Hundreds of artists, including Paul McCartney, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Dizzee Rascal, Blur, both Gallaghers, Muse, Feeder and Iron Maiden have signed an open letter to the Government, calling on the Government to take action in order to save music venues across the country - and thousands of jobs with them. The accompanying hashtag is #LetTheMusicPlay, which all of the signees are using in their tweets of support.
Let's look at some numbers. Half of those who work in the live music industry are at risk of losing their jobs, with a staggering 90% of grassroots venues threatened with permanent closure. In addition, many festivals are under threat, and 85,000 jobs with them. Some, like ArcTanGent, have managed to secure their survival with the backing of loyal fans, but plenty of them haven't been so lucky and need the support of the Government.
Economically, it would be in the Government's best interests to invest in and support the music venues. With about £50 million needed to save the grassroots venues, that's just a fraction of the £4.5 billion the live music industry brought to the economy in 2019, supporting over 200,000 jobs along the way. True, much of this would have come from the more major venues, but nonetheless, the smaller places contribute a significant portion of this money as well.
Besides, we British have always placed great pride in our music output. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, Oasis, Adele...our CV is extensive, to stay the least. It's also worth remembering that we, through Birmingham band Black Sabbath, invented heavy metal music, to which we then added the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead.
No matter how big these artists got or are now, they all started somewhere. Maiden gigged in pubs and grassroots venues for four years before securing their deal with EMI, and they how play to 50,000+ a night when there isn't a pandemic. Unfortunately, there is one right now, and without an injection of cash support from the Government, the music industry will be in deep, deep trouble when this is all over. Future history makers, music legends and one-hit wonders are out there right now, but they will all need a platform on which to begin.
"For everyone's sake it is so vital that the music venues and businesses suffering in this climate receive appropriate funding" said Declan McKenna in a tweet. Bastille's Dan Smith added "the future of live music is at risk as a result of COVID-19."
The full letter states: “Dear Secretary of State,
“UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. From world-famous festivals to ground-breaking concerts, the live music industry showcases, supports, and develops some of the best talent in the world – on and off-stage.
“As important as it is, our national and regional contribution isn’t purely cultural. Our economic impact is also significant, with live music adding £4.5billion to the British economy and supporting 210,000 jobs across the country in 2019.
“Like every part of the entertainment industry, live music has been proud to play our part in the national effort to reduce the spread of Coronavirus and keep people safe. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.
“This sector doesn’t want to ask for government help. The promoters, festival organisers, and other employers want to be self-sufficient, as they were before lockdown. But, until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies, and the end of this great world-leading industry.
“Government has addressed two important British pastimes – football and pubs – and it’s now crucial that it focuses on a third, live music. For the good of the economy, the careers of emerging British artists, and the UK’s global music standing, we must ensure that a live music industry remains when the pandemic has finally passed.”
Concerts are one of the nation's favourite activities, and can literally change lives. To think that they may be, at least temporarily, dead following the pandemic, when people will arguably be craving them more than ever, is a tragedy. It's great to see those who have made it stick up for the small guy with this open letter, but who's so say if it will make a difference? Only time will tell, but so far, the Government's response to the issues of the music industry has been dire. Let's hope this enables them to see sense, because if not, jobs will be lost, businesses will be lost, and new artists will have nowhere to play. It's a horrifying thought, and one that, with any luck, won't come to pass.