With festivals big and small cancelled and music venues, record stores and recording studios across the UK unable to operate, the economic impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on those working in music was always going to be severe. Now, a clearer picture is starting to emerge of the real monetary damage wrought by the crisis – and it doesn’t make for happy reading.
In the UK, so far, a nation-wide quarantine has resulted in over £50 million (circa $61m-plus) in lost revenues for artists and managers in the UK. That includes at least £3.1m ($7.8m) lost by music managers in commissions.
These figures comes from a new survey, launched on March 17, of 150 music managers and artists in the UK, detailing the impact of more than 2,100 cancelled shows, delayed campaigns and lost earnings. Total losses of £68m ($83m) are predicted for artists and managers in the market if concerts continue to get cancelled over the next six months.
Conducted by the the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), most of these losses relate to live. However, impacts on recordings and merch (via lost sales) as well as artist brand deals (via lost contracts) are also substantial, say the two organizations.
The £50m-plus estimate strictly relates to managers and artists; it does not include losses for promoters, venues, festivals, record labels, publishers or other industry entities.
The reality of the pandemic’s impending impact on music workers’ finances in the UK began to set in last Monday (March 16), when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (who has himself tested positive for Coronavirus) recommended social distancing measures including avoiding large gatherings, venues, pubs and clubs.
On March 18, the UK’s iconic Glastonbury Festival, which was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary in June, announced that it would not be going ahead this year.
As government communications to the British public changed from recommendations to an official stay-at-home-order with non essential shops, pubs and restaurants shuttered, music retailers, such as HMV (the country’s largest) have temporarily closed their doors until it’s deemed safe to reopen.
Yesterday also saw Live Nation cancel two of its major UK festivals, Download and the Isle of Wight, both scheduled to take place in late June, while AEG Presents today announced the cancellation of the six-date All Points East festival, which would have seen the liked of Tame Impala, Kraftwerk, the Chemical Brothers and Iggy Pop perform in London’s Victoria Park over the last two weekends of May.
According to the MMF and FAC – which represent over 800 UK music management businesses and the rights and interests of the artist community – the survey’s findings raise “grave concerns” for the long-term sustainability of the commercial music sector.
Furthermore, the MMF and FAC argue that the UK’s largest music businesses and organizations should be doing more to help artists during the crisis.
Over the past week, a number of emergency funding initiatives have been launched – including those from the likes of PRS for Music, whose eligible members can claim up to £1k (circa $1,200) and of course, Spotify, which will be making a financial contribution of up to $10 million to help artists and other members of the music community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the MMF and FAC call the these and other funds “incredibly welcome at this moment,” they acknowledge that “far more comprehensive support packages” have been rolled out in countries outside the UK.
“Major labels, major music publishers and others who can afford it should offer artists and songwriters a ‘recoupment holiday’ during a defined short-term period and pay streaming royalties straight through music makers regardless of the state of their balance.”
Music Managers’ Forum
German music licensing society GEMA, for example, has launched a €40m ($43m) crisis fund for its songwriter members.
And then there’s Netflix, which revealed that it had created a massive and (so far unmatched) $100-million relief fund for workers in the film business affected by the pandemic.
Subsequently, MMF and FAC are calling on larger UK music businesses, “particularly in the recorded music sector” to consider the following four measures:
- Support for artists and songwriters: “Major labels, major music publishers and others who can afford it should offer artists and songwriters a ‘recoupment holiday’ during a defined short-term period and pay streaming royalties straight through music makers regardless of the state of their balance. We would also like these companies to consider additional advances and moving contractual deadlines where possible.”
- Crisis Support: “Further direct contributions to emergency support funds for artists, musicians and their teams most of whom are freelance or micro-business. This will be essential to tide people over until government support comes through”.
- Redistribution of ‘Black Box’ revenues. “MMF & FAC fully support calls by the Ivors Academy for music licensing societies to divert “unattributable” royalty collections into an emergency hardship fund.”
- PRO advances: “Music licensing societies should also consider making more accessible the advances on performer and composer royalties as loans against future payments. This would be of particular assistance to self-releasing or non-contracted artists, musicians and performers.”
Earlier this week, MBW asked if the music industry could do more to help artists and songwriters whose income has been hit by Coronavirus.
We learnt of another suggestion on this topic from C.C. Young Director Colin Young, who has proposed that large-scale record labels and publishers could support those artists under contract to their companies with discretionary advances amid the COVID-19 uncertainty.
Yesterday (March 26), the British government announced a support package to help self-employed workers, including musicians, during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The funding package will allow those eligible to apply for a taxable cash grant of up to £2,500 per month for at least three months, but it won’t be paid until June.
“This MMF and FAC survey is only a snapshot, but it highlights that millions of pounds have already been lost through cancelled shows and campaigns.”
Annabella Coldrick, MMF
Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF said today: “Artists and music makers are faced with a short-term crisis and a longer-term catastrophe.
“This MMF and FAC survey is only a snapshot, but it highlights that millions of pounds have already been lost through cancelled shows and campaigns.
“With Government support for freelancers not kicking in until June we need the biggest record labels, music publishers and licensing organisations to act. We need them to do more, and we need them to do so now.”
“We need all parts of the global music community to do their bit to support those that are most in need, and those with the greatest resource must do their fair share to provide this support.”
David Martin, FAC
David Martin, GM, FAC: “It is evident that the artist and creator community is suffering enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While our survey only demonstrates a proportion of the actual losses, the numbers highlight the acute challenge facing artists and the existential threat that this presents to our wider industry.
“We need all parts of the global music community to do their bit to support those that are most in need, and those with the greatest resource must do their fair share to provide this support.”Music Business Worldwide