Could the coronavirus pandemic do lasting damage to the UK's unique music scene?

Could the coronavirus pandemic do lasting damage to the UK's unique music scene?

Nostalgia ain’t quite what it used to be. As the long lockdown days continue to drift by, social media timelines – once full of FOMO-inducing updates live from glamorous events – are now full of tickets, flyers and photos from envy-inspiring gigs of yesteryear. From the big moments (punk, Britpop, grime) to the usually-forgotten sub-genres (grebo or fraggle, anyone?), it's been a great reminder of what makes British music so special.

Live music will come back one day, although in what form we don’t yet know. But it’s become obvious that, in the last three months, much of what makes the UK music scene so amazing is being eroded.

It may have been a while since we had a proper grassroots musical movement, but the system is still supported by local scenes that help artists of a similar stripe band together to make progress.

But now, there are no gigs for mutual support slots, and no touring for packages of like-minded acts to be put together. With the (hopefully temporary) absence of Kerrang!, and potential exit of Q, the coronavirus means there may be precious little of our treasured music press left to categorise and catalyse a group of artists into something bigger. And the places where people can hang out and ideas can foment are all closed, or under social distancing restrictions.

You don't need to drive to Barnard Castle to be able to see any rebuild will have to come from the ground up

Music Week

The government has at least finally got round to throwing money at the problem, which should help some venues survive until things start to approach normality.

But you don’t need to drive to Barnard Castle to be able to see that any rebuild is going to have to come from the ground-up, or that support from every sector will be needed if the UK music scene is to return in a blaze of glory. Yet, as life gets back to normal in almost every other industry, live music – the very lifeblood of UK music's success – is in danger of being left behind.

The truth is, the modern biz often pushes individuals over the collective, with solo artists preferred to bands and single tracks favoured over bodies of work, while generic global algorithms too often win out over genuine local musical innovation. But all that risks removing the unique musical ecosystem that has seen UK music punch well above its weight across the decades. 

So if we want the UK scene to live on beyond retro Instagram posts, now is the time to start planning its revival, with no filter.

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