Coronavirus advice: UK Music's Tom Kiehl on safeguarding the future of the industry

Coronavirus advice: UK Music's Tom Kiehl on safeguarding the future of the industry

Here, in the latest in our series of advice columns for the business, UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl looks at what needs to be done to safeguard the future of the industry...

The package of measures outlined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he vowed to do “whatever it takes” to support the economy were an important and hugely welcome first step. 

The £330 billion in loans, the extension of business rates relief and the funding of grants of up to £25,000 will make a real difference to firms in the music industry [Sunak has also unveiled a package for self-employed workers]. 

However, the music industry needs far more help if we are to avoid huge parts of our sector facing financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

I was reassured to hear on a conference call with the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that he recognises this is an existential crisis for elements of our sector.  

I know he understands the huge uncertainty that was triggered by the lack of clarity from the Prime Minister over the scope and impact of the government advice on attending mass gatherings. 

The Culture Secretary told us that the government was in listening mode when it comes to what the music industry needs in order to continue to play its crucial role in the socio-economic fabric of all our lives. 

In common with everyone else, public health remains our top priority and we recognise that must continue to be the priority when it comes to the allocation of resources. 

However, in a sector where 72% of the workforce is self-employed there is no doubt that people in the music industry will be among the hardest hit by the massive downturn sparked by the cancellation of live events.  

The impact of the virus on our industry was undoubtedly worsened by the confusion around the government’s communications

Tom Kiehl

Far more needs to be done to help the self-employed who face a wretched few weeks or months with little or no potential income

There will also be serious damage for retailers involved in everything from music sales to merchandise and we know that music producers are among the many who are seeing a major decline in bookings. 

UK Music has already written to the government outlining some of the help our industry needs. While we welcome ministers listening over business rates relief and loans, they also need to listen to the calls for VAT holidays and Statutory Sick Pay for the self-employed.  

The impact of the virus on our industry was undoubtedly worsened by the confusion around the government’s communications, in particular the Prime Minister’s statement urging people not to attend events but not ordering businesses to close.

The approach has been very different in other countries where there have been formal lockdowns.   

We need urgent clarity over whether this is an official ban on mass gatherings. If not, when will an official ban commence? How long will a ban likely last and how does the Government propose to define a mass gathering in terms of numbers?

There is no doubt that we all face weeks and months more hardship until the worst of this pandemic is over. It's imperative that to maintain our competitiveness the UK government acts quickly to safeguard the future of our world-leading industry. 

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. The fifth column from MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick is here.

* For the very latest music industry updates about the Covid-19 outbreak click here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.

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