Music industry “massively concerned” that government COVID bailout gives “nothing for artists and live industry professionals”

"With months of uncertainty ahead, this lockdown by stealth is putting their already fragile businesses in real jeopardy"

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have issued a joint statement on what they describe as “lockdown by stealth” and how it’s affecting the employees and artists in the live music sector.

It comes after The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, brought forward a £1billion support package for businesses affected by COVID-19 earlier today (December 21).

Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum & David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition said in a joint statement that they are still “massively concerned” that the new measures still have “nothing for artists and live industry professionals” who are being affected by what it describes as “lockdown by stealth”.

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They said: “Artists currently find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place – encouraged by the Government to carry on performing, while their audiences are advised to stay at home.

“With months of uncertainty ahead, this lockdown by stealth is putting their already fragile businesses in real jeopardy. All compounded by the lack of a safety net and insurance schemes that the industry has universally derided as unfit for purpose.

“While the package announced today may help some venues and institutions, it is essential this is also made available to those appearing on the stage or working behind it.

“Without that concrete support, such as compensation for COVID-related cancellations and viable insurance solutions, we risk artists and tens of thousands of support workers becoming collateral damage to what feels like an unfurling catastrophe.”

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Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, outside 11 Downing Street on September 24, 2020 in London, England. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Music Venue Trust also released a statement following news of the package, calling it “a woefully inadequate response to the reality of the position.”

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The package included one-off grants of £6000, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and an additional £30million for the previously announced Cultural Recovery Fund.

“We welcome any announcement from Treasury that recognises the very serious situation facing grassroots music venues, and other cultural and hospitality spaces, operators and staff,” starts the statement from the Music Venue Trust.

“Regrettably today’s announcement appears seems a woefully inadequate response to the reality of the position.”

Speaking about the £6000 grants to support any venues that might meet the criteria, MVT said: “This sum is intended to mitigate losses for an as yet unknown period in which business has not just fallen, it has completely collapsed.

“Regardless of any restrictions or limitations to business yet to be announced, business has already collapsed for at least 6 weeks – you can’t turn the live music industry on and off like a desk lamp, tours/events are cancelled. Not just today, or tomorrow, for the next 3 months”

A recent report revealed that up to 40 per cent of music fans in the UK have not turned up to gigs recently due to a rise in COVID cases, while one in five ticket holders didn’t turn up to gigs in 2021.

Dave Keighley, chairman of the Production Services Association which represents companies and individuals involved in the live event production industry told NME that “almost 90 per cent of planning for events in the new year has been postponed, because people don’t want to spend their time doing that and then find out that we’re in another lockdown come January.”

The statement from the Music Venue Trust then called the additional £30million support for the Cultural Recovery Fund “bizarrely detached from reality. It is certainly completely inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem.

“We note that grassroots music venues, singled out by the government for specific restrictions since the start of the crisis, are not even mentioned in today’s statement which once again focuses on ‘theatres, orchestras and museum’ who will be supported ‘through until March 2022’.”

MVT went on to say that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport already had  “all the evidence they need that losses in the grassroots music venue sector alone will run to £22 million by the end of January, let alone the end of March 2022.”

Speaking to NME earlier this year, MVT CEO Mark Davyd said that “the grassroots music venue sector is more than £90million in debt. The average debt they’re emerging with is around £80,000-£120,000 per venue – some are in much more significant debt than that.”

“The damage is already done and there is no point pretending otherwise. Today’s statement by The Treasury is not the answer that is needed,” said the MVT.

The MVT then called for The Secretary of State for Culture to “meet with the sector, properly understand the scale of the damage being inflicted, and return to the Treasury with a financial ask that reflects what is required.”

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