UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl has today called on the Government to act swiftly to put in place a framework of support for the music industry to combat the impact of coronavirus.
Warning that the pandemic could deal a “hammer blow” to the UK music industry, he urged the Government to work with the sector to limit the damage from COVID-19 amid fears that a wave of cancelled events could force some firms and events out of business.
Grassroots music venues are already suffering a 27% downturn in attendances, according to the latest figures from the Music Venue Trust. The Association of Independent Festivals report that ticket sales for its members are down on average by 44% since the outbreak.
In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Mr Kiehl mapped out a seven-point plan to limit the damage to the music industry, which sustains over 190,000 jobs and contributes £5.2 billion a year to the economy.
Mr Kiehl said it was vital that ministers focused on seven key areas including: giving VAT ‘holidays’ to support music businesses; further extending business rates relief; helping the 72% of those in the music industry who are self-employed; compensation schemes in the event of cancellations; and holding insurance companies to account.
On VAT holidays, he said that lifting the requirement for monthly and quarterly payments would ease the burden on music businesses, particularly those hit with cash flow difficulties due to the downturn triggered by coronavirus.
On extending business rate relief, Mr Kiehl said the Government should, in addition to the help given to smaller venues in the Budget, also look at supporting larger venues with a rate cut if the virus meant they were forced to postpone or cancel events.
On help for the self-employed, Mr Kiehl said people who contracted the virus and were not covered by Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) might not have enough money to cover rent and food bills if they are sick or had to self-isolate. He said there was a need for more clarity, help and advice from the Government for the self-employed.
Ahead of the peak festival season, Mr Kiehl said that the Government must look at what support it could offer festivals and other live music events.
He raised industry concerns about insurance, insisting that the Government should ensure that insurance companies followed correct protocols and paid out speedily on claims.
Amid fears of multi-million pound losses, Mr Kiehl said the Government should also urgently consider launching a compensation fund for music businesses hit by the impact of the virus - similar to a scheme already under way in Denmark.
Mr Kiehl said:
“The impact of the virus could deal a hammer blow to the British music industry and threaten the livelihoods of many people. It will hit not just those who are directly employed in our industry, but the wider supply chain such as caterers and other retailers who depend on our sector for work.
“While we warmly welcome measures outlined by the Chancellor in the Budget it is imperative that the Government takes urgent steps to safeguard a music industry which is the envy of the world.
“It is also crucial that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and all Government departments are in constant communication with our sector as we approach a critical business period for many of our members.”
Read the letter here.