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Over 1,500 artists call on the UK government to save live music

Radiohead, PJ Harvey, FKA twigs, J Hus, Dua Lipa, and many more have signed up to the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign

RadioheadPJ HarveyDua LipaSkeptaNick Cavethe CureJamie xxFKA twigsJ Hus, and more are among over 1,500 names in UK music who have signed an open letter to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, demanding fast and decisive action to prevent “catastrophic damage” to the live music industry in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The #LetTheMusicPlay campaign aims to “show the vital importance of the UK’s live music industry, ensure the government cannot ignore live music and make noise to get the public and financial support the industry needs to survive”.

Live music has taken a battering during the pandemic. Although sectors of the UK economy are reopening from July 4, live venues are still considered high risk and will remain shuttered – and even when they can reopen, it will likely be with social distancing measures and reduced capacities that will make it hard to sustain financially.

“UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade,” the letter reads. “But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.”

Research suggests that the live music sector was worth £4.5 billion to Britain’s economy in 2019, and supports 210,000 jobs, but the core live music industry stands to lose at least £900 million if it remains closed for the rest of 2020. 59 per cent of the UK’s 85,000 music festival workers are expected to be made redundant without further support.

Despite being the fourth-largest music market in the world by value of ticket sales and the second-biggest per capita, the open letter points out that state support for live music in the UK post-coronavirus is lower than in European countries such as France or Germany.

To coincide with the letter, beginning today artists and fans will be posting films and photos of their last live show under the #LetTheMusicPlay hashtag on social media.

“It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK,” says Dua Lipa in a statement. “From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels: small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms, and into arenas, and, of course, festivals in between each touring cycle.”

Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis added: "The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges. If the government doesn't step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”

The live music industry is asking for a clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing; a business and employment support package (which would include an extension to the furlough scheme, rent breaks for venues, and more); access to financial support for lost sales; and VAT exemption on ticket sales.

“This sector doesn’t want to ask for government help,” the letter states. “The promoters, festival organisers, and other employers want to be self-sufficient, as they were before lockdown. But, until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies, and the end of this great world-leading industry.”

On Twitter, Oliver Dowden wrote: “I understand the deep anxiety of those working in music and the desire to see fixed dates for reopening. I am pushing hard for these dates and to give you a clear roadmap back. These involve very difficult decisions about the future of social distancing, which we know has saved lives.”

Read the full open letter here.

We recently spoke to six independent venues around the UK about the unique challenges they face during the coronavirus crisis.