The Welsh Music Industries in a Post-Covid World
Professor Paul Carr, Professor of Popular Music Analysis at the University of South Wales (USW), has produced a report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the music industry in Wales.
After being commissioned by Senedd Research in July 2020, Prof Carr presented his findings to the Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee in the second half of November 2020.
The report looks at the Welsh music industry before and after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, focusing on six specific areas - Reopening and Recovery Strategies; Research; Strategic Opportunities and Promotion; Policy; Education; and Funding.
It then presents a number of recommendations for action to address each of these.
How were things before the pandemic?
Highlighting the influence of music before the pandemic, the report highlights the widely accepted economic, social and cultural value it has around the world.
In economic terms, in 2019:
- The UK industries were considered to be worth around £5.2bn, generating more than 190,000 jobs. The GVA of the live music industries was calculates as being £1.1bn. Despite this, the average annual wage for Cardiff based ‘artists and creative agents’ was estimated to be around £18,000. Most of the industries’ stakeholders are freelance.
- The UK music industries had a total export revenue of £2.7bn, with a £4.5bn attributed to ‘live music tourism’.
- Welsh music tourism attracted 363,000 people, with a total spend in the region of £124m, generating 1,754 jobs.
What has the pandemic done to music in Wales?
When Covid-19 hit in the spring of 2020, the music industries in Wales witnessed the cancellation of a wide range of activities, including tours, music festivals, rehearsal room and recording studio work, music tuition, grassroots music, and concert performances, which significantly impacted on the £124m spend attributed to Welsh music tourism.
Support from the UK and Welsh Governments included nondomestic rates relief, and direct funding for the music industries, including the £7m Arts Resilience Fund, £401,551.39 allocated to 22 grassroots music businesses in Wales as part of a £1m Creative Wales Fund, and the £53m Cultural Recovery Fund. The latter, the report says, ‘was slow to emerge when compared to other European nations, with the Welsh allocation still not given to music venues’.
A number of private sector funding initiatives, by organisations such as The Musicians’ Union, The Performing Rights Society, Help Musicians UK, and The Association of Independent Musicians, have attempted to meet the shortfalls in government schemes.
Many of the freelancers in the music and creative Industries have been ineligible for UK Government support schemes, with the Musicians’ Union reporting that 88% of its members were disappointed with the support offered by UK Government.
The Union also reported that almost half of musicians have had to look for work outside the industry, 70% are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work, and more than a third have no work at all.
In May, the UK Live Music Group expected as much as £900m to be wiped from the £1.1bn the UK live music sector was expected to contribute to the domestic economy, with 82% of grassroots music venues noting a threat of closure.
A July report, for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, estimated that 93% of grassroots music venues across the UK faced permanent closure, with 86% of them reporting that the biggest threat their businesses faced was to meet rent payments.
Grassroots music venues were unable to implement social distancing due to financial constraints.
There is little or no research into music venues types, total income, income retention, and contribution to the economy of Welsh music industries.
Live performance is widely accepted as the music industry sector most impacted by the pandemic, which has halted musical careers in Wales, often at important ‘tipping points’.
What can be done?
Recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider:
- Develop a Reopening and Recovery Strategy - which will outline a clear short-term plan of what is possible now, what is not possible yet, what will never be possible, and what support will be available for all of these outcomes.
- Working with experts in the music industries, university sector, and the Arts Council of Wales, to develop a long-term three-year recovery strategy. This should take into account the Covid-19 impact and look at how the industry can sustain, retain, and incubate talent, build public confidence, and help re-established the music industries.
- Commission research into the role music plays in the Welsh economy, society, and culture.
- Build an interactive map of venue types in Wales, and their impact on the local, national, and global environment.
- Build an online system to develop ‘culture at home’ initiative to work alongside other art and culture.
- To work with UK Government to reduce the ‘value gap’ – the difference between a music creator’s income and the commission of ‘tech giants’ - for Welsh artists.
- Ensure the industry is not so reliant on commercial income.
- Work with local councils on flexible licensing and business rate relief to ensure public access to a broad range of live music.
- Ensure that the various skills required in the ‘new music industries’ are reflected in school, college, university, and private industry.
- To consider and plan for the potential of a mental health crisis in the music industries.
- Creative Wales should consider its membership to ensure it reflects music industry expertise, and for the body to consider the viability of introducing protocols for Welsh music to be prioritised on radio and TV.
Concluding his report, Prof Carr wrote: “The creative industries in Wales were still facing an existential threat that is challenging the livelihoods of many sub-sectors of the music industries, so although a report such as this cannot address all of the issues, it is hoped that it provides a constructive start.”
The full report can be access at https://culture.research.southwales.ac.uk/publications/
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