Brexit and COVID-19 Cook Up a Perfect Storm for the UK Live Music Industry

Live venue closures and almost no gigs means that COVID has all but silenced the live music industry here in the UK. With restrictions due to be lifted on June 21st we find we have to wait another four weeks (as I write this) and even then, can’t be sure venues will have the confidence to open their doors nor audiences the confidence to attend. Uncertainty around Brexit has challenged our touring artists, making European tours virtually impossible.

Festivals too face another Summer of uncertainty with many cancelled and others severely restricting numbers. The COVID Rule uncertainty means that most festivals have become temporarily uninsurable and that means they have a choice between total cancellation or the risk of financial ruin.

UK Music’s 2020 report Music by Numbers it was stated that our industry’s contribution to the economy would likely drop by almost 50%. The COVID effect and the potential impact of Brexit adding logistical and financial barriers to the mix means that UK live music could take years to recover, having been a jewel in our economic and cultural crown for more than seven decades.

Brexit concerns for touring artists are so great they have prompted a new campaign #LetTheMusicMove, headed by UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

The #LetTheMusicMove campaign is backed by more than 200 artists, including The Chemical Brothers, New Order, Biffy Clyro, Skunk Anansie, Wolf Alice, IDLES, Poppy Ajudha, Anna Calvi, Everything Everything, Graeme Park, Bob Geldof, Editors, Mark Knopfler, Two Door Cinema Club, Mr Scruff, Kelli-Leigh, Ward Thomas, Rick Astley, Ghostpoet, Midge Ure, Glasvegas, Anna Meredith, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Nina Nesbitt, Keane, Erland Cooper, Matthew Herbert, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Blur’s David Rowntree, Gilles Peterson, Jack Garratt, Dave Okumu, Bill Ryder-Jones, Peggy Seeger, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and many, many others.

The group are calling for immediate action on what they call the Post Brexit Touring Fiasco, asking government officials to “Support the future of the music industry, and mitigate the Brexit-related impacts of restrictions, costs and delays on European touring”.

The UK is still the second biggest exporter of music in the world and Europe is our most important customer. Yet artists are currently in a political stranglehold which threatens to choke the life out of the industry altogether.

Womad leading light Peter Gabriel has warned that this years festival, due to begin 22nd July, three days after the extended restrictions are due be lifted, is uninsured and may have to be cancelled altogether or, as Gabriel states, there is the “Risk of losing Everything”.

“Commercial insurance has run a mile, effectively, and you can understand why.” Gabriel told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “So, if we’re trying to restore cultural life and normality, we need a bit of help here. There’s too much uncertainty for festival promoters to take the risk”.

In another recent report the UK music journal NME were told that the government were effectively “Pushing live music off a cliff-edge”.

Whether the government simply refuses to acknowledge the importance of the music industry to the UK economy and the thousands who earn their living in it remains to be seen. That’s not to mention the threat to the mental health for our audiences, starved of live music for over a year.

Shuffelwire urge the government to look at this growing crisis and develop a plan to save our industry and protect those that work in it and the millions that benefit from it.


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