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UK music industry requests more government measures for ‘crisis-hit sector’

UK Music is among the industry and charity leaders that have penned a letter to the Chancellor to urge the country’s government to draw up a package of “urgent measures to help the crisis-hit sector” survive the impact of the coronavirus.

In a joint letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the bodies welcomed the measures outlined so far “as a first step,” but warned the government that many companies in the UK music industry face “an existential battle for survival.”

The industry bodies are calling for the implementation of grants or emergency funds to assist the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts with the loss of earnings.

The letter focused on freelancers, who it claims make up an estimated 72% of the workforce, adding that a targeted approach to guaranteed income for live performers, peripatetic music teachers, composers, managers, engineers and producers.

It states: “We advocate a targeted approach to guarantee temporary income, as well as welcoming a wider discussion with government about the merits of a universal basic income of £400 per week.”

Signatories of the letter include Tom Kiehl, acting chief executive of UK Music, Deborah Annetts, chief executive of Incorporated Society of Musicians, and representatives of groups such as Help Musicians, Musicians Union and Music Managers Forum.

The group points out that the UK music sector contributes £5.2bn annually to the UK economy, encouraging the Chancellor to extend business rate relief to all music companies, including festivals and recording studios.

The letter states: “It is vital that the government does everything it can to support the music industry with an urgent package of measures so we can do our best to weather this pandemic.

“The government must now act swiftly to do whatever it takes to safeguard the future of our world-leading industry.”

Other measures the Chancellor is asked to urgently consider are VAT holidays for businesses; help with staff wages; more clarity about the effective ban on mass events; and ensuring that insurance companies are accountable and follow proper protocols on claims.

Earlier this week, the UK government pledged to assist businesses concerned that are not insured against the impact of the coronavirus crisis and social distancing.

Sunak pledged a £350bn ($418bn/€381bn) package of loans and grants to support businesses in an address on Tuesday. He warned that the country has never faced an “economic fight like this one” in peacetime. The financial measures include £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday for hard-hit retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, and grants for retailers and pubs.

Elsewhere, Spain has announced $121bn in loans for businesses affected by the coronavirus, however the country’s promoters association APM has recommended the lowering of the VAT on concert tickets from 10% to 4%, as well as a VAT reduction from 21% to 10% on all services related to live music.

APM has also suggested introducing alternative measures to compensate consumers aside from ticket refunds and officially declaring the pandemic as force majeure to facilitate the postponement of concerts and festivals.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire unveiled a $50bn rescue program, also expressing readiness to nationalise large companies on the brink of folding.

Meanwhile in Australia, music industry organisations have announced a coronavirus relief initiative called the Sound Of Silence campaign. The group includes concert promoters, ticketing companies, streaming services, and many more, such as ARIA, Chugg Entertainment, Live Nation, triple j and the ABC.

The task force is “sending out an SOS” to music fans and consumers, adding that they intend to host “a raft of targeted activity” to alleviate the loss of income for many members of the music industry.

Sound Of Silence has listed various ways the public can help the cause, including donating a portion of a refund from a cancelled shows to Support Act, the crisis relief charity fund for artists, crew and music workers, established in 1998.

Other ways the public are encouraged to help the industry are by streaming and buying Australian music, contacting a local radio station to air Aussie artists, keep hold of tickets for rescheduled shows, and to buy an official Sound Of Silence T-shirt through the SOS superstore, proceeds of which go to Support Act.