Here, in the fourth of our series of advice columns for the business, Gee Davy, head of legal & business affairs at AIM, stresses why strategies must now be put in place to help the music industry bounce back...
This crisis directly impacts two overlapping groups: people and businesses. In terms of people, there are a huge number of creators and creative specialists who felt they had been left without adequate clarity, support or security. The government has compared the Covid-19 crisis to a war and needs to step in to support the army of British creatives. These fall into two types, self-employed or freelance and employees. The self-employed (who are in fact all individual micro-businesses) will need direct support, and employees can be best protected via support for businesses who will otherwise be devastated and risk massive layoffs at a time where, realistically, no new jobs will be created. The government has voiced its support for the economy and it must, therefore, support the people who are the lifeblood of the economy. By supporting businesses to get through this, they are ensuring that there will still be infrastructure on the other side to support people and music to survive and thrive.
It was crucial from the off for AIM to deliver fast, easily understood, accurate and expert information and advice to SME music businesses, so that members could respond to a fast-changing situation with a high degree of confidence. AIM quickly created a comprehensive FAQ with practical and realistic approaches to broad issues including foreign travel disruption, SXSW and other event closures, and AIM members’ own event, gig and tour cancellations. This included advice for dealing with insurers, visas and travel, contracts, and the other ramifications of wave after wave of announcements and cancellations. We wanted to make sure SME music businesses understood the wider context to help them understand the context around their individual situations and make informed decisions to best serve their artists, staff and clients.
AIM has called on government to start the process of putting in place a fiscal incentive to stimulate new music projects to support artists and the whole creative economy
Gee Davy, AIM
Covid-19 will affect SME music businesses in different ways and the advice is changing so rapidly that we have been updating the FAQ daily. AIM’s community has, as always, pulled together and the FAQ includes practical tips from member businesses to help guide each other through this trying time along with offers of help and (free, in some cases) advice. Underpinning all of AIM’s advice is the need to approach every challenge as it arises (and they will continue to arise!) with the bigger picture in mind, through mutual understanding and grown-up conversations, safeguarding long term relationships by sharing the pain fairly where possible.
It is not just live activity that will be restricted in, for at least a short while, complete lockdown. Consumption-based revenues on which SMEs and artists alike depend to even out cashflow, such as streaming and performance royalties, may also be diminished as people feel a financial squeeze. AIM is in constant contact with organisations and platforms on the front lines of these areas, not least through our Friends of AIM scheme, and we will be working towards practical solutions for mutual long term benefit. AIM stood alongside representatives of other sectors in calling on government to make available adequate financial provision for the far-reaching impacts of Covid-19 on the SME music sector.
At present it is necessary that everyone focusses on survival through this initial phase, but we must also implement a strategy that helps the ecosystem bounce back. AIM has called on government to start the process of putting in place a fiscal incentive to stimulate new music projects to support artists and the whole creative economy. We must help the sector as a whole rebound. This is the best way to safeguard our future and a diverse and inclusive soundtrack that will hold our communities together through this crisis and into a happier future.
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.