Here, in the latest in our series of advice columns for the business, MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick stresses that there needs to be an industry-wide response to the Covid-19 epidemic...
The first thing to say is this pandemic goes way beyond music management, and way beyond the music business. It’s people’s health, lives and livelihoods.
We’re all in this together.
Secondly, all of us are reacting to an escalating situation.
On March 7 and 8, the MMF were helping support members caught out by SXSW’s cancellation and circulating help and advice to those impacted. A week later our office is closed, and we’re facing mass postponement and hearing from our members on tour with their artists about cancellation of live events all around the world from New Zealand to Japan to Denmark. It’s potentially catastrophic.
How long will the situation last? When will we be able to start confirming shows again? Will it impact on festival season? At this stage, we simply don’t know.
Government has “advised” UK citizens to avoid “mass gatherings” and visits to venues and theatres, leaving everyone on a cliff edge. At the time of writing, we are still awaiting updates on support packages that might save jobs and businesses. It’s an unprecedented situation.
As part of a collective immediate response, MMF has joined with all constituents of UK Music as well as fellow creator bodies in the Council of Music Makers to lobby Government for help.
Like the vast majority of the music industry, most managers operate as small businesses, self-employed or freelancers. They perform a linchpin role, but many live a fairly precarious existence. According to our “Managing Expectations" research, 56% earn less than £10k per year from music management. As such, they are particularly susceptible to this downturn, and the sudden collapse of such a key revenue stream. It is vital that those who need it can get qualify for emergency support (including statutory sick pay) as well as access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (or CBILS).
Having such a unified industry-wide approach is important. If Government-backed assistance can avert an instantaneous cash flow crisis then it’s important such help is accessible to all.
It’s people’s health, lives and livelihoods
Inspired by an Australian campaign, I Lost My Gig, we have also launched an in-depth survey for music makers and their representatives in an attempt to calculate the potential losses suffered by managers and the artists, songwriters, producers and DJs they represent. The more information we have and the greater the detail, the stronger the case we can make to Government - especially if this crisis rumbles on.
To combat that scenario, and the prospect of much longer-term disruption, I suspect the industry itself may need to look towards itself and ways in which we can help each other.
Partly that comes from innovation. One of our board members, Sammy Andrews, is proactively providing advice on digital-based initiatives to help sustain artist careers. Cherie Hu has also produced an excellent guide to virtual gigs.
But mostly it will require financial and commercial assistance. While our industry overall is reliant on a handful of global tech brands and music corporations, those businesses - even if they operate outside of the live sector - remain wholly dependent on the development of new music, new art and new talent. If the grassroots diminish, the whole structure topples.
I’m certain there’ll be serious discussions here in the weeks and months ahead, as we establish how short-term support might alleviate long-term pain.
These are dark and difficult days, but I’ll reiterate again: we’re all in this together.
You can read the first part in our series of advice columns for the business by leading charity Help Musicians UK here. For Part 2 with the BPI's Geoff Taylor, click here. For Part 3 with with the Musicians' Union's Phil Kear, click here and for Part 4 with AIM’s Gee Davy click here.