MPs from across South Yorkshire are backing calls from the Sheffield City Region Music Board to provide tailored and flexible financial support for the music industry, after a survey revealed that more than £1.2million in revenue was lost in the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic due to cancelled shows or events, with millions more expected as a total figure.
The survey, conducted in partnership with the University of Sheffield, found that people working in the industry were facing issues with cash flow, overheads, cancelled work, and that uncertainty about the medium to long-term future was putting jobs at risk.
“Music is an important part of South Yorkshire’s culture and economy – and it has suffered badly in the aftermath of this pandemic,” said Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region. “We’ve got to get the industry the help it needs to get through the crisis.”
Penny Blackham, Chair of the SCR Music Board, has written to Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden MP along with Mayor Dan Jarvis and local MPs Louise Haigh, Stephanie Peacock, Gill Furniss, Paul Blomfield, Clive Betts, Olivia Blake, Rosie Winterton and Sarah Champion. Together, they’re calling on Government to provide more tailored financial support for the music industry to help the thousands of musicians, managers, promoters, production staff, technicians and other people who work in the industry who are struggling during the crisis.
Established in 2018 by Mayor Jarvis, the SCR Music Board represents artists, music venues, music hubs, representatives from festivals, local authorities and more in South Yorkshire. Working with UK Music, the Board champions music makers, music lovers and the music industry to support talent and grow the region’s cultural economy.
Mayor Jarvis said: “I welcome the Government’s £1.57billion support package for the arts, but more is needed to fully support the music industry through these uncertain and unprecedented times.
“Whilst we have seen pubs, bars and restaurants open up, our music venues remain closed and the economic shockwave is being felt across the industry in South Yorkshire, where the industry was already being short-changed by Government before the coronavirus hit.
“In our region we receive just £18 of National Lottery Heritage Funding per person each year, compared to an average of £31 per head across England. Similarly, Arts Council England National Portfolio funding (2018/19-2021/22) for South Yorkshire organisations is significantly below the national average.
“As the industry starts to look at what its future looks like, Government must ensure that robust and fair funding is in place for both the industry and the individuals who work around it, to ensure our music industry thrives in a post-covid world, rather than just struggling to survive.”
Chair of the SCR Music Board Penny Blackham said: “Many have fallen through gaps of the Government’s Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support Schemes, which is putting the fragile and beautifully effective eco-system of the music industry at risk. The Government’s £1.57 billion Arts and Culture package is not answering this problem for many thousands of people who earn their living from the music industry.
“Our industry is a finely tuned machine and a one size fits all rescue package will not work. What helps a venue may not support a festival. A musician will face very different challenges to a music teacher. The support needed for a music-led community project will be different to that needed for an artist development programme. A flexible and sustained programme of funding is essential if the industry is to continue to contribute more than £92million to South Yorkshire’s economy each year.
“’The Government needs to support individuals and organisations until the sector is fully up and running. The winding down of the furlough and self-employed support schemes will put even more jobs at risk. These schemes need to be expanded to incorporate more industry workers, not wound down when the sector is the last to be able to open up.
“Music has the power to stimulate our recovery and be the soundtrack for economic and societal renewal; but we must make sure it is still there and functioning effectively in a post-Covid-19 world.”
When surveyed in May, just 35% of respondents had received financial support from the Government and a quarter had been rejected for funding. Other concerns raised in the survey included the impact social distancing will have on the financial viability of events, increasing debt for venues and studios, being unable to access recording spaces and a reduction in the number of people engaging in musical education.
UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl said: “Whilst we are beginning to see some live events take place most venues, recording studios, music hubs and festivals are still unable to open. When they are, it could be months before tour managers and production crews are back on the road, leaving thousands in the industry without an income.
“Not only will this impact emerging artists but it’ll also mean promoters, technicians, bar staff, security, and countless other jobs that support live music will be under threat. Music contributes more than £92million to the economy in South Yorkshire alone, but if the Government do not provide more bespoke support for the industry, we may not have one left when we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”
To shine a light on the plight of the music industry during the coronavirus crisis the SCR Music Board has spoken to six people from across the region to find out more about their experiences during the pandemic.
Sheffield musician Otis Mensah, Doncaster’s Bang Bang Romeo, venue owner Andy Cook, Emma Holling, who runs a festival in Barnsley, producer, musician and studio owner David Glover and podcast producer Kitty Turner will be sharing their stories on the SCR Music Board website.