The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has said the winter support package announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak fails to address the needs of the live music sector.
The Chancellor today unveiled a series of measures aimed at seeing businesses through the winter, including a Job Support Scheme to top up the wages of employees working at least a third of their normal hours, with employers paying the remaining 55%. The initiative will replace the furlough scheme, which comes to an end in October.
But MTV CEO Mark Davyd said the move did not address the specific challenges faced by the live music industry.
No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees' salaries in order to access the government support
Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust
"The new job support programme is built around the premise of returning to work, and employers returning to some level of income arising from that work to support those workers," said Davyd. "The government has made it clear that it does not believe that the time is right for the live music industry to return to work, and where limited events, under substantial restrictions, are permitted, the income generated is insufficient to meet any of the government targets for employer contributions. Bluntly, no part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees salaries in order to access the government support which is entirely conditional on doing that."
While the 5% rate on advance sales of tickets for events to be staged after January 12, 2021 has been extended until March 31, Davyd pointed out that the government is predicting that full capacity events will not take place until after this date, meaning the business will not be able to benefit to any significant degree.
"Consumer confidence in purchasing tickets for events which may or may not take place, subject to local lockdowns or changes in national policy, simply does not exist," he said. "This is a tax cut extension on a product which the live music industry cannot yet sell.
Davyd added that the statement contained no action on rent, rates, or the thousands of freelancers who have fallen through the existing net of financial support.
"HM Government has made much of the financial support on offer to the live music industry through the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund," added Davyd. "Of this total intervention into culture, £500 million is potentially available to the live music industry through a process of competitive grant applications. However, competition for those grants will be fierce, and the qualifying criteria extends to the whole of the cultural sector. In the absence of measures in this financial statement to tackle the urgent crisis in the live music industry with sector specific financial interventions that address the specific circumstances that government measures have placed on the industry, all eyes therefore turn to the distribution of that Culture Recovery Fund which begins on October 5, 2020.
"The distribution of the Cultural Recovery Fund will need to demonstrate that the government has created a specific sector financial support package for a specific sector which its own virus management policy dictates is unable to trade. If the fund is distributed in such a way that it enables the live music industry to access the financial support being offered across the business sector, such as the employees protection programme, then today's measures contribute to the music industry's recovery. HM Government clearly believes, and expressed during today's DCMS questions in Parliament, that it will. If it does not, none of today's measures are accessible to the live music industry and none will have any impact.
"The live music industry faces a crisis which is not of its own making. It is vital that it survives this crisis. The challenge is manageable with sensible, targeted interventions by the government. Music Venue Trust awaits the outcome of the Cultural Recovery Fund to assess if that is the action required."
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), meanwhile, has called for clarity on what the Chancellor’s winter support package means for the night-time industry.
NTIA CEO Michael Kill said that, with the majority of the sector still unable to open, more support is needed.
“We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of the New Jobs Support Scheme and the extension of the self-employed scheme, which we very much hope will stave off the feared cliff edge of the Job Retention Scheme for many businesses," he said. "We are relieved he has seen the plight facing businesses, employees and the self-employed across the UK and thrown a much needed life-line to hundreds of thousands of workers in the night-time economy alone who were terrified of losing their livelihoods.
"However, we are seeking more clarity about what this announcement means for the majority of businesses in the night-time economy who do not know when, or if, they will be able to reopen their doors. These businesses cannot be allowed to collapse as the diversity and creativity of the UK’s night-time economy will die with them. We are also very concerned that the extension of business support loans will result in more painful debt for those already overburdened financially, many of whom are languishing in up to three quarters of commercial rent debt with no certainty on when this will be due.
"More support will be needed. The majority of our sector is still unable to even open and trade. Night-time economy businesses have been unfairly targeted by the new 10pm curfew, which we believe has no scientific basis and will prevent businesses from rebuilding the necessary revenue to stay afloat. The Government must rethink this curfew and consider further sector-specific support for our industry if it wants to save Britain’s most loved cultural institutions.”