Live Music Industry Suffering Under Covid-19 Repercussions

It’s been a little over three months since the UK has entered lockdown and since Glastonbury, Parklife and numerous others announced the cancellation of this year’s festivals. It comes as no surprise that the live music industry has experienced a 75% drop in revenue this year, according to Goldman Sachs’ ‘Music In The Air’ report. As a result, the UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT), has now issued a warning to the British Government calling for a rescue package of £50m. This is to support the live music industry and prevent mass closures in the coming months. 

Music Venue Trust is a British charity acting to protect and improve Grassroots Music Venues, currently representing more than 800 independent UK venues. In a survey targeting its members, MVT found that with the 2-metre social distancing rule in place, only 13% of them could open. However, it would be financially ruinous for 96% of them to do so. Even if venues were able to re-open, only 36% of 28,640 people asked would feel safe attending a live music event. 

In an open letter addressing Boris Johnson, MVT stated that the live music industry, which on average generates £5.2bn for the UK economy, “is facing substantial losses with 90% of venues and festivals at risk of permanent closure.” 

However, the live music industry is reporting considerable losses globally.
The Australian Festivals Association and the Australian Music Industry established the website ilostmygig.net.au. This functions as a data capture project quantifying the immediate impact of covid-19 on Australia’s live event and entertainment industries. In its latest update in March, more than $100m in lost income had been reported to the website by small businesses and independent contractors. This affects the livelihoods of an estimated 380,000 people – including performers, members of the production crew, hospitality workers and booking agents. 

In contrast to the live music industry, streaming services are booming. According to Forbes, the covid-19 pandemic has inspired 24% of people to add a new subscription service. 38% of which were for music (including Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon Music). However, artists generate around 75% of their income from live performances. Summertime is among their most lucrative due to concerts and festivals – the latter also being particularly crucial to expanding the fan base. 

Digital Music News has evaluated different streaming services and published a streaming royalty payouts list. Topping the list is Pandora, with a reported payout of  $0.01682 per stream. One of the most popular services, Spotify, was previously ranked at the bottom of the list with a mere $0.0038 per play. Slowly increasing its payout rate, Spotify’s royalty payout is now reportedly at $0.00437 per stream. 

Putting this in perspective, rock icon Peter Frampton made the headlines two years ago when he took to Twitter to announce that “for 55 million streams of, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’, [he] got  $1,700.” 

According to Rolling Stone, musicians only take home about one-tenth of the national music industry revenue, the top 1% accounts for 60% of the earnings. Therefore, it really is the independent artists and workers within the music industry that are suffering from the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic and its influence on live music. 

What remains are artists unable to work. Surrounded by a framework of music venues, record labels, distributors and producers confronts an uncertainty that nothing could have prepared them for. 

Words by Samira Rauner

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