just several of the hundreds of musicians that have vocally lent their support for the campaign. With social distancing seemingly here indefinitely, and currently no financial support for the sector, the campaign demands a clear timeline for when venues may open without social distancing, comprehensive financial support for businesses within the industry, and full VAT exemption on ticket sales. This struggle was detailed in a letter sent to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and highlights how up to 50% of the live music industry’s workforce now face unemployment, and that 90% of grassroots music venues are under threat of closure.
“Up to 50% of the live music industry’s workforce now face unemployment”
Are these demands reasonable? UK Music has drawn parallels between the campaign’s demands and Germany and Australia’s efforts, the former having launched a €50 billion aid package for small businesses that has supported artists since March, with the German culture minister describing artists as “not only indispensable, but also vital”. The Australian government clearly shares that sentiment, having announced a $250 million cash injection last week dubbed the “COVID Creative Economy Support Package” that aims to “support artists and organisations get back in business following the disruptions caused by COVID-19”. Additionally, comparisons have been struck with JD Wetherspoons, which secured a loan of £48.3 million under the CLBILS scheme, as it would supposedly only require £50 million to remove the threat of bankruptcy and insolvency for businesses within the British music industry.
Britain is near unrivalled for its contributions in music globally, with almost half of the best selling artists of all time being British, which includes the Beatles, Elton John and Led Zeppelin. Additionally, the British live music industry is the second largest in the world and adds £4.5 billion to the British economy, so it’s clear to see why ensuring the survival of the industry should be a top priority for the government during this pandemic. The plight that the music industry is currently experiencing is one that has resonated throughout all of the British entertainment industry since the start of lockdown, and similar campaigns, with adjacent demands, have been launched. Representatives of the theatre industry have struck a similar chord, warning that there may be hardly an industry to return to post-Coronavirus.
Oliver Dowden has been criticised for his lack of action in helping UK’s theatres, but many remain optimistic about the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. UK Music have previously been successful with their “Talent Pipeline” and “Business Rates for Music Venues” campaigns, and Jo Stephens, the shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has echoed calls of support for performers.
Find out more about the campaign at: https://www.ukmusic.org/policy/let-the-music-play