Tom Watson calls on UK government to work with music industry amidst coronavirus

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UK Music Chair Tom Watson has called on the government to support the music industry through Covid-19, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley reports.

The newly-appointed chair of UK MusicTom Watson, has requested that the UK government partner with the music industry to create a plan to support companies and individuals.

The former Shadow Culture Secretary notes that the government is making slow progress in developing support for the industry, and that music venues are facing what he describes as “an existential crisis.”

Watson, upon being appointed to the board, said his top priority in his new role would be to secure maximum support for the music industry to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and help return the sector to growth as soon as possible.

“As someone who spent almost two decades in Parliament, including the last three years as Shadow Culture Secretary, I realise how slowly the wheels of government can turn”, Watson said. “Knowing that, the government package of support to combat coronavirus has been extremely welcome. However, too many people in our industry are still falling through the gaps.

“Many in the music business are directors of their own small firms. But they are disqualified from the self-employed scheme and cannot furlough themselves as this would stop their firms from operating.”

“Hundreds of UK venues face an existential crisis”, he then adds. “According to the Music Venue Trust, more than 550 grassroots venues are under immediate threat of closure with the loss of over 5,000 jobs, 100,000 gigs and more than a million temporary employment opportunities. Studios are hurting too. The Music Producers Guild found producers and sound engineers have lost an average 70% of their income”.

If you’re not angry – you’re not paying attention

“While the music industry itself has been rallying to provide short-term help those most severely affected by the shutdown through a series of hardship funds and other initiatives”, he goes on, “the challenges that face us in the months ahead are immense.

“It is becoming clear that the government intends to keep the rules on social distancing for a while yet”, he said. “That means it is likely to be some time before live music – the lifeblood that courses through the veins of our industry – will be back on its feet and once again delivering its £1.1 billion contribution to the UK economy. The same is true of our many brilliant record stores that have suffered a hammer blow while forced to keep their doors shut”.

Watson has dubbed his proposal the Marshall Amp Plan, saying: “The fight against coronavirus has been likened to a war and I believe – just as there was the Marshall Plan after the Second World War – we will need a ‘Marshall Amp Plan’ to help rebuild our industry after this crisis.”

Watson who served as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 2015 to 2019 and Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2016 to 2019, succeeded outgoing chair Andy Heath last month.

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