'Leading Change with Artists in Mind': how the pandemic has affected the music industry.
Updated: Mar 3
Throughout the pandemic, most creative industries have been hit hard. The government has not supported the arts as much as other areas, with 38% of musicians having fallen through gaps in government support and funding (MU Covid-19 Impact Polls 2020) - even with a lot of people turning to the creative industry to help their mental health and keep entertained in the pandemic. There have been issues raised with this, such as streaming sites not paying artists fairly, even though streaming is up by 20% throughout the pandemic. The Music Union has recently spoken out against this, stating that "there has never been a more urgent time to fix streaming so that it becomes a real source of income for musicians and composers." Some major streaming platforms pay as little as £0.004 per stream, which means artists would have to have their song streamed 7,865,250 times to earn the average salary in the UK, which currently stands at £31,461. This is without splitting the profits with other members, producers, studio space, or any other general costs. A survey by the Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union found 82% of people, who had taken the survey, earned less than £200 from streaming across the whole of 2019. This explains why 34% of musicians are considering leaving the industry (MU Covid- 19 Impact Polls 2020).
I had the opportunity to speak to Declan Mckenna about his view on how the pandemic has affected the music industry. Declan is a singer, songwriter as well as an activist, he also won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent competition in 2015.
"I believe our industry should cherish artists, not leave them feeling constantly indebted to a system that fails them. As the live industry suffers so greatly it should not just be accepted that most artists can no longer make a living outside of the live circuit, many labels admit that current arrangements for streaming royalties are not perfect, but they need to start opening up about what is going so wrong for so many and start leading change with artists in mind."
Here at Girls Against we want to support artists like Declan in making a change. It is important to think about streaming services and make a conscious choice in these times, and consider if you are doing enough to support the music industry. If you share a streaming service with a friend it may be worth reconsidering this, as although everyone is trying to save money in the pandemic it is also important to give streaming sites a chance to pay artists fairly. Alternatively there are some streaming sites that offer more money to musicians such as:
Resonate is a streaming service where it charges you for the first 9 plays of a song and then after that it is free to listen to, this normally amounts to the same price as downloading the music.
Or, Sonstream is a pay-as-you-go streaming service which charges customers 3.3p per play meaning that 2.5p goes to the rights holder.
Even if streaming services do improve their pay for musicians and music workers, artists need other forms of income such as live tours, selling merchandise and selling physical copies of music. The Broken Record Campaign was founded by Tom Gray, who is also the director of Ivors Academy. He took to twitter to talk about the importance of how musicians get paid, as this is something not many people are aware of. He pointed out that musicians get paid from playing live, and obviously this has all disappeared with nothing they can really do about it.
‘The ways in which we make money are disappearing and the inequities of the recorded music business are being severely exposed. First of all, let’s consider touring as a means of income, well it’s gone. Done. Nada.’
Tom Gray, 2020.
This shows that many people are affected including, but not limited to, sound engineers, lighting engineers, venues, photographers and stage managers. I had the opportunity to talk to Rob from Cassia about the effect of not touring due to the pandemic. Cassia are an indie pop trio from the North of England releasing summer tunes to help you get through the pandemic.
"The pandemic is affecting us massively as playing live has always been our main focus and strong suit as a band. Touring makes up for a huge chunk of our finances and without gigs not only do we struggle to maintain a steady income, but it's almost impossible to replace that excitement when announcing a tour to push a new release. Putting out music in corona times is a risk, and I don't think the government knows for sure how hard it is to make a reasonable return from releasing music without the backing of a tour. All things considered, I think the government must further their understanding of how bands and artists survive financially in this day and age and offer more financial help and support to get them through this."
Rob - Cassia.
Girls Against completely understand how draining this pandemic can be for creativity and motivation, and stress the importance of being supportive to one another. Mental health is such a big thing at the moment and, here at Girls Against, we want you to know that we are always available for a chat, and can point you in the right direction for help.
Music Minds charity is a great organisation that offers mental health support to those in the music industry:
Rob also points out there is a lot of taboo about how artists get paid, which is often not publicly spoken about. Tom Gray goes into further detail about unpacking how artists get paid by discussing in further detail about royalties, which is something that is necessary for music to be played publicly. You can receive a performance royalty which is for writing music and an equitable remuneration for performance. Tom then goes onto explain how these royalties will be affected by the pandemic.
"So what is about to happen? Businesses, shops etc will not be able to pay for those licenses in increasing numbers. Commercial TV stations will see their advertising revenues fall and ask to pay less for their broader performance licenses. And with the collapse of touring, and the music venues not paying, the artists and writers will be doubly hit by the disappearance of the related royalties."
Tom Gray, 2020
This shows that it is not only musicians that have been affected, but writers and producers as well. Overall, the impact on the music industry has been huge, with many people out of work and receiving little or no support or funding. At Girls Against we have tried to pull together some resources to help people going through a tough time, which you can find below.
Stagehand is a registered charity offering a Covid-19 relief fund for people who need it most within the music industry. They also have a great range of resources for mental health support:
Help Musicians is another charity that is offering funding due to Covid-19, they also offer support with mental health which is key. They also offer creative programmes to help enhance, nurture and develop musical talent.
Written by Alice Dunham.