“We’re hoping that artists and fans become more aware of their codependent relationship and that this closer relationship develops and continues throughout this situation.”

WORDS BY LAUREN KERNAN

The UK boasts the second-largest music industry in the world with a reputation for breeding inspiring artists. This is derived from a rich variety of genres and performers at every level from local pubs and clubs to headlining international festivals and stadium gigs. Here at Visceral records we’re incredibly proud of the UK independent music scene seeing it as the backbone of the industry.

We’ve compiled some information so you can understand just how the current situation is damaging the industry and what’s so far being done about it. We’re also becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the arts to people’s mental wellbeing and how musicians and their fans are relying on each other more than ever, so we’ve included a few ways that you can help out your favourite artists and musicians in general. 

First, let’s talk brexit

You must be thinking we finally got the talk of Brexit off the news, – but it’s important to understand how the UK’s independent musicians were already placed in the wrong footing earlier this year before going into the pandemic. 

Many independent artists relied on the freedom of movement to help and grow their image and brand. The posed red tape and costs on international tours may mean only the top UK players could afford to do this, hitting these artists the hardest. 

In a survey of 5000 UK-based artists 63% of respondents cited difficulty in securing future work in EU countries as the biggest issue they face due to Brexit – and more than 1 in 10 respondents reported that offers of work have been withdrawn or cancelled with Brexit given as a reason. Showing how even before the effects of the pandemic began to take place there was already some fear for the future amongst musicians. 

COVID-19’s impact on the industry 

Live Performances

The rise of streaming sites such as Spotify or Soundcloud has caused  the music industry to rely heavily on live performances as a source of income. The pandemic has wiped this out almost overnight with a mass cancellation or postponement of all live gigs and festivals. Artists have been unable to recover some admin costs and have lost out on ticket and merch sales which is so important to keep this amazing industry alive. We simply don’t know when this will all be over and fans are hesitant to buy tickets for future gigs in case they get cancelled as well.

Album Sales

Covid-19’s impact doesn’t stop at the lack of active income made through live performances but album sales have also seen to fall since the pandemic hit. In the second week of March alone physical album sales have dropped by 27.6% as we’ve all begun social distancing and shops have closed down.

Self-employed Artists

72% of those who work in the music industry are self-employed, and with the current confusion as to how those self employed are supported by furloughs, this can pose more uncertainty for the future. 

How the government has stepped in

The government is working to provide support in the following ways:

  • The Arts Council of England has put forward £160 million in emergency funds which artists, venues and freelancers can apply to grants from ranging from £200 to £2500.
  • There are different furlough systems being put in place for those who are self employed which encompasses 72% of the industry. 
  • The Music Union has also set up a corona hardship fund to name one of the crowd funds set up. 

The response from the music industry

Musicians and artists are finding creative ways to continue to interact with their fans. Ranging from lockdown livestreams to sharing playlists and promoting different artists amongst their fans. 

There has also been some movements from some of the big players such as Spotify who have announced a COVID-19 relief crowdfund, for which it will match donations up to $10 million and is providing financial support and advice to artists. 

Bandcamp has also lifted its fees so it ensures all money spent on their site goes directly to the artist, and in its first day of doing this over $4.3 million was spent by fans going straight to support their favorite artists. 

These are just a few of the support initiatives that have been set up in the industry ranging in size from the ones mentioned to Apple is giving its customers 90-days free access to Final Cut and Logic Pro to encourage people to get creative during the lockdown period. 

In conversation with an independent musician

Stan Glendinning (Credit – Ella Joy)

Talking to Stan Glendinning, a self-employed independent artist living in Bristol. Cofounder of Pitcher, a collective of independent artists spoke about his personal experience.

“It’s interesting as we are super insecure financially and there are no foreseeable returns to normal, but that’s a blessing and a curse. What was benefitting us about the hand to mouth system [which a majority of independent artists live off] is forcing us to be innovative together as everyone is in the same position. I think it’s inevitable there will be long term effects but I can’t be certain those will be. Certainly, the demand for music and art is still very much alive, perhaps more than it’s ever been, but it’s now an issue of creating a system that isn’t exploitative of artists. I’m fortunate to be surrounded closely by a group of artists who are all collaborating to work out a way of functioning, working and creating in unprecedented times – and that’s very inspiring”

Stan is a part of Marma sessions, a group of musicians mixing music and art which is usually hosted at Café Kino. You can join in and stream @20:00 on Sunday 28th April, and every fortnight after that. The group are splitting profits amongst the musicians and the creators. 

Check out Marma Sessions here.

The importance of the arts during times of social distancing 

Music has shown to have positive influences over multiple areas of cognition and in mental health. It’s proven to be effective in therapy and a completely safe treatment. With mental wellbeing being put at risk during the lockdown, music could be of great importance – with fans possibly relying on the arts more than ever. 

Although the lockdown might not all be doom and gloom. Peggy Gou, a producer and DJ, believed that creativity occurred in free time so as we come out of the lockdown, we could hope to see a rise in releases and production all over the industry. As fans it is crucial for us to endorse artists at this time not only to keep them afloat but to help support their creative development. Who knows what kinds of paths our favourite musicians will have taken with this much free time to explore and create.

We’re hoping that artists and fans become more aware of their codependent relationship and that this closer relationship develops and continues throughout this situation.

How you can do your bit to support your favourite artists and creatives 

If you feel inclined to support we’ve collected a range of ways you can do your bit. We realise some of you aren’t in the position to help monetarily so we’ve included some way you can help without spending a penny. 

  • Buy music and merch from your favourite artists. Bandcamp is a great way of doing this as they’ve removed their fees to ensure all money spent will be going straight to the artists. Some have mentioned how they’re spending money they would’ve otherwise spent on commuting on the arts. Remember – the smaller the artist your helping out, the more your help means. 
  • Donate to crowdfunders to help musicians such as Spotify’s COVID-19 music relief project (here) or other crowdfunders. 
  • Hold onto postponed concert and festival tickets, or even buy some pay-what-you-can virtual concert tickets. This helps this avenue of income not to be completely stripped away. 
  • Sign a petition to offer economic assistance to the events industry during COVID-19 here.
  • Write to your local MP. Although multiple measures have been put in place no musician should be left behind as they don’t meet the criteria currently stated for the self employed to receive grants or furlough. Points such as: Provide support for those who have been self employed for less than a year, extending the self-employment income support scheme to musicians here under working visas or other concerns you may have. 
  • Stream and share your favourite independent artists. This could massively help small musicians grow on streaming sites and cause them to be increasingly recommended to other people and expand their audiences. 

And from the team at Visceral Records, hope you’re all staying safe x