The group UK Music decided to mark one year since live music in the United Kingdom was put on pause by running a panel on how we can restart.
The event was free and the panel was a varied one chaired by UK Music’s Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin who lead the speakers through a variety of topics from how the pandemic has affected them personally to what tools and ideas we can take from the pandemic as we re-start the music business.
First up to speak was Ben Lovett from Mumford and Son’s Fame. While many know him for his music and playing live, he is heavily invested in the industry in other ways as an event promoter, venue owner and helping others break into the industry.
Just prior to the first lockdown Ben had launched a new venue in London, Lafayette so needless to say the pandemic had hit him hard. He described 2020 as a year of moving targets, he felt every time infection numbers were down and the industry began to re-open, the goals would change and so would the restrictions. Many venue owners and promoters had put large amounts of money into being Covid-safe only to be informed they could not re-open they also had trouble with insurance.
While he thought that music had a long road to recovery, he did take some positives in that while streaming was the only real option to generate funds for many music artists, it meant bands had to adapt, learn how to livestream and engage wth their fans. They had to learn more about equipment, recording and marketing themselves to retain their relationship with their fanbase, something he hopes will continue.
Anna Wade spoke with similar concerns, she had a event production background, being the face behind the Boomtown festival. While she had to cancel her events, she was trying to stay positive for the future. Anna raised concerns about the lead-time needed to set up a successful and safe festival and while the Prime Minister’s roadmap was a big help, there’s not much between the final announcement and being told yes or no to reopening entirely on June 21st.
Many festivals feature worldwide artists and this will now take a lot more to organised, additionally consumer confidence needs to return and just in case, there needs to be support for the future. Not all promoters can run an event this year – indeed there is incredibly high demand but without adequate insurance every promoter takes a big risk of being held liable if somebody were to catch Covid19 at their event. She hoped the Government would give further consideration to rolling out a Government backed insurance scheme like the film industry has been able to enjoy.
Roxanne de Bastion another musical artist largely made her money from touring. Prior to the lockdown she had an album mixed and ready to go but this was held back as getting hold of marketing, distribution and having the chance to promote an album is far more challenging due the pandemic, however she was conscious it is a big investment, simply waiting….for a hopeful bright future.
Another concern Roxanne raised was the impact of Brexit on touring artists, which still has not been fully resolved. Sending merchandise to Europe has also been a challenge which she hoped the Government can address.
For Roxanne the pandemic was a reminder of just how interlinked the music industry is, from supply chains and taxi drivers to security and hospitality. While the self employment schemes had helped many with 3 out of 4 in the music industry being self-employed, it was clear many fell through the tracks. She backed the idea of insurance for live events as it was something which can be rolled out quickly at low cost and quickly reap back in revenues for the Government through taxes as thousands get back to work.
While she was enjoying the first ‘break’ in years and has had the opportunity to build closer links with fans using online tools, Roxanne was keen to get back out and touring as soon as possible.
James Ainscough the Chief Executive of Help Musicians UK described the help his charity had been providing musicians and those who work in music throughout the pandemic. the charity has distributed over £15m to musicians in financial hardship, initially to thousands of musicians who suddenly had zero income and later to those who had found themselves in positions where they could not claim under the various Government support schemes. He noted a lot of mental health support was also being provided, not just because of financial anxieties but for many musicians creating and interacting with fans was a way of life, some were facing a sense of grief at being unable to connect with others.
He felt the pandemic’s positive was a reminder of how important freelancers are in the arts and this should not be forgotten as we all move back to normality.
Finally David Warburton MP took the spotlight, David is the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music and has a history of working in music himself as the chairman of Pitch entertainment group and a music teacher. He was concious the pandemic is not only affecting people in the immediate time but or musicians, in the future too – especially those who need hundreds of hours of practice to be at the top of their game, be in bands or orchestras and choirs.
However he brought positives, convinced the Government are keen to stick to the roadmap, are considering live event insurance and still looking to close gaps in support for those who have been unable to claim. He also confirmed there is pressure to keep the support rolling into the next year and that clarity on venue guidance and Covid19 safety is on the way.
The panel took questions and raised some interesting topics themselves for future Government consideration including whether loans should be made to the wider supply chain. Many sound and lights providers have gone under during the pandemic, meaning skills have been lost and equipment is no longer available – with high demand expected, companies will need to ensure expensive equipment can be purchased quickly and on-the job vocational training can be provided. Access to grants and loans could help here and ensure that concerts of the future are not a busker without a set, sound mixing or lights. It will be interesting if this one progresses, otherwise we may see very slimmed down shows from our favourite artists in the future…..Even acapella shows need more than a guitar!
A fantastic event and hopefully bringing some real positivity to a hard-hit industry over the past year. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a very musical, loud and dance-tastic summer!
To find out more about UK Music or take part in their survey for creatives click here
Take a listen to Roxanne de Bastion below
And of course to get you in the mood for thhe festivals of the summer, Ben Lovett and his band Mumford and Sons.