Growing up in Sheffield in the 90s and 00s, I had access to great live music and great music venues. Like many people, it was something that I took for granted.
Live music is fundamental to our culture. It is part of our heritage and identity and has the power to comfort and connect people in these most difficult of times.
It plays an important economic role as well. In 2019, the live music sector contributed £4.5bn to the UK economy and supported 210,000 jobs. In Sheffield City Region alone, 832,000 people attended live music events in 2017, creating an economic boost worth £92 million.
But the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on live music as venues have been forced to close and festivals have been cancelled. Festivals have lost an average of £375,000 in non-recoupable costs and, according to a recent survey, 50.5% of the workforce are facing redundancy.
There is a very high risk that talented staff and crew members will be forced out of the industry, never to return.
And of course, without venues and festivals, performers are also unable to work. According to Musicians’ Union research:
- 87% musicians will be earning less than £20,000 this year – well below the UK average income of £29,600
- 70% are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work
- 65% are facing financial hardship right now
- 47% have been forced to look for work outside them music industry
- 36% musicians do not have any work at all
- 34% are considering abandoning their career in music, while 37% are not sure.
The live music industry urgently needs more support from the government if it is to have any chance of recovery. And yet the Chancellor’s Winter Statement did nothing to help the industry. Instead it has hung the entire sector out to dry.
Along with the rest of Sheffield City Region Music Board, I’m calling on Ministers to:
- Ensure that the new Self Employment Income Support Scheme is applicable to musicians (i.e. remove the requirement to fulfil one third of your usual work. It is illegal to tour and perform and open venues so this is outright impossible to fulfil)
- Plug the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
- Expand the SEISS to cover more than 20% of monthly profits, and
- Take measures to make sure reopening venues is economically viable
Without this support, Britain will face a terrible loss as musicians, festivals, and venues disappear for good. For the sake of all the people affected, our heritage, our culture and our economy, the government must act.