April 22, 2020 Blog

Survival Of Scotland’s Music Scene Dependent On Immediate Support

The music industry in Scotland was responsible for a £431 million boost to the economy last year, and according to Creative Scotland more than 10,000 people around the country are employed in the sector. Many of these workers are freelancers. All of them will be experiencing the huge impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Our creative industries were first to be told to shut up shop, and it is expected that they will be the last to re-open their doors. Without support from both the UK and Scottish Governments, many venues may never get the chance to open again. Creative Scotland’s bridging bursaries and the Self-employed Income Support Scheme are welcome, as is the announcement of business rates relief in Scotland – but these do not go far enough. Some city centre venues will not qualify for relief because their rateable value is too high.

Every worker who kept the industry going and growing is at home, indefinitely. Without the promise of a proper package of support, many of them will not have a job to return to once this crisis has passed.

The Welsh Government, through its new arts body Creative Wales, has announced a Grassroots Music Relief Fund to support anyone working in the sector, including venues, studios, and promoters. This puts Welsh music venues in a more secure position; while Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland have access to packages through local authorities, they don’t have support equivalent to that in Wales. This is a critical time for live venues. Despite them remaining closed, they are still liable to pay rent and are often supporting small suppliers. They still have considerable outgoings but no income. The Scottish Government must look at how it can tailor support to work for individual businesses and venues. The Scottish Government must look at how it can tailor support to work for individual businesses and venues, and it remains to be seen if the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund will make a difference for city centre venues.

For many workers in Scotland, the furlough scheme is a lifeline. It is a guarantee that they can pay their bills, and a promise of a job to return to. Unfortunately, the scheme lacks the flexibility needed to support some people in our creative industries. In some cases, certain staff may be required to cancel and reschedule events, process customer refunds, manage suppliers, deal with the uncertainty that this time is creating and crucially prepare the business for when it can re-open. If an employee does this though, they are not eligible to be furloughed. This is despite businesses not being able to pay wages, and with financial losses piling up. The UK Government needs to listen to the voices that are calling for the scheme to be more flexible so it can better help businesses survive.

Many of the music venues in hibernation are missing the chance to earn the income that sees them through the winter. There is a real risk that this lockdown will weaken some in the sector so much that they will not be able to wake up. The support that is provided over the next few weeks and months is critical to the survival of Scotland’s music scene. We must remember that when the threat from this virus has passed and people finally emerge from self-isolation, they will be looking to re-connect. Most of us will want to celebrate and come together, to reunite with our families and friends and communities. And when we do, we will need vibrant music venues more than ever.