Instead of begging for government handouts, how about millionaire musicians bail out the industry themselves?

Instead of begging for government handouts, how about millionaire musicians bail out the industry themselves?
Getty Images / Linka A Odom

by Damian Wilson

With festivals and concerts canceled, the live-music industry says it needs government assistance to survive. But shouldn’t mega-rich musicians be dipping into their own pockets to help, rather than taking aid from the state?

The coronavirus pandemic has lured many millionaires and billionaires out of their hidey-holes looking to build on their fortunes, and the latest are our friends from the music industry, bemoaning their inability to spend summer in luxuriously detailed Airstream trailers while fans roll around in the mud at live-music events across the UK.

In a letter to the British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, and showing all the self-awareness of toddlers in the dress-up box, more than 1,500 musicians are asking for government help so they can keep on fleecing us through overpriced tickets, drinks and T-shirts, while they continue to make money.

Of course, the letter, signed by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the Cure, Annie Lennox, Coldplay and countless others, declares, “This sector doesn’t want to ask for government help.”

Right. Good. Got it.

But it goes on, “The promoters, festival organisers and other employers want to be self-sufficient, as they were before lockdown. But, 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 great world-leading industry.”

So Paul, Mick, Keith, Nick Cave, Dizzee Rascal and Dua Lipa don’t want to ask, but they’ve asked anyway.

And the reason for this incredible pivot on their sacred principles?

Well, their letter reads, “The government has addressed two important British pastimes, football and pubs, and it’s now crucial that it focuses on a third: live music. For the good of the economy, the careers of emerging British artists, and the UK’s global-music standing, we must ensure that a live-music industry remains when the pandemic has finally passed.”

While I like a good tune as much as the next guy, I’m not about to join truly filthy-rich musicians and knights of the realm such as McCartney (worth $1.2 billion) and Jagger ($500 million), or the members of Coldplay, ($475 million) in demanding that taxpayer money be used in this way.

And anyway, why now? Why not when the pandemic first hit and everyone formed an orderly queue to suck on the taxpayer teat? Businesses were asked to present their case, detail where they would fall short and apply for help in staying afloat until things improved. In general, that scheme has worked as advertised.

Where was the live-music industry when all this was happening? Backstage, sucking up to its stars?

Sorry, but it looks like they missed that particular soundcheck.

People employed in other sectors – retail, for instance – are losing their jobs by the thousands every week. Never mind blowing a couple of hundred quid this summer to sit in a field listening to music for a weekend, folk need to pay the bills and buy food first. 

Sleeping in a wet tent at an overpriced gig with stinking chemical toilets is a long way down the to-do list at the moment

The Culture Secretary should make it clear that, despite the star-name signatories and the self-determination that it’s a critical part of the British arts landscape, the “world-beating £5.2 billion-per-year music industry” (according to the Music Venue Trust) should not be looking to the public purse for financial assistance.

Simply using that terribly overused and rarely true term “world-beating” should ensure it’s excluded from even asking.

Instead, the Secretary of State should counsel the industry to use its considerable reach among artists, promoters, ticket agencies and investors to build a sustainable model that can survive a break of six months.

That firm but fair tactic worked with billionaire space enthusiast Richard Branson, who finally got the message that, no, the British government would not be bailing out his Virgin Atlantic airline. So, he cashed in some of his own significant share portfolio, got his partner Delta Airlines to dig deep, lured some venture capitalists to the table and – hey, presto! – Virgin steps back from the brink and lives to fly another day.

This plea from the live-music industry will surely win a lot of support, and maybe I could have been on board had it not been for one more thing. As part of its pitch, the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign is asking fans to post messages about the last gig they attended…


F. Kaskais Web Guru

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s