The UK live music industry could face up to 170,000 job losses before the year is out, according to a report published today.
The research, which was undertaken by Live Music Industry Venues & Entertainment (LIVE) – a new group representing the interests of the sector – suggests that over half of the industry’s 262,000 workers could lose their jobs by Christmas.
The situation is exacerbated by the complexities of the government’s new furlough scheme. The original furlough is set to end this month, with a new version beginning in November. However, this new furlough only applies to businesses which have re-opened since the original lockdown and been forced to close again as a result of local lockdown measures.
As a result, live music venues (which have been consistently shut for the last seven months) are ineligible for further support. Given that over three-quarters of people who work in live music are currently on furlough, this spells very bad news for the industry. The Culture Recovery Fund has helped some venues, but it is spread unevenly and, in many cases, has proven insufficient, with multiple venues receiving either nothing or nowhere near enough. The growing consensus is that the government has failed to support the industry at large.
“Everyone’s situation is different,” says André Dack, director of Ramsgate Musical Hall, a 130-capacity venue best known for loud rock shows and sweaty club nights. “That’s the beauty of grassroots live music: venues come in all types of different shapes and sizes. We don't employ many people, however it's worth noting that we pay on average £1,200 to sound engineers every month and £600 to security – that's money they are simply not earning anymore.”
“It's almost impossible to say what will happen next,” he continues, “simply because we have no idea when things are returning to normal. And by normal I mean full capacity shows. The Cultural Recovery Fund is designed to keep us open until April, but it seems incredibly unlikely that things will return by then. So the big question is: what happens in April? What do we do? They're almost certainly not going to fund us again. While we're certain to see out the winter, I'm already worried about next year. I have no idea how venues who didn't get receive money from the CRF are going to survive this.”
“I’ve always known the Tories didn’t care about working class creatives, but the past few months it’s been so blatant,” says Sarra Wild, a live music performer and the co-founder of OH141, a queer night and collective based in Glasgow. “The lack of planning, let alone funding, available to those of us who make a living out of performing live has been a lot to take on and try to figure out. That’s before you even get started on the government suggesting we should just retrain, like we didn’t need experience and training to be in the positions we’re already in.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was criticised in early October for telling people in the creative industries who have lost their jobs to “adapt and adjust to the new reality”. However, for many who work in live music, retraining in a different career is neither desirable nor particularly plausible.
Until August, Alex – who’s started an Instagram project that highlights the immense value live music can add to people’s mental health and wellbeing – worked in client and event management for a major ticketing company. Due to the furlough scheme ending, she has been made redundant, along with a number of colleagues.
“This has been forced on us due to the lack of support we've received from the government, which I've been proud to protest against with the ‘wemakeevents’ movement,” she says. “I'd like to see the government acknowledge our industry as what it is: our livelihood, not a hobby. The arts are integral to the economy. They give us a shared experience that bring us together.”