A coalition of powerful artists wrote an open letter to UK Secretary Oliver Dowden advocating for support of the UK's music industry through a three-point strategy. Without government support, the pandemic may permanently displace the careers of those in the live music industry.

Artists including Ed Sheeran, Liam Gallagher, Sir Paul McCartney, and Dua Lipa united forces in a movement to save live music. In an open letter to Oliver Dowden, around 1,500 artists and bands say that the UK’s “world-leading” live music industry is at risk “with no end to social distancing” in sight. (Oliver Dowden is the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.)

As the COVID-19 pandemic enforced lockdowns and social distancing around the world, artists must perform live from home and use social media to share their performances. This pandemic caged an industry that relies heavily on fan support, spontaneous inspiration, and a team of backup personnel, singers, musicians, and dancers. Now, the whole industry pushes against that cage.

“The UK will become a ‘cultural wasteland’ if action isn’t taken to support the arts,” said stars Johnny Marr, Paloma Faith, and Grayson Perry.

Artists Speak Out and Call for Government Funding in an Open Letter

In this letter, these artists called out to the UK government for financial support until live concerts can resume with no social distancing measures. 

Specifically, it implored on Secretary Dowden to deliver a Three-Point Strategy for the restarting of the live music section. In this formulated plan, the artists appeal (1) a clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing (2) a comprehensive business and employment support package, and (3) a Value-Added Tax (VAT) exemption on ticket sales.

The letter states: 

UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade.

But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from the government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.

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 world-leading industry.

Dua Lipa Speaks Out 

Dua Lipa — the English singer who received two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, and two MTV Europe Music Awards —  felt the need to speak out. She started off her career by performing live —  first at small clubs, theatres, and ballrooms, and eventually at big music festivals in between each touring cycle. Recently, her new single, Future Nostalgia, was number one on the Official UK Albums Chart in the second week of April 2020, during the earlier stages of the pandemic. She is one of the world’s most famous artists.

Lipa said, “the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much-needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”

The Live Music Industry Supports 210,000 Jobs and Boosted The Economy by £4.5 billion in 2019

However, the careers of these music stars are not the only ones at stake. Behind each extraordinary live performance by these artists, there are teams of dancers, singers, musicians, audio engineers, makeup artists, and managers that make the whole product possible.

Liam Gallagher, the former front man of the Oasis rock band, said, “amazing gigs don’t happen without an amazing team behind the stage, but they’ll all be out of jobs unless we can get back out there doing what we love.”

Gallagher added, “I can’t wait to get back to playing for the fans. But in the meantime, we need to look after the live industry.” 

He continued, “There are so many great people in it, and we all need to support them until we can get back to playing live.”

The artists sent research carried out by Media Insight Consulting, published this June, alongside the open letter accentuating the need for live music for Britain’s economy. 

The report says, “the industry supports 210,000 jobs across the country, while venues, concerts, festivals, and production companies added £4.5 billion to the economy in 2019.”

Summer Music Festivals Were Cancelled Or Moved Remotely

The pandemic forced festivals scheduled for the summer, such as the Glastonbury Festival, to cancel or move remotely. Glastonbury co-organizer Emily Eavis said the government needs to “step up” to support live music. 

 “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,” she said.

“If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”

Support this movement by #LetTheMusicPlay

Following this letter, artists, venues, festivals, and production companies posted films and photos of their last live performances, using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay.

Fans can also show their support for this movement by posting about the last gig they attended with #LetTheMusicPlay.

Art is beautiful, uncomfortable, representative, exclusive, nourishing, and capitalistic. It is necessary for the continuation of jobs and for the rationality, humanity, culture, and the expression of inarticulatable feelings throughout this pandemic.

Karen Jang

Karen Jang is a Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. She is studying Chemistry at Barnard College of Columbia University and Classical Violin at the Manhattan School of Music. Karen is a graduate...