Primal Scream’s Simone Marie Butler on the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign: “We need you all to come together”

"Music can bring us together and create life changing moments. I believe this is one of those moments"

To mark the launch of today’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign with over 1,400 artists signing an open letter to the government help save the UK’s live music scene from catastrophe, radio DJ, Primal Scream bassist and Featured Artists Coalition Ambassador Simone Marie Butler writes for NME about why action is needed now to stop irreparable damage. 

“To say it’s been a strange year so far really is an understatement of epic proportions. As we watched festival after tour after gig get pulled and optimistically rescheduled, we’ve battled with our Spring, Summer, Autumn and now probably Winter live music fixes being made absent from our diaries and lives. Glastonbury shifted into its first online digital identity as ‘Glasthomebury’ as we watched from our sofas. Who would’ve thought that as futuristic as 2020 sounded, it would bring with it such a devastating reality? The issue of our own mortality clearly supersedes anything else, but when it comes to every person whose financial security and income rely on any form of musical performance, the truth is, the live music industry is waiting at the box office window tentatively, to see if its name is on the guestlist for 2021.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has been and continues to be a monstrous and invisible threat to us on so many levels. Livelihoods are crumbling, lives have been tragically lost and we are still not out of the woods. Not in this generation have we seen the likes of such a global catastrophe.”

“Clearly we must never lose sight that at the heart of this and most importantly, are the NHS frontline workers and those fighting for their lives. Those who don’t have the luxury right now to be angry about this as they’re too busy fighting for theirs or the lives of others. The incredible work our doctors and nurses are continuing to do under such ongoing constraints is something we are all in awe of.

“In the UK, job centre claimants have risen 126% to 2.8million since the start of the lockdown. The live music sector including venues, touring bands, crews, festivals, DJs, clubs, studios and many other areas is no different. Not just these sectors but every connecting industry which provides the framework and backdrop to the final piece.”

Primal Scream's Simone Marie Buter. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns)
Primal Scream’s Simone Marie Buter. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns)

“Music is part of our cultural heritage. It’s part of our self expression, our vision, the fabric and soundtrack of our lives and experiences. It’s part of human connection. Let’s also remember the music industry is one of our biggest income revenues and exports.

“With that being said, we simply cannot afford to let the live industry go under.

“It may sound like I’m being over dramatic, but I can assure you after reading through documents, statistics, talking to Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for arts and culture) about the crucial help needed, that the facts in the cold light of day are not pretty.

“The live music industry and all its surrounding counterparts are going to need urgent help if they are to survive and thrive come next year. The association of Independent festivals have concluded that around 90% of AIF organisers could risk going under by 2021 without any financial support from the government. That’s the bottom line and it’s a bleak reality.

“Based on impact surveys, 92% of AIF festival organisers have said that their firms are at risk without Government intervention, with the effects of COVID-19 likely to result in businesses collapsing under refund requests” (read the full article here)

“The Featured Artists Coalition – which sees supporters such as Johnny Marr and musicians from across the entire scope of music – is going to be instrumental in getting this vital help from the government, but we need the help of the public as well as established artists to speak up. We need to be unified in all areas of the music industry to get through this. This isn’t about focusing on small elements of the industry, it’s about the entire umbrella of the music industry as a collective, the bigger picture.”

Primal Scream at The Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival 2019. Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns

“As some of the lockdown restraints start to lift, we are seeing shops open, a light suggestion of normality returning, yet this is not without risk. Music venues and festivals cannot operate at 30% like other retail outlets. We cannot social distance at a festival with thousands of people and that’s even without alcohol thrown into the mix.

“Just as schools and other businesses plan to re–open and need to be able to do that safely so does everything else. The live music industry will be the last to start their engine amidst this pandemic. There is talk of on site testing, temperature checks, etc… all of which needs to be throughly researched and have scientific and logistical backing.

“If you want to help make sure the live music industry in all its guises is still alive next year, then this is the time to come and support the campaign by FAC in conjunction with Music Venue Trust. We are calling on the public to shout as loud as they can about this. We have an entire list of bands and musicians who have given their names to the letter being sent to Oliver Dowden, but music is a two way exchange. We need you, the ones who shout and scream and come to see us play. The supporters of live music who know what a gift it is. This is your campaign as much yours as it is ours.”

“On July 2, we launch the #letthemusicplay campaign. We are calling on bands, musicians, DJs and all involved in live music to share this hashtag to create a collective public voice by posting a short sentence about why live music is so important to them. To share photos of live shows and memories with the hashtag on all social media platforms online.

“The FAC are constantly lobbying with MPs and politicians in the arts sector to tackle this current situation. Please visit their site for all up to date information. You don’t have to be an active campaigner but just to have your support would mean the world right now.

“The more of us that come together and unify, the greater the influence and opportunity there will be to instruct change. Music can bring us together and create life changing moments. I believe this is one of those moments.”

As told to Andrew Trendell. Read more on the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign here.

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