Image credit: Rob Simmons via Unsplash.
Amidst all of the panic over this pandemic, it is fair to say that the entertainment industry has been pushed to the very back of the ever-growing list of priorities for Britain, especially by the MPs that line up on their green benches week in and week out. As they sit and row for hours on end, the one question still remains: what has really been done to support the musicians and actors of the UK?
How is it affecting musicians?
One of the main things this pandemic has failed to do is provide musicians with the security that has been given to other workers, such as business owners. The £5.8bn that was generated in 2019 ( and projected to be £76bn by 2021) has been disregarded and support systems have crashed.
The revenue generated by musicians has faltered due to the pandemic, with many artists now cancelling their concerts and no longer being able to use the revenue to spend on hiring studios to make even more music. Not only this, but statistics have also shown that musicians and songwriters could lose up to 65% of their income, with those who depend on live performances and studio work taking that total up to 80%. This is made even worse by the fact that their average income is only £29,832, meaning they could be earning as little as £8,070 a year.
In a world where music and television is a way for many to detach from reality, the entertainment industry has had to adapt to be able to fulfil the needs of a changing globe.
This change came in many forms. For example, Louis Tomlinson hosted an online concert, much to the delight of his fans, which raised a staggering £3m for 3 charities - FareShare, CrewNation, StageHand and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice. Of course, this was nowhere near the amount he could have made from his planned World Tour, but it was enough to also be able to pay his touring crew who faced great loss from the pandemic. However, not every musician can afford the luxury of being able to do this and have had to live off whatever sum of money they had pre-pandemic.
Other upcoming musicians have also had a moment to reflect on how the pandemic has affected their work. One such person is Eliza Shaddad, a singer from Cornwall who was supposed to have the biggest tour of her career so far with a gig at a headline show in Scala, London.
"2020 felt like my year. I really felt like everything had started coming together. I had a new record that came out in January that I was really proud of, and was doing really well with streaming. I also had a UK tour booked with our biggest ever headline show”
This heartbreaking statement is just a small fraction of what so many musicians, and people, were feeling.
What support has been put in place?
Government funds, such as hardship funds, charitable financial support and the ‘Self-Employed Income Support Scheme’ have been able to cover the cost of not being able to perform in front of a live audience every night, but is this really enough?
The joy of being able to perform on a live stage has been sucked out of these people’s lives, yet still nothing has been done about it. A pity grant of £1.57bn was given for ‘cultural recovery’ but this only covers places such as museums, galleries, theatres, and live music. It completely fails to observe the ‘cultural recovery’ of people putting out their own music, or being able to make the art that goes into the galleries, or even be able to express their emotions through performing in a theatre.
After Rishi Sunak’s introduction of JSS (Job Support Scheme), it is laughable that the same level of support has not been given for the musicians of our country. Naturally, the music industry doesn’t bring in as much economically as the small business industry, however, the government has failed to realise that what is a low-priority for them means so much more to the musicians and actors who have felt left out during this pandemic.
How has festival culture been impacted?
Similarly, the festival culture has also had a direct blow from this pandemic, with the cancellation of the world-famous names such as the Glastonbury Festival having a calamitous effect on the performers, the audience, the local economy, and the UK’s economy as a whole.
On the 26th June 2019, more than 200,000 people worldwide flocked to Pilton, Somerset, unaware that this would be the last time they would visit the grounds at least for the next 2 years.
The festival itself is notorious for being generous donors to their local community, not to mention it earns around £400m each year, boosting the UK’s economy. It employs thousands of artists, both big and small, giving the unrecognised musicians a chance to perform new material to an eager audience who are willing to listen and give them a chance. Just like it has with every other plan, the pandemic has stripped musicians of this, yet this is not as widely recognised due to the stigma attached to singing and acting ‘not being real jobs’.
How has it affected the mental health of musicians?
Some people assume that the blows to the entertainment industry have all been money related, but this is not the case. Many musicians see performing as a way to overcome mental health issues and speak to an audience who may relate to what they are experiencing.
Eric Mtungwazi, the managing director of Music Support (a charity that supports anyone in the UK music industry “suffering from mental, emotional and behavioural health disorders”) has opened up, stating that:
“Around 50 per cent of people are coming to us with anxiety issues and 35 per cent are dealing with depression at a moderate to severe level [...] a great deal of grief and helplessness in not knowing when the end will be in sight.”.
On top of all of this, he has claimed that over 1,000 musicians accessed the charity’s services in the first month of lockdown alone. This is something that many musicians can relate too and reflects the fact that people have failed to realise that album delays, worries over being stuck in a city you don’t live in, and cancellation of live concerts (that are a main source of revenue) are all adding to the growing list of stresses they have to confront.
How has it affected streaming services and movie production?
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there has been a positive increase for many streaming services, as months of being in lockdown has meant that more people are turning to Netflix and other apps for their daily binges. In April 2020 it was reported that Netflix had received 16 million new sign-ups as a cause of lockdown, with Disney Plus and Amazon Prime being very close contenders. There was a staggering revenue in 2020 of £5.76bn which was up by 27% from 2019.
Despite the success of the streaming services, the film production sector has felt the full ‘Frozone’ effect as it has faced months of delays for movie releases as well as scheduled production dates. Some companies have resorted to tearing up scripts as they realised their dream production would never come to life, and others have decided to restart whole production plans, such as “Avatar 2”, where it was proposed to delete footage and redo the whole project.
Opposing this, we have companies who are committed to the cause, with the Pinewood Studios in Atlanta even investing a reported £1m into ensuring there is a safe environment for actors to continue working. Alongside this, companies such as Backstage have started to present casting calls where the actors can work from home and come in on individual days to record their scenes.
If there is one takeaway message, it is to remember the unremembered. Traditional or not, all jobs are equally as important to an individual, and it is our job as a country to ensure that everybody feels protected in these times of uncertainty.