Business News Labels & Publishers Live Business Top Stories

UK Music calls on government to help industry plan for the longer-term COVID impact

By | Published on Friday 24 April 2020

UK Music

UK Music Chair Tom Watson has called on the government to work with the music industry on a grand plan to help it weather what’s looking like an increasingly prolonged storm as a resulted of COVID-19. He’s calling that grand plan the ‘Marshall Amp Plan’. But let’s all try very hard to ignore that and instead focus on what said plan needs to achieve.

The former MP and recently appointed Chair of the cross-sector lobbying group summarises the immediate impact the COVID-19 shutdown has had on the music industry in a post on the organisation’s website.

He welcomes the various measures introduced by the UK government to help individuals and companies that have lost work and custom as a result of COVID-19. However, he stresses again that some fundamental gaps remain in that support. Especially for the music community’s large number of self-employed people.

“As someone who spent almost two decades in Parliament, including the last three years as Shadow Culture Secretary, I realise how slowly the wheels of government can turn”, he writes. “Knowing that, the government package of support to combat coronavirus has been extremely welcome. However, too many people in our industry are still falling through the gaps”.

He goes on: “Many in the music business are directors of their own small firms. But they are disqualified from the self-employed scheme and cannot furlough themselves as this would stop their firms from operating”.

“Hundreds of UK venues face an existential crisis”, he then adds. “According to the Music Venue Trust, more than 550 grassroots venues are under immediate threat of closure with the loss of over 5000 jobs, 100,000 gigs and more than a million temporary employment opportunities. Studios are hurting too. The Music Producers Guild found producers and sound engineers have lost an average 70% of their income”.

While the music industry itself has been rallying to provide short-term help those most severely affected by the shutdown through a series of hardship funds and other initiatives, he goes on, “the challenges that face us in the months ahead are immense”.

“It is becoming clear that the government intends to keep the rules on social distancing for a while yet”, he notes. “That means it is likely to be some time before live music – the lifeblood that courses through the veins of our industry – will be back on its feet and once again delivering its £1.1 billion contribution to the UK economy. The same is true of our many brilliant record stores that have suffered a hammer blow while forced to keep their doors shut”.

The music industry’s trade organisations are also looking into ways they and their members can provide more long-term support beyond the initial hardship funds. But government help will be needed to meet the longer term challenges of COVID-19.

As Watson states (WARNING, WARNING, WARNING – the Marshall Amp Plan pun is incoming): “The fight against coronavirus has been likened to a war and I believe – just as there was the Marshall Plan after the Second World War – we will need a ‘Marshall Amp Plan’ to help rebuild our industry after this crisis”.

“Rightly, the immediate focus of everyone is on the unprecedented public health emergency facing us”, he continues. “However, it is vital we start to look forward and think about how we can best emerge from this lockdown and revive the economy and get music people back to doing what they love”.

“We are going to need more help from the government, especially if restrictions on large gatherings such as concerts are to remain in place until the end of the year”, Watson concludes. “I would urge the government to work with us at UK Music to ensure that our music industry remains the envy of the world”.