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Scottish music industry forms taskforce to ensure it benefits from COVID funds

By | Published on Wednesday 8 July 2020

Live music

With ongoing concerns over how the UK government’s £1.57 billion commitment to support the COVID-impacted creative industries will actually be spent, a coalition has been formed in Scotland bringing together venues, promoters, festivals, agents, managers and production companies from across the country. Called the Scottish Commercial Music Industry Taskforce, the new coalition wants reassurance that all strands of the music industry will be able to access that and other sector-specific support.

That the UK government has finally made a specific and significant financial commitment to support the creative industries as the COVID-19 shutdown extends has been widely welcomed, of course. Though a big challenge for the music industry now is that, when the UK government talks about ‘arts and culture’, sometimes it includes non-classical music under that banner and sometimes it doesn’t.

Sunday’s big announcement of the £1.57 billion fund did specifically mention music venues. But then when the UK government formed its own taskforce to advise on the impact COVID was having on the creative industries, it didn’t invite anyone from the music industry to take part. So who knows what will happen next?

In Scotland, there is the added complication that – when it comes to COVID shutdown rules and support schemes – some of that is the responsibility of the Scottish government and some of it still sits with the UK government in London. Where matters are devolved, the music industry needs to make separate representations to ministers in Edinburgh to ensure that all that COVID support money doesn’t end up with museums and opera.

The Scottish government had actually committed £10 million to support performing arts venues in the country before the big UK-wide £1.57 billion fund was announced. Of the latter, £97 million has been specifically set aside to support Scotland’s creative industries.

With those monies now committed, the new Scottish Commercial Music Industry Taskforce has written to Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop seeking assurances music companies will be among those to benefit. It writes: “The taskforce welcomes the Scottish government’s £10 million package for performing arts venues and the UK government’s £1.57 billion investment for cultural, arts and heritage institutions. We write with a specific request for support for commercial music businesses who are on their knees through no fault of their own”.

The letter then notes that, to date, many Scottish music people and companies have fallen through the gaps of existing COVID-19 support schemes, both the Scottish ones and those operating UK-wide. As a result, many music businesses are now “at imminent risk of closure or at least will need to let experienced staff go. This risks the loss of critical infrastructure, knowledge and skills which will significantly limit our ability to recover and continue to provide career development pathways for Scottish artists”.

With that in mind, the taskforce urges Hyslop to ensure that all of the COVID-hit strands of the music industry can access the new funds. Ministers, the letter says, should “consult and work in partnership with the Scottish Commercial Music Industry Taskforce to ensure support for arts and culture takes into account the needs of the commercial music sector including how funding being made available is administered”.

The letter also asks for more clarity from Scottish ministers on when venues might be able to re-open in the country, while also seeking support from the Scottish government for the wider music community’s proposal of a VAT holiday for live music once things get back to normal, a decision that sits at the UK level.

The letter concludes: “We recognise and welcome the additional targeted measures that the Scottish government has taken to address gaps in UK schemes to protect Scotland’s arts and culture sector. However, the Scottish commercial music industry has unique needs and operates within different parameters from the not-for-profit and subsidised sector and we urge you to address these as a matter of priority and before it is too late”.

Among the companies signed up to the new taskforce are DF Concerts, Regular Music, Active Events, Craft Management, A Modern Way Management, Kingdom Management and SOMA Recordings, alongside a plethora of venues and festivals, and some UK-wide music companies with operations north of the border.

The existing Scottish Music Industry Association is also involved, while the letter to Hyslop has been co-signed by a number of Scottish artists, including Biffy Clyro, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eddi Reader, Kathryn Joseph, KT Tunstall, Mogwai, Primal Scream, Simple Minds, SLAM, Teenage Fanclub, Texas, The Proclaimers and The Twilight Sad.