Dear the Rt Hon. Oliver Dowden MP (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport),
We are writing to you, and your government, with a deep concern for the future of our country’s music and nightlife industry – a deep concern shared by all corners of our industry; whether that be the bands that were set to walk on to the stage of the many UK music festivals this year, or the bartenders that supply many avid gig-goers with a cold pint of beer in venues like Manchester’s Deaf Institute or Sheffield’s world-renowned Leadmill venue. This is an industry that has been shown little support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, we must be careful of this virus, but we can’t let it terminate jobs and livelihoods as well as the many lives it has snatched over the last year.
Minister, we want to highlight to you the cost of the lack of support to an industry that has brought us Reading & Leeds headliners, many world renowned artists and a culture of vibrancy to this country. According to UKMusic, our industry contributes £5.2billion to the country’s economy, whether that be through ticket sales, new releases or bringing tourism to cities outside of London. For that £5.2billion, individuals that help keep our music culture alive are being recommended to apply for Universal Credit and businesses such as record labels and venues have been giving the “gift” of 20% of their income – 20% of their income!
For an industry that has produced the likes of Glastonbury, David Bowie and The Beatles, we doubt that a wage set by this government that can’t even buy running water is a thank you for that £5.2billion. Now, as we make the point, we want to question you, Minister, on your government’s attitude towards our music and nightlife industry.
A couple of days ago, in Parliament, your colleague – the Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – was asked what his department was setting out to help those businesses in the arts sector (the music industry especially), his reply: “the answer lies in the welfare system and that they need to find better jobs via apprenticeships.” Minister, we are no experts but that sounds like an attitude of contempt towards a sector that has sustained just over 190,000 jobs. The answer does not lie in the welfare system, it does, however, lie in the terms of investment, security and extra funding.
Furthermore, we want to highlight to you the turmoil that this government is leaving grassroots venues in whilst we’re in the midst of the pandemic. For some communities, especially those in the Midlands, the North East, Greater Manchester, North Wales and so on, music is the only thing that they have that gives them an excuse to look forward to.
These venues contribute £1.1million to the music industry – that is 10% of the industry’s economy (as reported by UKMusic in 2017). Where do you think the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, Kasabian and Kate Nash played their first gigs at? It was their local grassroot venues in front of local audiences. We think that every artist––no matter their background––should be encouraged and championed, but without the necessary pandemic funding, many working class talented kids will have that chance stripped away from them, and without the security of local grassroot venues, towns and cities who are already suffering will be robbed of their music, and like we said, it is the only thing that binds most communities together.
So, Minister, we come knocking on your door not for a handout but for more support for the industry we all love and cherish. I’m sure you agree with us that our music and arts needs to be championed more so now than ever before. Why should we lose an industry that we work hard to keep alive? Why should the government ignore the pleas of artists and venue owners who are struggling to pay the rent as it is?
Minister, I hope you take this letter in to consideration and I hope your department and other parts of government recognise the cost of not supporting or country’s music industry enough.
The Happy People Team & The UK Music Industry