The UK's live music industry has welcomed the findings of the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport (DCMS) committee report on Covid-19's impact on the cultural industries.
The report, which was released today (July 23), concluded that ministers have "consistently failed to recognise the scale of the challenge that the coronavirus crisis presents to culture, sport and tourism", adding the government had been "too slow" to respond to the needs of the sectors during the outbreak.
With the concert industry in limbo since the live music showdown in March, DCMS said it was "regrettable” that it took so long for the government's £1.57 billion arts package to be announced, which it blamed for closures and redundancies that might otherwise have been avoided. It noted that an estimated 93% of grassroots music venues were threatened with permanent closure, with many unable to meet commercial rent demands, while 90% of all festivals would be cancelled this year.
“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation," said DCMS committee chair Julian Knight MP. "The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them."
This report highlights the unprecedented impacts that Covid-19 has had on our iconic cultural sectors
Phil Bowdery, Concert Promoters Association
With DCMS sectors relying largely on freelancers or the self-employed, MPs have called for an urgent review of existing schemes. It has recommended a sector-specific recovery deal for performing arts that includes continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies; clear timelines for reopening, and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing; and long-term structural support to rebuild audience figures and investment.
It is also calling for the cut in VAT on ticket sales for theatre and live music to be extended beyond January 2021, for the next three years.
Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association and executive president of Live Nation, said: “We fully support the conclusions of today’s important report and want to send out thanks to the committee for recognising the value in our industry.
"This report highlights the unprecedented impacts that Covid-19 has had on our iconic cultural sectors and demonstrates that a sector specific deal to support the industry, conditional timelines for reopening without social distancing and long-term structural support are going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK. We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure that the entire sector can be supported through this time.
Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, added: “We warmly welcome this timely report that provides a clear overview of the extent of the challenges faced by the live music sector and grassroots music venues. We are pleased that the urgency of short term measures to prevent the catastrophic loss of vital infrastructure is recognised, and that this is matched with long term calls for innovative incentives to restore the sector to health and to future proof it against threats in the future.
"We hope the government will respond quickly with both the sector specific support package required to pull grassroots music venues away from the cliff edge and the longer term structured support such as the tax incentives required to support community ownership of our cultural infrastructure.”
Incorporated Society Of Musicians (ISM) CEO Deborah Annetts said: "The £1.57 billion support package for the arts is welcome and needed, but as this report rightly points out, it has come too late and is not enough.
"The unique and complex nature of the music sector, where the majority of workers are freelance, requires more than just loans and grants for venues and organisations – important as these are.
"The ISM has been lobbying government for targeted support for freelancers through the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, for long-term cuts to VAT on ticket sales, and for a clear and conditional timeline for reopening – and we welcome the DCMS committee’s adoption of these recommendations. Now it is time for the government to listen to the sector and follow suit."
DCMS committee chair Julian Knight MP said: “Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation. We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. The £1.57 bn support is welcome but for many help has come too late.
“We urge the government to act on our recommendations, to recognise the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”