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UK govt proposes six-metre gap between artists and fans

Proposed UK government guidance on reopening venues would, according to many in the business, actually keep most venues firmly shut. The guidance suggests that a distance of six metres is maintained between singers and fans, plans that industry umbrella body UK Music has deemed “unworkable”.

The working document, which was circulated by officials last week and first reported on by the Telegraph, also recommends a gap of three metres is kept between individual singers, with no more than six permitted on stage at any one time.

Under the regulations, members of bands using wind and brass instruments would also have to stay three metres apart, with a limit of 8 players allowed on stage.

“The size of studios, rehearsal spaces and venues means the present plan is not fit for purpose”

“These proposals are unworkable,” UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl told the Telegraph. “The size of studios, rehearsal spaces and venues means the present plan is not fit for purpose.

“Public Health England needs to work with the music industry to come up with an evidence-based solution to get music back in business.”

UK Music predicts that the Covid-19 shutdown will wipe out £900 million of the estimated £1.1 billion that the country’s live industry contributes to the economy each year.

The guidelines have yet to be signed off by ministers.

Photo: Ralph Arvesen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times. 

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Why the UK government must help save our live industry

With Boomtown, Latitude and Trnsmt the latest to join Glastonbury and many others on the cancellation list, we are facing a wipeout of the summer festival season.

It is impossible to overstate the pain coronavirus is causing to the live music sector which contributes £1.1 billion a year to our economy and sustains more than 30,000 jobs.

Many organisers face losing huge amounts of money they have paid out, raising real fears some smaller festivals may never return unless they get urgent help.

Money has already been spent on deposits for artists and contractors, marketing and promotion, employee costs and the foundations needed for a major event.

Many independent festivals have said their insurance will not cover Covid-19. They rightly feel they are among those falling through the gaps in the safety net on offer from the government.

There is also the major issue of refunds, which could mean the end of the road for some festivals without a lifeline to help with their crippling cash flow problems.

It is not just festivals that are suffering. According to the Music Venue Trust, more than 550 cherished music venues are under immediate threat of closure because of the economic impact of the lockdown.

We are facing a wipeout of the summer festival season

However, amid the gloom and the continuing uncertainty over when the government’s restrictions on social distancing will be lifted, there are some glimmers of hope. A fightback is already well under way.

As the umbrella body and voice of the music business, UK Music is pressing the government to do more to help the whole sector including the live music industry.

Everyone is behind the fantastic #saveourvenues campaign launched by the Music Venue Trust to raise funds for 556 under-threat grassroots venues all over the UK. A series of livestreamed gigs are planned to raise cash.

Artists are livestreaming gigs from their living rooms, while PRS for Music staged its one-off LCKDWN earlier this month to celebrate the special role that music plays in all of our lives and to support the PRS Emergency Relief Fund.

Music licensing company PPL has made advance payments of £23.9 million to more than 15,000 performers and recording rightsholders to help them at this immensely difficult time.

There are also several hardship funds, which were quickly set up by the music industry to help the 190,000 people who work in it.

Among those involved are UK Music members including PRS for Music, PPL, the Musicians’ Union, AIM, the BPI and the PRS Foundation – as well as charities such as Help Musicians and the Music Venue Trust.

The music industry is doing all it can to help the 190,000 people who depend on it to make a living

The music industry is doing all it can to help the 190,000 people who depend on it to make a living.

However, there is more that the government should be doing to give the live music industry the best possible chance of recovery.

A survey for ITV’s Peston showed 40% of gig-goers did not intend to return to concerts until a vaccine is available which will mean a big drop in revenues.

Music fans may be tempted to request refunds for cancelled or postponed events, yet many small festivals and promoters could go out of business if there is a huge spike in claims.

Fans will then find it even harder to reclaim money and there will be no chance of a rescheduled event.

One of the key ways that the government could help is by extending the refund period on tickets.

This would enable event companies to give guarantees to those who have bought tickets that rescheduled events will go ahead.

The music industry needs a road map from government so it can plan a route out of the destruction caused by coronavirus

Music venues get business rate relief, but this should be extended to the entire supply chain in the music industry to include service companies, sound firms, lighting suppliers and others involved in event production.

VAT breaks on the price of tickets should also be considered to provide incentives to businesses and consumers to put on and go to live music shows.

Critically, the government needs to give the industry an idea about how long the restrictions on social distancing will remain so businesses can plan ahead.

If parts of the economy can go back to work before the live music sector, it is critical the government does not turn off the tap and scrap the support packages on offer. Arrangements around furloughing, self-employed schemes and business loan support all need to stay in place.

Already, some major events planned for this summer are being pushed into 2021. The music industry needs a road map from government so it can plan a route out of the destruction caused by coronavirus.

There will be many music fans who are only now realising just how important live music was to them now that it has gone – albeit temporarily.

We want the government to work with us to support the live music industry through this existential crisis so we can get performers back on stage to once again bring joy to millions here and across the world.

 


Tom Kiehl is acting CEO of music industry umbrella body UK Music.

Covid-19: UK Music calls for Danish-style compensation fund

Tom Kiehl, acting CEO of UK Music, has called on the British government to put in place a “framework of support” for the country’s music industry, including compensating businesses for loss of earnings, to combat the impact of coronavirus.

Warning the pandemic could deal a “hammer blow” to the UK music industry, in a letter sent today (13 March) to culture secretary Oliver Dowden he urges the government work with the sector to limit the damage from Covid-19 and warns 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 Music Venue Trust, while the Association of Independent Festivals reports that ticket sales for its members are down on average by 44% since the outbreak.

Unlike many countries in Europe, the UK has yet to cancel all large-scale gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday his government is considering a ban on major events, such as sporting fixtures – noting that while banning such events will have little effect on the spread, “there is the question of the added burden of such events can place on public services”.

In the letter to Dowden, 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.

“It is imperative that the government takes urgent steps to safeguard the music industry”

UK Music’s recommendations include:

Amid fears of multi-million pound losses, Kiehl said the government should urgently consider launching a compensation fund for promoters and other businesses hit by the impact of the virus, similar to a scheme already in place in Denmark.

“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,” comments Kiehl.

“While we warmly welcome measures outlined by the chancellor in the budget [on business rates] 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.”

 


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How to maintain the UK industry’s global status post-Brexit

The BRITs this week brilliantly captured all that is best about our £5.2 billion music industry. Headline performances from Mabel, Lewis Capaldi and Stormzy showed just how talented UK musicians are.

With global stars like Billie Eilish and Lizzo also appearing, the event underlined the UK as a hugely attractive destination for everyone from touring musicians, to producers, songwriters to managers and everyone else involved in music-making.

A fundamental part of this has been freedom of movement between the UK and the European Union. Brexit is ending that freedom – as the Government made clear this week with the announcement of a new immigration system.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government wanted to “encourage people with the right talent”, though it is far from clear what will constitute the “right talent”, especially in sectors such as music and the creative arts.

It is vital ministers understand the impact these changes could have on the complex ecosystem on which our industry relies. Freedom to tour and cross borders without further red tape is a crucial.

At present, when artists from outside the EU come to the UK, they are forced to navigate our immigration system with all its complexities.

It is vital ministers understand the impact these changes could have on the complex ecosystem on which our industry relies

If a musician from outside the EU is staying for a short period, they must have either a Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship or evidence they are here under a permitted paid engagement or performing at a permit-free festival.

The Home Secretary has now announced that from the beginning of 2021 the Government’s broad approach will be to extend this to all musicians and performers from across the EU.

The Government’s proposals will mean some UK booking agents, promoters and festivals are being brought into the immigration system for the first time if they have only ever worked with EU performers.

Those who are already engaged will need to issue more Certificates of Sponsorship than before and set aside more time to process them. Companies are given a finite allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship each year and this will need to be radically increased in order to deal with an influx of EU artist applications.

For many acts struggling to make a profit or simply break even, these extra burdens could make certain tours or tour dates unviable.

Requests to increase allocations can take over two months to come through, so this needs to be done by October 2020 at the latest to ensure companies are ready for 2021.

The Government’s proposals will mean some UK booking agents, promoters and festivals are being brought into the immigration system for the first time

The Government agency, UK Visa and Immigration, will also need extra resources to deal with the increase in requests from sponsors and provide help to those who have not previously used the system.

We at UK Music are talking to the Government about these challenges and outlining proposals to simplify the process to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office.

The Government’s approach to EU artists coming to the UK for gigs and festivals is another potential problem that could have a profound impact on how UK artists are treated when touring in the EU from 2021.

Many EU member states do not require permissions for people coming from “third parties” – as the UK will formally be defined from January 2021 – for short-term visits.

If the Government is to impose a more costly and bureaucratic process in the UK for EU artists, then we can expect similar obstacles when our musicians tour the EU. This is why ideas such as a post-Brexit “touring passport” are so important.

For those from the EU wanting to work in the UK music industry on a longer-term basis there are further challenges as a result of the Government’s plans to introduce a points-based system.

From Freddy Mercury to Rita Ora, our fantastic music industry has benefitted greatly from immigration

It is welcome that the Government have reduced the salary cap from £30,000 to £25,600 for skilled workers. However, given musicians average earnings per year are £23,000, many will still fall short.

The points-based approach has a degree of flexibility as relevant qualifications can be factored in if earnings are less than £25,600, but again this is problematic for music. Very few are likely to have the required PhD in a relevant subject that would let them come to the UK for work.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope as the Home Office state they will refine the system based on experience and this might include considering a greater range of qualifications, as well as the possibility of a “broader unsponsored route” being floated.

But it is disappointing that the Home Secretary appears to have explicitly ruled out creating a dedicated route for self-employed people – something that would have been beneficial for music where 72% of workers are freelancers.

From Freddie Mercury to Rita Ora, our fantastic music industry has benefitted greatly from immigration. For this success to continue, we need an immigration system that ensures our music industry remains the envy of the world.

With just ten months to go before the new system is due to start, it is crucial the Government listens to our concerns and works with the music industry to deliver a workable and fair immigration policy.

 


Tom Kiehl is acting CEO of music industry umbrella body UK Music.

UK industry reacts to venues business rates cut

Venue operators and others from across the UK live industry have expressed their support for a 50% cut in business rates for small- and mid-sized grassroots music venues, in a “much-needed” boost for the country’s live venues.

After several years of campaigning by charity the Music Venue Trust (MVT), umbrella organisation UK Music and others, the government has slashed business rates – the tax levied on non-residential property in the UK – by half for music venues, saving grassroots music venues an average of £7,500 a year.

The decision releases over £1.7 million back into the grassroots live music sector, benefitting 230 venues across England and Wales. The news follows the establishment of a £1.5m Arts Council England fund dedicated to the grassroots sector last year.

The announcement comes as Independent Venue Week kicks off in the UK. Over 800 live shows will take place throughout the week at the UK’s best independent venues, including performances by Nadine Shah at the Cluny (300-cap.) in Newcastle, Frank Turner at the Exeter Tavern (220-cap. and Anna Calvi at the Windmill Brixton (150-cap.) in London.

“This is incredibly welcome news,” Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music, tells IQ. “We have campaigned hard to get the recognition that music venues should qualify for rates relief.

“There is no uniform issue behind venue closures and other challenges remain in terms of planning and licensing, but this will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline,” says Kiehl, who notes the rates relief is a “profound and positive step” for the UK talent pipeline.

“We thank the government for being so forthcoming.”

“This will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline”

A 2017 hike in business rates has had a harmful effect on UK grassroots venues over the past few years, with venues being exempted from the tax relief granted to other small retailers. Over a third (35%) of UK venues have closed down in the past decade, including DHP Family’s the Borderline, which had hosted acts including Debbie Harry, Blur, Muse and Amy Winehouse over more than 30 years in business.

Venue operators have also reacted positively to the news. Richard Buck, CEO of TEG MJR comments: “We very much welcome the change in business rates. It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry.”

The former MJR Group, which was acquired by Sydney-based TEG in August, looks after venues including the Tramshed (1,000-cap.) in Cardiff, the Mill (1,000-cap.) in Birmingham and the Warehouse (750-cap.) in Leeds.

Julie Tipping from Nottingham-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family says MVT has done “a fantastic job getting a significant discount rate relief for some grassroots venues”. However, they “are not yet sure what impact this will have for DHP’s venues”, which include London venues the Garage (600-cap.), Oslo (375-cap.) and the Grace (150-cap.), as well as award-winning boat venue Thekla (400-cap.) in Bristol.

“It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry”

“It’s great news for grassroots venues in this country that are eligible,” adds Tipping, “the question will be how many that is and what will happen to any that don’t get this benefit in the long term.

“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age, so we need government to come up with a fairer taxation system.”

Bert Van Horck, CEO of independent UK promoter and venue operator VMS Live says: “We’re delighted that the government is supporting this important cultural sector with a reduction in business rates that will help up and coming talent.”

VMS Live, which operates mid-sized UK venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), is dedicated to “operating the venues at the start of artists’ creative  journey”, adds Van Horck.

“Business rates are one of our largest annual overheads,” says Rebecca Walker, assistant general manager of the Leadmill (900-cap.) in Sheffield.

“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age”

“Thanks to the incredible work of all of the MVT team, this significant reduction will really help us to invest in not only music and the arts, but the staff and infrastructure needed to continue putting on great shows for the people of Sheffield.”

Toni Coe-Brooker, of venue manager of the Green Store Door in Brighton (200-cap.), says the team is “relieved” by the news.

“The rate relief we will receive as a grassroots music venue will make a significant impact on our ability to continue doing what we do, supporting our local community and incubating new talent.”

Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of MVT, says the news is “another foundation stone” in the building of a “vibrant, sustainable, world class grassroots music venue sector”.

Davyd admits there is “still a lot to be done on this issue”, with collaboration needed with governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure “a level playing field” for venues’ access to business rates and public subsidies across the UK.

“It’s now time for recording, streaming and publishing interests to play their part,” adds Davyd. “Billions of pounds in revenue are being generated in the music industry from the music that is tested, developed, finds its audience and emerges from these vital spaces. PRS for Music, PPL, Universal, Warners, Sony, Spotify, Apple and Google now need to come to the table and tell us what they are going to do to make sure that continues to happen.”

This article will be updated with reactions as we receive them.

 


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UK culture minister: free movement “essential” for artists

The UK minister for sport, media and creative industries, Nigel Adams, has stated that the UK government will endeavour to support continued freedom of movement for touring musicians after the country leaves the European Union on 31 January.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday (21 January), Adams stressed the importance of touring – “the lifeblood of the industry” – and of freedom of movement for “musicians, equipment and merchandise”.

“Visa rules for artists performing in the EU will not change until the implementation period ends in December 2020. It’s absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020,” said Adams.

Michael Dugher, former CEO of umbrella body UK Music, previously described the prospect of losing free movement as “a death knell for touring”, with many other industry figures raising concerns over the additional costs, delays and red tape artists would face in a post-Brexit world.

“It’s absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020”

The minster also stated the government was committed to supporting the “fantastic UK music industry at home and abroad”, adding that a “comprehensive music strategy” needed to be implemented to ensure the industry “continues to be the envy of the world”.

The Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, Conor McGinn, noted that the UK music industry “punches well above its weight economically”, citing the £5.2 billion it generates each year, as well as having a “profound effect on health and wellbeing”.

McGinn admitted that “challenges still exist” with regards to business rates for music venues – which were addressed both in the ruling Conservative Party manifesto and in the Queen’s speech – asking when relief would come in.

The debate was praised by Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music, who says: “I would like to thank all the MPs from across the political spectrum who made such brilliant and heartfelt contributions about the importance of the UK music industry to our economy and society.

“We look forward to working with [Adams] on the new music strategy and a host of other areas to continue to grow our industry.”

 


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