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"We won't die quietly": Your local music scene is in crisis - here's how to help

From Bandcamp to streaming and forgoing refunds, here's the small steps you can take to make a big difference

David Blake

Date published: 19th Mar 2020

We’ve never know anything like this. From huge airlines to small businesses, whole retail and restaurant chains to local boozers, the sheer number of collapses and closures over the last week alone has been staggering. And it's barely even begun.

The music and events industry is faring no better. In fact, it’s in free fall. Festivals are dropping like flies, venues are locking the doors and musicians and promoters are going bankrupt.

It is terrifying, unprecedented and a complete and utter shitter for just about everyone. So what can we do about it?

The government recently announced a number of measures in an attempt to save the economy amid the coronavirus crisis. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £330bn rescue package for businesses, including a £25,000 grant available to affected leisure, retail and hospitality businesses, a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs, and a year-long business rates holiday.

But there are also a number of measures we can take at a more local level to support our ailing music and event scenes. Skiddle got in touch with a multitude of musicians, promoters, venues and more to discuss how the Coronavirus crisis has affected them and what people can do to help them pull through.

Of course, when people are becoming seriously ill and losing their lives, the future of your local music scene may seem trivial. But music is such an integral part of our identity, with the power to define and unify us. We must do what we can to save it.

 

Twisted Wheel (band), Manchester

"We might have been one of the first bands in the UK affected by the virus after our scheduled appearance on Soccer AM was cancelled last month. We'd been supporting Liam Gallagher across Europe, including in Milan, and we got a letter from Sky stating that because we'd played Italy in the last fourteen days we couldn’t enter their premises.

"This was understandable, as it was to protect others, but the situation feels like it’s knocked the stuffing out of us and the industry for the foreseeable future. We were literally on the cusp of announcing our biggest U.K. tour to date, before coming to terms with the fact that now is not the right time. It’s far too risky. 

"There are so many financial implications with the cancellation of shows that an independent band like us may never come back from such a big hit. We really did swerve a potential disaster by not committing to shows. I mostly feel bad for our crew who rely on the extra income touring provides along with the van hire companies who have been very good to us in recent years.

"My honest advice would be for people with plenty of disposable income, with a safe and secure job, to go and buy some records and merchandise and support your favourite bands. But for those in insecure jobs on low wages with a very uncertain few weeks and months coming up, then by no means should you feel like you have to put your financial situation at risk by buying records or merch. The best thing we can all do is keep listening to music. Small things can make a big difference to upcoming bands. A rise in streams on Spotify or YouTube views or shares on social media really can go a long way. That’s something we can all do in this difficult period."

Twisted Wheel: Facebook / Spotify / Store

 

Conor Doherty, Phase One/Jacaranda Records (venue and record store), Liverpool

"This has devastated the venue. We've just announced a temporary closure of Phase One due to cancellations and guidance, but who knows what the future holds. 

"We've rescheduled some events already for later in the year, but who knows how long this will last, and without support we might not have a venue to reopen.

"People can support grassroots music, donate what they can to crowdfunding efforts, buy tickets for future shows, buy merch, share stories, share videos, tell your friends, and when venues do reopen get out to gigs. We won't die quietly, we'll keep fighting to preserve the building blocks of the music scene."

Phase One/Jacaranda: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube

 

Luke Griffiths, False Heads (band), London

"The cancellation of SXSW was pretty devastating to our album campaign. We'd built SXSW into it, as we had did the States. We were meant to release our album in New York on the 13th March and then play Bowery Electric. It's gutting.

"We're a band in full time jobs, so we couldn't have justified going to the States just for New York, and then waiting around in Austin to come home. So we had to pull out of that and missed lots of press opportunities. And now us, like loads of bands, are scrambling around to make up for it.

"The best thing is to just buy merch and music. If you're skint, share people's songs from Spotify on Facebook and socials to help the algorithms, and just share and like their posts. Help keep any momentum going for bands because it's going to be a very dark (literally) period for a lot of bands. There's so much you can do for free."

False Heads: Facebook / Store / Spotify / Instagram

 

Anton Stevens (DJ/promoter), Hidden Nightclub, Salford

"To be honest, it’s not been great. So far we’ve seen numerous event cancellations and haven’t received much government guidance on where we stand in terms of being able to support our staff, or give them clear answers on their financial security in the coming months. It won’t be possible to sustain our monthly outgoings without being able to trade and with no real support from the government, we’re left in a difficult position.

"On a personal level, my girlfriend is self isolating at the moment, as she’s in the third trimester of pregnancy and is in one of the high risk groups for this virus. She’s weeks away from taking maternity leave so the timing of this couldn’t be worse really. It’s been stressful having work and home life affected by this, but we’re trying to remain positive as it could be worse. Many others have it worse than we do and we’re trying to be thankful for what we have.

"Like most of the industry, we’re uncertain what the rest of the year will look like. We haven’t seen a time limit put on these new social restrictions, so it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll be back up and running as normal. To be honest, I’m not sure the music/events industry will come back exactly as it was previously.

"Our main priority is looking for ways to help support our staff and pay any bills we’re not going to receive help with. If people would like to help with this, we’re going to offer an annual membership starting automatically from the date we reopen. This membership will give customers a flat rate entry price across all shows (we think £5 is fair but TBC) and perks such as free drinks for those that sign up. We’ll be back on this shortly and would ask anyone interested to keep an eye on our social channels."

Hidden: Website / Tickets / Facebook 

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On our wall.

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Lucinda Livingstone, Cultdreams (band), Brighton

“So far as a band we've had three months' worth of touring cancelled. It’s gone from being a very exciting time for us, with guaranteed income and stability, to having no shows for the foreseeable future.

“On a more personal level, Conor works in a coffee shop in Belgium when he doesn't tour, and that has just shut for three weeks minimum. While I rely on Cultdreams for a big percentage of my income, as well as illustration work I also do for other bands and labels etc. But with no bands able to tour I'm just completely out of work.

“I think it's going to lead to a lot of people in the creative industries being completely broke, I think it's going to financially crush freelancers, hospitality and retail workers - all the people who don't get paid sick leave, or have a work contract, or get paid a lot to begin with. I feel like this could very easily create a recession and hit small businesses really hard. 

"I'm not sure what will happen to people like me. I guess one positive is that we're really good at living off nothing, really good at digging ourselves out of financial holes and sticky situations, so attempting to use this time to stay productive is going to be key - but positivity doesn't pay the bills.

“If you're not financially affected by any of this the absolute best thing you can do is to buy merch, purchase music on Bandcamp, or support musicians in things they do creatively outside of their band (Patreons, art, clothing lines, Twitch etc.). If you don't have the money to do that then you can stream their music a bunch, engage with them online so their social media posts gain a further reach, and if you get a refund for a cancelled tour date, spend that amount of money on merch instead. I'm literally typing this as I have thousands of pounds worth of merch stashed in my hall closet with no opportunity to sell it other than online..."

Cultdreams: Facebook / Spotify / Merch / Bandcamp 

 

Jonny Cade (DJ and drummer), Alps 2 & Maribou State, Manchester

"We’re kind of lucky because our touring cycle finished in December and we’re now starting to write the next album. I know Chris and Liam (Maribou State) are taking a huge hit with a lot of DJ shows being cancelled, so I hope that doesn’t affect them too badly.

"My heart goes out to all the bands and artists who have meticulously planned tours and shows to take place in the coming months, only to find they have to be cancelled without any way of replenishing costs. Touring is far from cheap and people will really suffer. I imagine some artists will struggle to come back from this. 

"The rest of the year is completely unknown. Some sources are saying the virus will be at its peak during June, so I’m not sure about festival season... Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary isn't looking good. This isn’t only going to affect artists and festivals but venues all over the world are going to take a massive hit. With insurance companies refusing to payout things are totally uncertain and not looking good. 

"A lot of artists' only form of income over the coming months will be from streaming and record sales, so whilst we’re all in lockdown please listen to lots of music. If you’re into vinyl then grab yourselves a few albums and indulge. Obviously aside from the music industry, a huge amount of other businesses are also going to suffer. If people have been affected then just keep on streaming music and hopefully it won’t only help your mood but also help support struggling artists."

Alps 2: Instagram / Spotify / Facebook / Maribou State: Facebook / Website / Tickets

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Mig Schillace, The Louisiana (venue), Bristol

"At present, we have had shows cancel up until mid-April. We are following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, and following the recent announcement by the Chancellor, we'll be applying for the government grant up to £25k, as our insurance doesn't cover us with Covid-19. We'll also be looking at a government backed loan. This will mean that we'll be able to survive for three months of closure. 

"We do suggest that the government maybe consider taking on out of work hospitality staff as possible nursing assistants in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we hope everyone is safe & well. 

"Personally, we wouldn't ask for any help from music fans as everyone is in the same boat. It would seem really irresponsible for us to ask people who could possibly lose jobs in the coming weeks to help financially."

The Louisiana: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Tickets

 

Adam Rowley, Demons of Ruby Mae (band), Leicester/Manchester

"It’s impacted us quite a bit so far, even in the early stages. Our shows in April and May have been pushed back six months to give us and the industry time to adjust. In terms of single releases, we just released our new single 'This Is Your Time’ and so far we’ve not seen a drop in radio plays or blog coverage as people are still working. 

"I actually think for smaller indie acts there could be a positive. The larger acts are cancelling releases as the tours are being moved, meaning more influencers and radio producers/record labels have the chance to listen to us, as the industry isn’t polluted with label acts hogging the playlists. We hope!

"I do think social media will be more vital than ever to bring fans together and keep them entertained. We initially saw a spike in online streams, but recently a fall, so hopefully, when the panic days are over, it will slowly creep back up. We just need to be creative, think outside of the box, but also come together as a music industry and help each other.

"Just don’t forget about us. Music is very much digital these days, so keep listening to us, listen to acts that we recommend and stay positive. We will be doing our bit to make sure you’re not missing out on the live experience by putting on social shows on Facebook etc, but of course buying our rescheduled show tickets will also help us out a lot!"

Demons of Ruby Mae: Facebook / Spotify / Store / Bandcamp

 

Connor Cooper, Limbo Radio (broadcaster), Salford

"We've had to completely stop person-to-person contact at Limbo, which means we're unable to use the studio in Salford we've worked on so tirelessly to transform. The studio is also some of our residents' and guests' only opportunity to get their hands on decks each month, so to have to remove this from people's lives wasn't an easy decision.

"It also means, going forward, to continue broadcasting we will have to do so remotely, using pre-recorded shows. This isn't something we've done heavily in the past, as we proudly broadcast 90% of our shows live and direct from Limbo.

"What impact this has further down the line completely depends on how the next few weeks go. We rely purely on subs paid by each show to allow us to pay our rent and cover streaming services and software etc. If the amount of shows we can facilitate drops then we may struggle to pay this. We are in the same boat as everyone else in the industry I guess, very uncertain and unsure.

"The positive thing though is that we can continue to operate. Radio may become more important than ever with everyone cut off, so we hope people will find some sort of joy from the music we are able to broadcast from all the incredible DJs, musicians and show hosts we work with.

"As always, we ask people to tune in every day (www.limbo.live), give our page a like and a follow and support all of our residents and guests too. The people that play on our station and the people that listen and share are what allow us to operate and continue to grow, As well as this, we ask people to sign any petition that will help those losing out during this difficult time, to support those around them and to make sure those most vulnerable are safe and well."

Limbo Radio: Website / Facebook / Instagram

 

Christie Liddicott, WAH Promotions (promoter), Brighton 

"Sales have ground to a halt, predominantly for all of our events between March and July. Some fans are still buying tickets, which is greatly appreciated. It really helps to know there is a willingness to still attend events and support the scene. 

"For bass music events, fingers crossed we will all be okay soon after we are able to return to normality. We rely on a majority of young people and students for these shows, many of whom will see this illness as an inconvenience getting in the way of enjoying what was set to be a great spring and summer of music. With a lot of festivals having to cancel, we are expecting there to be a big appetite to get out raving again. 

"From a promoters perspective it is a worry to see venues with no shows for potentially two to three months. These venues employ bar staff, sound engineers, security & office staff who are vital to us operating all of these events across the UK. 

"We are largely postponing all events until later in the year, knowing that the peak of the virus will have passed by then. We are trying not to cancel any events outright as this creates a lot of financial headaches for promoters and venues.

"The most helpful thing people can do is retain their ticket for the postponed date. This really helps with cash flow and eases concerns that revenue may be lost later down the line. It also reassures the promoter, venue and artist that people are still keen and willing to attend the events. Without the fans we have no shows and their support in any way is a real bonus."

 

Nico Singh, Beastwang (promoter), Leicester

"Our events over the next couple of weeks have been cancelled. This means that myself and my team will struggle to pay bills over the summer. In addition, we won't have the cashflow to grow, which we've been doing every year. 

"We're trying to reschedule acts for the next quarter, though every other promoter is wanting to do the same, so availability isn't as great, limiting income even when things could get back up and running. We're going to maybe start by doing no headliner shows at the end of May and see what happens. 

"I'm probably going to have to cut a member of staff in a few months, someone that has made a great impact to the business and someone I'll be reluctant to let go. 

If people can afford to do it, then not requesting refunds will help. In addition, if you don't have the money to buy tickets or merch, just engage with us on socials."

Beastwang: Website / Facebook / Spotify

 

Jordan Diggle, Happy Daze (promoter), Manchester

"As we’ve only been going since mid-2019, we had a year plan which was due to start in April, to build our profile on the back of gigs, festivals, sessions, radio and more. With the current situation and the lack of clarity from the government regarding events, we can only keep what we have in place and play it by ear. But even if we do go ahead, the confidence in people to purchase tickets is at such a low that it's unlikely we’ll recoup our costs. So it's either cancel our events, or carry on and make huge losses which we can't afford as we’re independent and I fund all we do from my own pocket.

"If the plans we have in place don’t come to fruition then we’re going to have a fairly quiet year. We had this year as our 'developing year' and next year as our ‘blossoming year’ where we’d really come into force. Fortunately, we don’t have too much invested and we’re able to adapt, so our plans will only be delayed, but still, it’s a huge loss, not to mention the knock on effects for bands, businesses and freelancers.

"For us, people can still purchase tickets in order to make sure we still make some money, as we survive on very, very fine margins. We need to pay venues, bands and hire people in to put on the gig, not to mention all the hours we put in ourselves, the hours and days emailing, which isn’t really talked about on our side. 

"We've put out an update, reassuring people that they can still purchase tickets in confidence, and get a refund if the event is cancelled - it's all we can do. We've just to make sure people, if well enough, can still go, support us and everyone else during this time."

Happy Daze: Facebook / Instagram / Tickets

 

Main image: Amelie Lens by Monica Martini, The Mill, Birmingham

Festivals 2020