Music bosses have issued a stark warning to MPs about the future of the UK music scene, as venues and theatres struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, the Music Venue Trust launched the #saveourvenues campaign to help support 556 venues threatened with permanent closure – and at a House Of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday, the full extent of the crisis in the industry was laid bare by Musicians’ Union Horace Trubridge and chief executive of UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre, Julian Bird.
In light of the Birmingham Hippodrome laying off half its staff earlier this week, Bird was asked how many venues could be lost within the next 12 months as a direct result of the pandemic.
Bird replied: “Our latest survey told us that 70% of theatres or production companies, both, would run out of cash and go out of business by the end of this year. That was consistent whether you looked at London, the rest of the UK – whether you looked at subsidised organisations or commercial organisations. It was consistently around 70% for everybody.”
Bird added: “Unless there is a change in some of the government’s support that we see at the moment, you will see more and more theatres like the Birmingham Hippodrome having to make very difficult decisions around their workforce in order to try and preserve themselves to reopen when they can.”
As for musicians, Trubridge explained to the committee that 40% didn’t qualify for the self-employment income support scheme.
He also called for a full review into the music streaming model, saying: “At a time when record labels are making record profits it cannot be right that established musicians are left to rely on hardship funds. There needs to be a full review into the streaming model to see where the money is going, because it is not going to the musicians' pockets.”
He added: “Music is worth £5.2 billion to the UK economy and the Chancellor needs to bear that in mind. Our industry is the envy of the world, but we won’t retain it unless we invest in it during this difficult time. Our sector must have further financial support from the government if it is to survive in any shape or form.”
It’s also been revealed that a new £2.5 million financial hardship fund that was set up last Friday for musicians is close to reaching its capacity.
Help Musicians unveiled the scheme last week and report they received an application every 5-10 seconds, with the drive coming after the charity set up a similar initiative on March 25.
Chief executive James Ainscough said: “While lockdown restrictions are slowly starting to lift, musicians will continue to be among some of the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the months to come. Live music will surely be one of the last sectors to start operating as normal and so many musicians just don’t know how they will survive.
“And as the country sees more and more redundancies, there are fewer opportunities for musicians to take temporary jobs to make ends meet. We therefore decided that urgent action was needed to offer extra financial help – too many musicians are simply falling through the gaps of the support available.
“We’re pleased to have been able to support 16,700 people already in the first round of funding, and offering much needed help to many more during this second phase. This is why continued support is more vital than ever.
“As such, we asking individuals, corporate organisations and other bodies to donate, no matter how large or small, so that we can continue to help as many musicians as possible and ease the pressure until they can get back to work.”