Costing the Welsh Music Industries

To add to the post I just published on mapping the recording, live music and rehearsal room sectors, I thought I would add some information on some other work I recently completed for Creative Wales on the the economic worth of the Welsh music industries and how it has been hit by Covid. I will attach the reports to the end of this post, but for the moment some headlines. What I have copied below is a shortened version of a response I recently sent to the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee. The responses are based on some questions that the committee are interested in at the moment.

What is the current health of the sector’s workforce, including the impacts of the pandemic, Brexit and cost of living crisis? Have workers left the sector, and what impact has this had?

In conjunction with Bop Consulting, I recently completed a financial assessment of the impact of covid on the music industries of Wales for Creative Wales. So before discussing the impact of covid and the current state of the music industries in Wales, based on this research, what follows below are some bullet pointed figures regarding what the financial state of the music industries in Wales were pre pandemic.   

In 2019, the music industries in Wales consisted of £243m in Gross Value Added (GVA) and 7790 jobs. These industries collapsed in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, with the main impacts being as follows:

  • GVA was reduced by 55% to £109m and employment was reduced by 19% to 6322 jobs in Wales.
  • The larger fall in GVA than in employment reflects much reduced earnings for those that did remain in employment within the Welsh music industries during this year.
  • The sharpest contradiction in GVA came within the live music sector, with a 90% reduction in GVA in 2020, caused by the inability to hold live performances during the lockdowns that covered most of that year.
  • Live music contributed more GVA than any other part of the Welsh music industries in 2019 — £115m, 47% of the total GVA contribution of the Welsh music industries.
  • Music creators contributed more employment than any other part of the Welsh music industries in 2019 – 2,000 jobs directly sustained, 52% of the Welsh music industries total. 
  • Prior to Covid-19, these parts of the music industries were far stronger in Wales than recorded music and music publishing – reflecting the skew in these activities in the UK towards London, which is the base for major record labels and music publishers that do not have limited presence elsewhere in the UK.
  • During 2020, the 90% reduction in GVA from live music contrasted with a 3% increase in GVA from recorded music and music publishing. This increase was driven by the persistence of music streaming during lockdowns.  

The economic vitality of the music industries in Wales has depended crucially on the vibrancy of live music and viability of careers for musicians. In addition to collapsing the economic contribution of live music, the absence of these live performances reduced incomes to Welsh musicians. This reduction in income was not fully compensated by a modest (3%) increase in GVA from recorded music and music publishing during 2020 and was compounded by challenges in accessing UK government support services for musicians working as freelancers. 

The Welsh music industries entered the pandemic as a robust economic contributor. The latest data on its performance takes us to 2020. To get a sense of the degree to which recovery in the music industries since 2020 has been experienced in Wales and across all subsectors within the Welsh music industries, we undertook consultation with key music industries stakeholders. This consultation suggests that 

  • The Welsh music industries have not yet recovered the economic contribution that they made in 2019. 
  • There are fewer gigs and less gig attendance in Wales than pre-Covid-19. Numerous consultation respondents refer to these metrics now being around 20% reduced on pre-Covid-19. 
  • With live music being such a large contributor to the economic footprint of the Welsh music industries, this fall in the economic contribution of live music is likely to combine with a reduction in the overall output of the Welsh music industries. 
  • Older gig attendees are least likely to have returned to attendance. 

The lockdown at the start of 2021 negatively impacted the economic contribution of the Welsh music industries, with further challenges experienced by the sector including: 

  • Difficultly in retaining adequate numbers and quality of staff: Many chose to leave the live music sector during Covid-19 to find employment in sectors that continued to operate and offer reasonable pay at (unlike the live music industries) family friendly hours. 
    • Cost increases: The consultation suggests that some costs associated with live music have increased by 30% since 2019. Covid-19 has contributed to these increases in various ways: staffing challenges; global supply chains working less efficiently than previously.   

In terms of those factors that predate Covid-19, or which have other causes:

  • As mentioned, some parts of the music industries in Wales (e.g., live music) are stronger than others (e.g., record and publishing labels; promoters; recording) and in the long term would benefit from more representation and strategic support. 
  • Brexit: New restrictions associated with the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement have caused issues for international touring, limiting the ability of Welsh artists to grow in new markets.

As gig attendances recover to pre-Covid-19 levels, the economic contribution of the Welsh music industries should also recover to pre-Covid-19 levels. This will be encouraged by gig attendance, especially by older attendees, who need to recover confidence in gig venues as spaces that are safe for their health. Equally, renewed pressure on the cost-of-living for households will reduce the amount of disposable income that can be allocated to gig attendance. 

It is important that Welsh live music venues are given assistance to navigate these challenges. They are a key driver of the economic contribution of the Welsh music industries and the spaces within which Welsh music talent develops.

The Welsh Government has put a commendable focus on strengthening the music talent pipeline through the National Music Strategy and new Music Service. This focus will be complemented by preservation of the live music ecosystem in Wales. The staffing challenges now experienced by some music venues mean that the talent pipeline should not just be thought of in terms of those on stage but also the many backstage staff required to put on these events. 

Over the longer-term, steps should be taken to increase the presence of those music subsectors that have been underrepresented in Wales. The immediate priority, however, remains preserving the live music ecosystem that was integral to the economic contribution of the Welsh music industries pre-Covid-19 – and which can also provide a foundation to growth within those music subsectors that are underrepresented in Wales. 

How financially stable is the sector and how suitable are pay and working conditions?

Issues of financial stability have been outlined above, but in terms of pay and working conditions – it is well documented how the self employed portfolio careers of many people in the music industries causes significant challanges during ‘normal times’, let alone in the aftermath of a pandemic (For example in 2018 – the Musicians’ Union reported that 44% of orchestral musicians did not have enough money to live on). As noted above, income streams dropped significantly during lockdown, with many musicians involved in the live music sector still not currently getting the same amount of work there was prior to March 2020. 

Musicians are the creative heart and economic engine of the music industries, a factor that is especially true in a country like Wales, that does not benefit from the presence of major record labels and music publishers. Given the importance of musicians to employment within the Welsh music industries, it is important to the ongoing economic vitality of the music industries in Wales that the careers of musicians are maintained through and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Many of these careers are sustained by relatively low and precarious incomes that depend upon the viability of local music infrastructures – such as grassroots music venues, pubs, social clubs, theatres, etc, in addition to recording studios and rehearsal rooms.  Employment at establishments such as these contributed to the 1373 jobs directly sustained by live music in Wales in 2019 – but music venues in particular have also been highly adversely impacted by Covid-19, with a 35% reduction in live music employment over 2020.

Employment declined by 19% in 2020 in the Welsh music industries, less than the GVA decline across these industries (55%). This 19% reduction captures the exit of some workers from these industries – leaving skills gaps that remain a barrier to the growth of the Welsh music industries. The larger reduction in GVA than employment in 2020 reflects much reduced earnings for those that remained in employment in these industries during this year. 

Recorded music and music publishing was the only sector to increase employment in 2020 (by 10%), due to the growth of streaming and broadcast revenues over this year. In contrast, music retail employment more than halved, a 52% reduction, as high streets locked down. This reflects the contrasting experiences of digital and in-person activities during the pandemic.   


How sufficient are skills and training opportunities? Are there gaps, and how should they be filled?

In terms of the public sector, it is important to point out that Wales has a number of universities engaging with music education, with the University of South Wales offering tuition in areas such as popular music performance, songwriting, music analysis, music production and music industries. Over many years, the University of South Wales has attempted to engage with the Welsh music industries in productive strategic ways and this is something which is continuing into the future. In terms of what feeds into university degrees, the recent actioning of the recommendations of the Donaldson review in addition to the National Plan for Music Education has offered more productive ways for popular music and music industry related studies to be introduced into the Welsh music curriculum, although it is essential that this is complemented with changes to assessment – which we understand is soon to be considered by Qualifications Wales. As I have pointed out to the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Commitee and Welsh Government previously, as it stands, the assessment system for GCSE and A Levels do not facilitate young people to fully engage with the type of learning that will enable them to engage with popular music either vocationally or indeed as part of the industry. To complement this ‘mainstream’ training, there are also a number of iniatives such as the Music Industry Development Fund (commenced in 2012), Horizons Lauchpad (2014), Forte Project and Horizons 12 (2014), all of which are intended to nurture Welsh talent up the developmental ladder. 

As the music industry recovers from the pandemic, arguably one of the most urgent areas of training will be to ‘fill the gaps’ left by stakeholders who have left the profession. Our research suggested that this included not only those directly involved in the music industry (for example shortage of sound technicians, lighting engineers and crew), but also the importance of empowering music industry stakeholders to circumnavigate the administrative issues brought about by Brexit. It also makes sense to a) offer training to music industry stakeholders to complete funding bids, b) to train and encourage more stakeholders to engage in event promotion, as it is via this means that music industry stakeholders will generate both work for themselves and others. 

What has been the impact of support from public bodies such as the Welsh Government, and is further support needed?

I documented a detailed report on the impact of government support during the pandemic for the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committee, which can be accessed here. When reflecting on the support offered, it is well documented that when covid 19 hit, the mainly self-employed stakeholders in the music industry found it difficult to access funding – often ‘slipping through the net’ (in 2012 – the Musician’ Union estimated that 94% of musicians were ‘freelancers’). In addition to UK Government support schemes and Welsh Government’s non- domestic rates relief, funding relevant to the music industries in Wales included the £7 million ‘Arts Resilience Fund’ (led by Arts Council Wales and targeted toward both individuals and organisations), the £401,551.39 allocated to 22 grassroot music businesses across Wales (as part of a £1 million ‘Creative Wales Fund’) and the £53 million Cultural Recovery Fund – all of which offered ‘lifelines’ to music industry stakeholders during the pandemic (although many stakeholders found the guideline advice confusing). In terms of the further support needed:

  • Many Grassroot music venues were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic and are seemingly struggling more now. Support is therefore needed to ensure these important establishments are given ongoing advice and support to ensure they can keep their doors open.
  • In order to ensure the economic contribution provided by the Welsh music industries pre pandemic is safeguarded and built upon, supporting the live music ecosystem has to be an immediate priority. In addition to the ongoing support for Grassroot Music Venues, ways in which this could be achieved include a) urgent identification of skills gaps and consequent training to fill them; b) National training (through Forte?) to increase the number of event promoters in Wales; c) our research indicates that there are only 7 dedicated rehearsal studios in the whole of Wales, so investment to ensure musicians throughout Wales have access to these spaces is important (Only three authorities (Cardiff, Caerphilly and Vale of Glamorgan) have both recording studios and dedicated rehearsal studios complementing their music venues); d) to ensure the grant application process is demystified via ongoing training and advice for music industry stakeholders. 
  • To build upon the work I have undertaken recently for Creative Wales, ongoing yearly investment to determine the economic value of the music industries in Wales is essential, in order to determine recovery. 
  • Ongoing investment to ensure the recent venue mapping in Wales I conducted by for Creative Wales is publicised and kept up to date.
  • Financial support to ensure that as part of Creative Wales’ new web site, a page is allocated to advertising funding, training and career opportunities for the music industries.
  • Although more of a long-term priority, to consider ways in which the recording and publishing sectors in Wales can be developed so they can provide a greater contribution to the Welsh music industries economic contribution. 
  • For Welsh Government to work with Arts Council Wales to consider ways in which some part of the commercial music industry are given ‘Revenue Funded Organisation’ Status. 
Posted in Live Music, Music Industry, Musicology, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mapping the Music Industries in Wales

Off the back of my 2020 report for the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the Welsh Music Industries and thanks to funding from the University of South Wales and Welsh Government, I have recently completed a series of three reports for Creative Wales. I am writing about the first here – with the other two following in a later post.

The first piece of work involved building a database of Welsh Music Venues, Recording Studios and Rehearsal rooms and placing them on a digital map – which Creative Wales are currently in the process of formatting and publishing. The data for the draft map, which can be viewed here, was compiled with the assistance of my colleague Dr. James Rendell, recent USW PhD graduate Dr. Luke Thomas and students from the faculty’s BA Music Business award. Dr. Craig Hamilton is the brains behind developing the technical side of the map. The full report can accessed and downloaded below, but brief headlines include

  • The digital map consists of 554 businesses across the 22 local authorities of Wales, comprising of 75 recording studios, 7 dedicated rehearsal studios and 472 music venues of various sorts.
  • Cardiff has the most businesses (64), followed by Swansea (49), Carmarthenshire (48), Pembrokeshire (43) and Powys (36). The Isle of Anglesey and Torfaen have the least number of businesses (7), followed by Vale of Glamorgan (8), Blaenau Gwent (11) and Flintshire (12).
  • The local authority of Swansea marginally has the most music venues (47), followed closely by Cardiff (45), Carmarthenshire (44) and Pembrokeshire (42). The Isle of Anglesey, Torfaen and Vale of Glamorgan have the least number of music venues (5), followed by Blaenau Gwent (8) and Flintshire (10).
  • Powys is the authority with the most music festivals (10), followed by Gwynedd (5), Swansea (4) and Ceredigion (4). 
  • Cardiff and Swansea are the authorities with the most Grassroot Music Venues (7 and 5 respectively), followed by Wrexham (3), Rhondda Cynon Taf (3), Newport (2), Flintshire (1) and Monmouthshire (1). 
  • The authority of Ceredigion has the lowest ratio of population to music venues (2804 to 1), closely followed by neighbouring Pembrokeshire (3018 to 1), Gwynedd (4316 to 1), Carmarthen (4320 to 1), Powys (4434 to 1) and Swansea (5246 to 1). 
  • Those authorities with significantly the highest ‘population to venue ratios’ are Vale of Glamorgan (27059 to 1), Caerphilly (22716 to 1), Torfaen (18966 to 1), Flintshire (15685 to 1) and Isle of Anglesey (14088 to 1).
  • The average authority population to venue ratio across Wales is 9259 to 1

Related Publications

Carr, P (2022). ‘Mapping the Music Industries in Wales: A Report for Creative Wales’. 

Carr, P., Bop Consulting (2022). ‘Economic Costing of Welsh Music Industries (2019)’.

Carr, P., Bop Consulting (2022). ‘Economic Contribution of the Welsh Music Industries: 2019, 2022 and Beyond’.

Carr, P (2022). ‘Covid Recovery and Early Covid Music Literature’. Journal of World Popular Music. 9/1-2.pp. 5-30.

Carr, P (2022). ‘The Impact of Covid 19 on the Welsh Music Industries’: A Strategic Partnership with Welsh Government. Journal of World Popular Music. 9/1-2.pp. 144-169.

Carr, P (2022). The Impacts of Covid 19 on the Music Industries of the Global North. Guest editorship of a ‘double edition’ of The Journal of Popular Music of the World. Equinox.

Carr, P (2021). Popular Music Education in Wales. Guest editorship of The Journal of Popular Music Education, (5.1). Intellect. 

Posted in Academic, Live Music, Music Industry | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lost and Found Musical History of Merthyr Tydfil: A Case Study in Local Music Making

Pre covid, I was looking forward to going to the University of Michigan to deliver a paper talking about what was at that point a new edited collection I had just worked on – focusing on ‘hidden histories of popular music in the UK‘ (Popular Music History 2019). However, the conference was eventually cancelled and postponed a year until last week. Hosted by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music US branch, the online event ran for the majority of last week. You can check out the papers here and if you are interested, you can listen to my presentation below. I have also included a transcription of the talk below. My talk focused on a number of projects I organised on hidden histories in Merthyr Tydfil in addition to the collection more broadly. Hope you enjoy.

The initial impetus for this talk began in 2016, when after moving to the Valley’s town of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, I realized there were many stories about the “lost popular music scenes of the past” emerging from the local community. Via informal conversation, memories of a once thriving music scene emerged with residents, who reminisced on narratives ranging from famous bands, iconic local musicians, to now long demolished or derelict buildings, that were once places where the local community would gather to enjoy music. However, as these informal stories emerged, it also became apparent that these histories were not officially commemorated in the town or the surrounding areas— they had technically been forgotten in terms of published material, curation or indeed by the broader local community. 

The reason for this deficiency of material is complex, ranging from lack of targeted finance; the priorities of museums; the capacities of local communities to ‘self-curate’; to local histories simply been considered unimportant to “official” curators, publishers and writers. Issues of “selected histories” and “institutional power” are highlighted in the work of academics such as Baker (2015, 2018), Brocken (2010) and Wall (2013),  with Bennett pointing out how popular music cultures were not traditionally regarded as heritage in the first place, with their “mass produced emphasis” rendering ‘them the anthesis of authentic cultural value as conceived in conventional heritage discourse’. This comment of course has great resonance with Theodor Adorno, who as early as 1941 was asserting that the “simplistic” harmonic language of popular music, in addition to its “formulaic” lyrical subject content and “standardized” forms resulted in it been unworthy of serious academic study. Adorno of course was commenting principally on “mass produced” popular music, so what he would have thought about the authenticity of local music making remains to be seen. 

After noting the tendency of collections ‘follow[ing] established narratives of popular music histories’ (2018: 3), Baker verifies how grassroot based collections, led and collated by local people, can provide an ongoing alternative narrative, that has the capacity to be distinct from a unitary vision of the past towards one that incorporates many pasts, ‘legitimating the role of communities as bestowers of heritage status’. Most importantly, these pasts, which can include memories and memorabilia of local people, can also be regarded as reflecting community identities, resulting in the archiver been transformed from passive curator to community facilitator.

Music of course has long been regarded as inextricably linked to a sense of self-identity, be it from the perspective of producer or consumer. In terms of community engagement, DeNora (1999) proposes a framework through which music has the capacity to provide a means that facilities individuals to construct what she describes as ‘virtual identities’, ranging from ‘emotional self-management’ to providing a way of ‘transferring [an individual’s] means of expression from the ‘real’, physical realm, to the ‘imagined’, the virtual’. 

When seen through this lens, engagement with music can be seen to not only expresses or reinforce how a listener feels (who they are), but also who they were and also who they want to be. I would suggest that this has significant consequences when considering memories of and relationships with local music histories, as when contemplating music, musical communities reflect on at least two of these parameters simultaneously. While younger generations who don’t remember first-hand the original historical events may focus on “who they are” and “who they want to be”, older members have the capacity to engage with all three, with the “who we were” parameter tending to be the primary focus of many historical accounts.  

Local music making and consumption has of course been addressed by the likes of Sarah Cohen, Barry Shank and Ruth Finnegan, with Howard Becker in particular being amongst the first to challenge the notion that only well-known musicians and bands were worthy of study. The work of these academics can be seen to move beyond simply collating local popular music as heritage, toward attempting to understand the movements, creative practices and strategic relationships of local music making. Perrenoud and Bois describe such practitioners as 

[..] neither rich [..] nor famous. They are neither “stars” nor “great” artists who are well known or celebrated. This is a situation experienced by most artists, yet it is seldom studied. This sociology of the banal, which deals with artistic work in its most mundane aspects, has, for a long time, had only a few proponents (2017: 5). 

Although the aforementioned writings are mainly based on the economic and cultural capitals of local musicians, often without any historical imperative, they do describe the reality of many of the musicians included in a special edition of Popular Music History I recently edited. These musicians are noted as having a distinct skill set from their more well-known counterparts, usually working in portfolio careers (when professional) without intermediaries such as agents and record labels—dealing more directly with the public, in an ongoing local career.  

It could therefore be argued that this “local dynamic” and sense of identity are two of the factors that adds a specific nuance to the memories of local musicians when they recount stories of the past, as they are communicating a set of relationships that are not the same as that of an “untouchable star” to an unknown audience. For example, when reflecting on a fund-raising concert his band The Villains performed at to raise money for the Aberfan disaster, which claimed the lives of 126 children and 28 adults on October 21st 1966, drummer Stuart Davies commented

At the time, I did not really appreciate how big this concert would be to me, but the enormity has grown throughout the years really. Now I feel honored to be one of the people to be asked to perform at that concert. 

Within this comment, Davis is simultaneously recounting historical facts (the Aberfan disaster and the benefit concert) and an emotionally bonded “identity memory”, in which he and his band performed as part of a grieving local community. Davis is also clearly expressing who he wasis, and to a lesser extent who he wants to be: someone who is known for engaging in the musical history of Merthyr Tydfil and more specifically the event, which is connected to such an iconic aspect of the town’s history.  

The notion of being part of a community, either as a musician, curator, music industry stakeholder or audience member (or indeed a combination of all of these things) is something all of the authors my edited collection share, with all contributors either been born or currently living in the place of their subject matters. All of the six chapters focus on the “lost” history of local music participation, ranging from issues surrounding curated history (via exhibitions and re-enactments); influences of the built environment on popular music activity; impacts of popular music’s past on the community, to the ways in which changing relationships with local music venues reflect both local concerns and wider trends in popular culture. 

One of three chapters concentrated on south Wales, my own chapter focuses on an analysis of a one-month local music exhibition curated in 2018 and an earlier connected project which was implemented as part of The British Academy’s Being Human Festival. Although the Merthyr Tydfil based exhibition could be regarded as following in the footsteps of a tried and tested method of curating and exhibiting popular music narratives in public spaces, the week-long Being Human activities used memory collection and enactment activities to both depict and help understand how local popular music histories can resonate not only with the participants who witnessed them, but also a younger generation who were not born when the activities took place. Based on the data compiled from both of these activities, my essay initially presents an historical account of the development of popular music in Merthyr Tydfil between 1955 and 1975.  It subsequently proceeds to consider the potential impacts that undertakings such as exhibitions, memory collection, online communities and re-enactment activities can have on local communities. 

In closing and as indicated earlier, Adorno and those following in his tradition clearly consider popular music to be an “inauthentic” practice, which leads to the misguided assertion that there is no point in studying it, let alone celebrating and understanding the impacts of its history. However, as Barker and Taylor (2007) specify, although all popular music can be regarded to be “fake” to some degree, it still has the capacity to be a profoundly authentic experience for many. Indeed as Taylor (1997) indicated, local “unmediated” music that is free from “commercial pressures” has a particularly strong resonance on the authenticity continuum. Although many of the artists and venues discussed in my collection are not known internationally, or in some cases nationally, the tripartite relationship of artist, local community and music industries, through the lens of memory, has an important resonance with what Moore (2002) describes as first, second and third person authenticity, allowing participants to understand what it is like to be themselves (me), what it is like to be “you”,  and this is what it like to be “them” (a distant other). I would suggest that the dialogical relationship between these factors (in addition to the aforementioned notions of communities considering who they are, were and want to be), are an arguably underestimated reason why studying local music infrastructures are so important: as local music practices, whatever their historical timeframe, resonate in specific ways with local communities. While local musicians usually don’t need to provide any information on “who they are” (“this is/was me”) to local audiences, as they often know them personally, performing in a band does provide an “extra dimension” to identity, where although a performer may come from a similar locality and even a congruent day time vocation, their identities are overtly distinct. In essence, the “me” being referred to is authentic and “tangible”, but also peppered with at least the allusion of celebrity (This is who I was/this is who I want to be). Consequently, even when singing a cover version, the “you” being referred to by the local musician is implicitly understood in a different way than that of a global superstar: while the performer understands that the audience may know them, the reverse is also true, the audience knows that the performer can speak into their experience in ways that a global superstar may not. 

When reflecting of this special edition of Popular Music History, it is apparent that in addition to “authentic”, “alternative” and “lost” histories, the essays also reflect alternative and lost community identities, for both musicians and audiences alike. It is important to remember that although the notion of the “virtual (alternative) identity” highlighted earlier by DeNora (1999) is significant, these identities are based on “real” memories and of course, remembered histories. So, collections such as this provide discourse for both the academic and local music communities, of which the majority of music listeners are inevitably part of. 

All of the essays in this special edition suggest that although local popular music histories resonate both positively and negatively with mainstream narratives, they also have a specificity that is unique to the region. As outlined by Bennett and Rodgers, the local is not sealed off from the global, but resonates in a fusion, resulting in ‘distinctive expressions of musical life’, what Sheila Whitely described as ‘a local structure of feeling’. This collection represents an historical snapshot of these expressions and feelings in the UK, highlighting not just music’s importance as a symbolic anchor of locality, but also how the voices of musicians, audiences, critics, venues, curators and other music industry stakeholders can form a collective identity, in a series of competing narratives. 

Posted in Being Human, Merthyr Music Project, Musicology, Wales | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Impacts of Covid-19 on the Live Music Industries: A Sample of Academic Projects Taking Place Across Europe

After a couple of months on planing, the IASPM event I organised on the impacts of Covid-19 on the European Music Industries took place yesterday. The event featured six speakers, from Wales, England, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands. This work builds on the previous work I have posted concerning the situation in Wales – which you can access here and here.

There was some fascinating discussion that took place both during and after the presentations, which you can now see via the recording below. For me, I think the one noticeable factor was how much all of our nations had in common. Despite different rules regarding the opening up of our respective venues, we all shared common concerns surrounding factors such as how best to support our live music industries post covid, how to identify gaps in our live music ecologies due to stakeholders leaving the profession, how to train those who wish to enter the profession and how to work with governments to ensure the necessary research takes place and communication infrastructures are in place. It will be interesting to monitor these various projects over the coming months to ascertain how much impact they have, but in the meantime enjoy the recording. Thanks to all of the speaks and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music for hosting.

Posted in Covid-19, Education, Live Music, Musicology, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Signs of the Providence of God: An Unintentional Recorded Testimony

At a time when covid-19 has made many of us stare face to face into our own mortalities, this seems like an appropriate time to express something I have never written about – my Christian faith. So this post will provide a brief account of how I believe the providence of God has been with me, well before I was aware of it. The post will finish with me introducing an album of mine that I think at least partially verifies this assertion. For the moment – consider listening to it while you read the rest of this post – I suggest starting with ‘It’s September’ – the 2nd track below, then go from there.

Firstly, I need to point out that most of you who know me will not even know that I am a Christian, due to me having the somewhat selfish tendency to a) not talk about it and b) not always display the glory of God in my behaviour. So, although I describe myself as a ‘Christian’, I have to say upfront that it is only through Jesus’ grace that I reap any of the ‘rewards’ promised in the bible. I am a ‘work in progress’ who struggles with many things – in particular ego. So, before I get on to introducing the aforementioned album, set out below is a plotted story of how I ‘became’ a Christian around 15 years ago.

My first memories of any church are related to my great nanna occasionally taking me to Sunday school in Winlaton (where I grew up, near Newcastle), although I don’t remember much, apart from seeing people in ‘strange uniforms’  (I later found out that I was attending a Salvation Army Hall). Aside from these isolated memories from around the age of 4 or 5, although brought up in a very loving caring family, God was not overtly part of it in terms of family routine – there were no prayers or overt acknowledgment that God was a reality. As I moved into secondary school, my next Christian memories involved my fascination toward a team of young Christians who occasionally performed at our daily morning service, the fact that their music included guitars was a welcome relief for me, as opposed to the usual piano based hymns. 

By the time of my 14th birthday, I had my great nanna to thank once again for my next excursion into church – which was prompted by me noticing she hopped onto a private bus every Sunday evening from outside her front door at the bottom of our street, she was aged around 80 at this point. After me and a friend deciding it would be a good way of doing something different on a Sunday evening, we found out that this bus took you to a place called Bethshan Church in central Newcastle, about 5 miles from where we lived. I was intrigued, so this started a regular weekly excursion through the council estates of north east England  with a group of pensioners who were at least 60 years older than us – the generation gap was noticeable. However,  when we arrived at the church, it became apparent that the place was littered with young people like us and the worship music did not feature a church organ – but once again guitars!! At this point I was becoming seriously interested in music, being a fan of bands like Slade, T.Rex and in particular Queen, so visiting church was one of the experiences that led me to buying a guitar later that year with some money I got for Christmas. I attended that church for about a year and at one point, really believed I was ‘saved’ – but at this point the Word of God ultimately landed on ground which was also populated with ‘weeds’(Matthew 13:24-43), which simply crowded it out. This was not the time – but I now know that the seeds had been planted. 

After this, I progressed to finishing off school, working on a building site, attending music college, getting my first professional gig (in the Middle East), and moving to London in my early 20s. I then met the love of my life Deb, and eventually moved to Dorset in 1994 for my first full time teaching job. When we moved to Dorset, we moved to a house with a church next door – Verwood Road Evangelical Church in Three Legged Cross. After we enrolled our then one year old daughter to a mother and toddlers group in the church, both me and Deb became fascinated by the love that those running the group showed for us – so we started attending church again. This time, God’s word penetrated deeper than ever before, but once again, life’s events, in particular the death of Deb’s dad, drove us away.

By the time we moved to Wales 17 years ago, we had been blessed with two beautiful kids and our life seemed to be very ‘rosey’.  We lived in a lovely house in a nice village and I had a good Job. However, 2.5 years later our life took a twist, in the summer of 2006, Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer. To say it destroyed me is an understatement, however, out of the ashes of those first few months, a positive emerged – we once again started going to church. This was prompted by a desperate prayer for support one evening, which was clearly answered the following day. Yes, even though we were not Christians, we cried out to a God, who we instinctively knew was listening.  After that, due to the blessings of a young trainee paster  (Paul Meredith, one of the most godly men I have met), God’s voice gradually became ‘Louder’ and the bible started to speak truth to both of us. It is difficult to explain this due to the logocentric limitations of words, but all I can say is although it has been very slow, God is gradually changing us to be more like his Son. One of the massive blessings of this walk is that I have done it alongside Deb. We have also been blessed to have the right people in our journey at the right time – too many to mention, but God knows who they are because He put them there!

So, how does this story relate to the album I mentioned at the start of the post, which I have now had the chance to ‘release’, nearly 20 years after recording it – well before I became a Christian. Well let’s start with the track names, which I have copied below

Prodigal Son 

 It’s September 

The Way (Hardy’s Lament) 




Dunbury Variaions


The Mount (6.20)

As you can see, five of these nine tracks have direct references to the bible – ‘Prodigal Son’, ‘The Way’, ‘Mantle’, ‘Salvations’ and ‘The Mount’. I have no explanation for how I came up with these names aside from believing that God was ‘speaking’ to me, quietly – in a similar way to the famous ‘Footprints’ poem. For those that don’t know it, I have copied it below

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

When I look back over my own life, I have no doubt that during trails like when Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer, that there was only one set of footprints – and they were not mine! I realise that I have been ‘carried’ during these times, but that even during these times before I was a Christian – He was ‘whispering in my ear’. I believe this is the reason why the track names mentioned above have clear Christian references. Indeed when I think that the first ‘jazz-rock’ piece I ever wrote (well before I recorded this album-when I was aged around 21/22) was called ‘Tarsus’, which I now know is the birth place of the apostle Paul, it leads me to believe that He has been with me for many years.  When I look back at these track names however, they represent a clear reference to how God was ‘speaking’ to me – well before I was aware of his voice. Although the tracks are all instrumental – I hope you enjoy them and their associated meanings. I hope this short story also encourages others to look out for God’s providence in their own lives – He is there – even if you don’t realise it. 

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Paul Carr Presentation to Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committee: The Live Music Industry in Wales Post Pandemic

The following text is a transcript of the talk that I gave to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Commitee in November 2020. Amongst other things, it provides a brief context of the music industries pre and post pandemic, followed by a discussion of some of the important recommendations from my report, which can be accessed via this link. A full recording of the subsequent conversation can also be found at the end of this post.

In order to give the committee a concise snapshot of the details contained in my report which are relevant to live music, I’ll initially provide a very brief context of the live music industries pre and post pandemic, prior to focusing in on the recommendations which are most pertinent to this enquiry.   

Brief Context of The Music Industries Prior to the Pandemic

  • In terms of pre pandemic, in 2012, the Musicians Union estimated that 94% of UK musicians are freelancers, which as we know have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. 
  • Although specific Welsh data is scarce, we do know, that in 2019, according to UK Music’s most recent report, Welsh music tourism attracted 440,000 people, with 371 thousand attending concerts and 69 thousand attending festivals. 
  • The total spend for Welsh music tourism is estimated to be in the region of £143 million, generating close to 2000 jobs. 
  • Although these music tourism figures are impressive, to put them in context, Scotland total spend by visitors generates £443 million pounds, the West Midlands £252 million and London £1.5 billion. 
  • I feel it’s important to point out that the large amount the UK live music industry generates (£1.3 billion according to UK Music), must not undermine the financial struggles experienced by the majority of music creators in Wales, with the average wage for Cardiff based ‘artists and creative agents’ estimated to be around £18,000 per year. 
  • Also, I need to point out that my report doesn’t discuss the impacts of Brexit—which will unquestionably present its own set of issues for the live music industries moving forward. 

Brief Context of The Music Industries Post Pandemic

  • In terms of post pandemic, many freelancers in the UK live music industries have doubted their capacity to stay in their professions post pandemic.
  • In May, the UK Live Music Group expected as much as £900 million to be wiped from the £1.1 billion the UK live music sector was expected to contribute to the domestic UK economy this year, with 82% of grassroots music venues noting a threat of closure. 
  •  In terms of grassroot venue sustainability, a recent DCMS select committee report estimated that 93% of grassroot music venues across the UK faced permanent closure, with 86% of venues reporting that their core threat stems from an inability to meet commercial rent demand. 

I don’t have time to go through all of the recommendations in my report here, so what I will do is focus on two broad themes that I consider particularly important: Reopening and Recovery Strategies; and Strategic Opportunities 

  • In terms of Reopening and Recovery Strategies, I would like to highlight three points: Firstly, the speed of venues opening; secondly, the clarity of advice given to assist this; and thirdly what we can learn from other governments who have offered targeted recovery packages. 
  • In terms of the speed at which venues have being able to open in Wales, I think it is fair to say that the return to indoor and outdoor live concert performances has been very cautious, when compared to England and mainland Europe more broadly, and there is real concern that if the live music industries remain closed, they will lose the talent that has sustained it.
  • When comparing the return of live music in Wales to other nations, it is apparent that many European nations have put policies in place to facilitate the return of live music. For example, prior to the recent lockdowns, the Czech Republic opened indoor venues on May 11th, initially with a maximum capacity of 100, but progressively increasing to 500 by June 18th. Other examples include Spain, who also opened live performance venues on May 11th and Finland, who opened their venues from June 1st
  • There are many other examples of nations opening up their live music sectors mentioned in the report, which we can discuss later if it is of interest.  
  • In terms of clarity of advice on the phased return of live music, I would suggest that current Welsh Government guidelines on how the music industries can return to ‘normal’ are confusing, being split across a number of documents, with none of the guidance offering a clear roadmap on how freelancers will be able to reengage with their profession.
  • Although Welsh Government acknowledges that venues will have to make significant physical and operational changes to facilitate live music activity, this responsibility is placed with employers. 
  • Welsh Government also acknowledges that live music will be one of the last sectors to return to normal and is in need of a long-term strategy to assist its survival—but this strategy is not in place.  
  • Regarding what we can learn from other nations who have instigated ‘recovery fund’ packages for live music, perhaps the most well-known example is New Zealand, which allocated a sixteen and a half million dollar ‘music recovery fund’ package (around £8.5 million), as part of a $175 million dollar Arts and Culture fund. 
  • This included $7 million dollars to boost ‘New Zealand on Air’s’ new Music programmes; $5 million dollars for a Live Music Touring Fund to support NZ acts on the domestic circuit; $3 million dollars immediate support to ensure music venues have safe environments for audiences; and $1.4 million dollars to help musicians recoup lost income. The support is expected to sustain close to 3000 jobs over a two-year period, produce 450 new song releases and facilitate 150 live music tours throughout the country. 
  • There is also an interesting fund instigated by the Australian Government, who have allocated $20 million dollars (around £11m) over a four-year period to fund the ‘Live Music Australia’ programme. It is aimed at small and medium sized venues to assist them getting ready for hosting shows again. Venues can bid to upgrade equipment and infrastructure or undertake professional development, while promoters can bid to develop regional touring circuits. 
  • So, as a consequence of these factors, I would like to see Welsh Government develop a clear reopening strategyfor the live music industries, which outlines what’s possible now; what’s not possible yet; and what will never be possible. Most importantly, the live music sector needs to know what support will be available for all of these outcomes—not just finance, but rate relief, sympathetic licencing, etc). Particular attention should be placed on what can be learned from other nations who have opened up much earlier.
  • In conjunction with this, I also suggest that Welsh Government develop a three-year music industries ‘recovery strategy’, alongside associated funding. This plan could consider factors such as, how it can sustain, retain and incubate talent; how public confidence can be re-established; how the various parts of the live music industries can be supported and invigorated; how realistic alternative business models can be implemented; how industry training can meet the needs of the ‘new sector’; and last but not least, how the technical infrastructures of venues, rehearsal rooms and also recording studios can become ‘covid-proof’ if required (if the vaccine doesn’t work).  

In terms of my 2nd theme, I would now like to very briefly discuss some Strategic Opportunities Welsh Government has at this point in time, but before I do this, I need to point out how incredibly frustrating it was having to mainly quote UK data in my report, which although relevant to Wales, doesn’t deal with the nuances of the Welsh live music industries. As I found when I wrote my first report on the live music industry in Wales nearly ten years ago, detailed statistical data on the live music industries in Wales is non-existent, which is surely something that needs to be addressed? In addition to the need for focused research, I see three strategic opportunities for Welsh Government to take advantage of. 

  • Firstly, it’s noticeable that since the demise of the Welsh Music Foundation’s ‘music industry directory’, there is no central point through which live music industry stakeholders (ranging from local musicians to international promoters) can identify strategic opportunities in Wales.
  • Secondly, Information concerning Welsh Government’s grassroot music venue mapping (commissioned in 2019) has still not emerged, well over a year since its commission. We need it!
  • Thirdly, when doing my research, it was noticeable how nations such as Argentina, Belgium and Chile had financed ‘culture at home’ initiatives, which finances artists to produce content and provides a single digital portal for the general public to access. 
  • For example, Argentina’s Ministry of Culture announced a small fund to hire nearly 500 artists to develop content for their portal, which facilitates remote access to Buenos Aires’ cultural offerings. New content is uploaded every day and includes workshops, movies, theatre shows, music performances and artist interviews.  
  • Similarly, Belgium’s ‘Culture at Home’ portal, provides a singular link to cinemas, lectures, performing arts, museums and opportunities for funding. 
  • Finally, the Chilean government has developed an online culture portal which houses numerous activities from across the nation, including music. The Chilean Ministry of Culture is also offering online capacity building workshops for the cultural sector. 

Taking all of these potential opportunities into account, I suggest we need a public facing database of the music industries in Wales and public facing map of all its venues – categorised by type (grassroots, Theatre, Arena, Concert Hall etc). I also suggest the launch of a Welsh ‘culture at home’ initiative, similar to those mentioned, which includes not only recorded, but live performances. This would not only keep Welsh music alive domestically and internationally during emergencies such as a pandemic, but act as an important means of showcasing Welsh talent in the future. The success of this obviously relies on all households in Wales having access to fast reliable broadband. 

I also strongly suggest that Welsh Government commissions research that investigates the specific contribution that live music gives to the Welsh economy and the impact covid-19 has had on its sub-sectors. The overarching objective of this work should be to a) verify how much income the Welsh music industries generate; b) to work out how much currently remains within Wales; and c) to figure out what can be done to ensure the nation (i.e. music industry stakeholders) can retain more of it. I feel this research would need to focus on the Welsh music industries more broadly, as trying to understand live music without understanding how it relates to the rest of the music industries, is akin to attempting to explain the role of this committee, without understanding Welsh government. Live music works as part of an ecology, so this type of research is essential if we are to understand and most importantly improve the live music industries moving forward. 

To conclude, I think this is a one-off opportunity to protect and build upon not only the important economic contribution live music gives Wales, but also to appreciate and celebrate the important cultural and social role it plays in peoples lives. 

Posted in Covid-19, Live Music, Music Industry | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Live Music in Wales: A Report for the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Commitee

This last week has been a busy one for me, with my report on the impact of live music in Wales released, just a few days before I gave evidence to the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Commitee. In order to give readers an overview of the whole ‘post covid music industry in Wales project, what I have done here is upload a transcript of my 15 minute presentation to the committee, which can be downloaded below. A full copy of the 36000 word report can also be found here, with shorter executive summaries in English and Welsh also available for download below.

I have given evidence on live music to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee a number of times, but this is the first time I have had an entire session dedicated to a report I have written. As always, the session was organised collegiately and professionally, with some excellent questions asked. You can see a recording of the whole 40 minute session below.

As always with evidence sessions like this, there were a number of things I wanted to say, that because of time restrictions, I just did not have the opportunity to address, so it is this that I would like to dedicate the rest of this blog post to.

Firstly, I wanted to highlight that it is NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE TO COMPARE LIKE FOR LIKE, when considering covid related funds that have been allocated across Europe. For example, prior to the UK’s £1.5 bn Cultural Recovery Fund, the following funds had been allocated, none of which outline a specific music pot as far as I am aware.

Austria (EUR 2 billion for arts and culture) 

Poland (EUR 900 million for arts and culture) 

Netherlands (EUR 300 million for arts and culture) 

France (EUR 6.3 billion for small businesses more generally).

Germany allocated EUR 1 billion, via their ‘Neu Start’ for culture scheme, includes a 250 million euro allocation to ensure cultural institutions such as music venues are ‘fit for reopening’ 

In my talk to the committee, I discussed culture at home initiatives in Argentina, Belgium and Chile and music specific recovery funds in New Zealand and Australia. However, other interesting examples related to the facilitation and financing of digital content that I would like to have discussed include examples such as. 

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation announced their AUD $5 million (£2.7m) ‘Fresh Start Fund’, which includes the commissioning of new music and music scholarship schemes

Canada’s ‘Digital Strategy Fund, offers grants of up to £29k to implement digital solutions for long term strategies dealing with Covid-19.

Canada have also launched a ‘Digital Originals’ scheme, which offers artists micro innovation funds to position their work for online sharing.

Colombia have developed a national registry of artists and are sharing their creative culture as part of their digital strategy.

It’s also interesting to note how Cuba’s ‘Institute of Music’ has promoted online/virtual concerts (collaborating with the Ministry of Culture and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television).

Also Malaysia’s ‘Music from Home’ initiative, has included a series of ‘virtual concerts’ which assisted home grown artists produce digital content to engage with audiences.

Finally, I also wanted to note French Government’s EUR 50 million allocation to its ‘National Music Centre’ to support the music industries. This is in addition to the money it already receives from Government. The centre has a remit to increase musical diversity and promote French music around the world – similar to what the Welsh Music Foundation used to do. 

In terms of speed of opening live music venues, I gave some examples in my talk of nations across Europe opening more rapidly than Wales. I have included a number of other random examples below, but is important to point out that many of these nations subsequently had to close due to the ‘2nd wave’ of the pandemic spreading across Europe.

FranceLive performance venues opened July 15th.
GermanyLive performance venues opened from August 31st, depending on the regions.
ItalyLive performance venues opened from June 15th with a maximum of 200 persons seated indoor and 1000 persons seated outdoor.
NetherlandsLive performance venues reopened from June 1st with a maximum of 30 people per hall. From July 1st, there was no maximum, as long as people maintained a 1.5 metre distance.
NorwayLive performance venues opened on May 7th for a maximum amount of 50 people. Up to 500 allowed from Sep 1st.

I also wanted to point out to the committee how some nations are attempting to compensate for the lack of income currently generated by live music. Although I realise broadcasting is not devolved in Wales, I wanted to highlight that many nations are playing or asking to have more national music played on radio.

In Denmark for example, it was announced in March that Danish National Radio were increasing their quota of local artists and copyright holders from 49% to 80% in order to support the local music scene – for a predetermined period. A number of commercial radio stations followed this example. This was achieved via strategic discussions between government and the radio industry.  

Also, Radio France announced on 15 April an initiative to support the French music scene by playing more French music, promoting ‘French only’ live music evenings and dedicating time to promoting news featuring French artists. 

Others examples of this can be seen in Norway, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland, with nations such as Bulgaria, Croatia and Netherlands all having had campaigns asking for more local music to be played on radio. Should we do something similar in Wales?

I also wanted to highlight some different traditions for supporting music pre-pandemic that Wales could learn from, with two main categories being important to me – ‘national music centres that promote a nations music and alternative ways of funding

Regarding music centres, I mentioned Cuba’s Institute of Music and the National Music Centre in France in my talk (see above). However, there is also an interesting example in Poland – The ‘Music Export Poland Foundation’, which aims to support the export potential of Poland’s music industries. In order to do this, it recognises the importance of research, features a database of the Polish music industries, and has readily available information about its music venues. It also features a regularly undated spotify playlist of artists – similar to Creative Wales.

A similar initiative is ‘Music Finland’, which supports live music, facilitates tours and showcases talent. Music Finland’s main aim is to assist artists who find it difficult ‘breaking even’ when touring, by paying for accommodation, travel, per diems, and marketing and production expenses (equipment hire, insurance, visas etc).

In my view, Spike Griffiths ‘Beacons Project’ is attempting to move in this direction and should be given finance to pilot.

Regarding funding models, it is important to remind ourselves that the UK live music scene relies more on commercial income than in Europe. I am no expert on this, but in Italy for example, the “theatres of the tradition”, such as Rome and Naples’s opera houses, have been told all their salaries and expenses will be met until the end of 2021 by the state. In a study of venues across mainland Europe – 60% of venues were non-profit on average – with nations like Belgium, France, Switzerland and Netherlands having over 90% non-profit. These venues are seen to attract more government funding – this is not the case in the UK or more specifically in Wales.

At the other side of the spectrum, I understand music venues in the US rely more heavily on commercial income than the UK, so unless they are lucky enough to be bequeathed money by wealthy benefactors, they are in trouble. It is no surprise that the New York music scene is still effectively closed. 

This has to be one of the reasons why the music scenes in Europe have been able to open earlier than in the UK? In terms of how Wales could move toward the tradition of mainland Europe – I have no idea how this could happen – but it would certainly protect venues should something like this pandemic happen again, as venues would not rely as much on commercial income – it is that simple.

In terms of how the continued prohibition on live performances in Wales will impact the industry internationally, for me, the longer we wait – the more music industry stakeholders will either leave the profession or take their services elsewhere. I think the main issues are the inevitable talent drain (especially if there is work elsewhere); the fact that so many Grassroot Music Venues are forecast to close, and of course the Economic Impact – We already know that the income from live music across the UK is going to be well down on previous years – the question is how long will it take us to recover and how can Welsh Government help. There has been a longstanding discussion surrounding why don’t more artists play in Wales’ and I would suggest a policy of prohibiting live music is only going to make this worse.

Regarding the financial sustainability of music venues in Wales, for me, it makes more sense to try and subsidise venues to keep their doors open, as opposed to closed. So the Musicians’ Unions recommendation of a seat matching scheme is a good idea, as a means of measuring the amount of government money a venue gets and also, because it it targeting finance towards opening culture up. Depending on what happens with the vaccine, it may be interesting to explore a ‘mixed mode approach’ for live music – a socially distanced venue accompanied by a virtual, broadcast, which is monitored. Virtual Concerts are explicitly mentioned in Government documentation – but not explained – so this is something that could be explored further. This is where the technical infrastructures of venues would need to be financed, if this approach was adopted. Basically, in this new world, at least in the short term, most music venues can’t survive on commercial income alone – many were already struggling, so they need subsidy of some sort.

Regarding how the sector should change in the future for me, Welsh Government needs to do everything it can to make the grassroots sector in particular more sustainable – and that is going to require financial support. We are going to need empathetic licensing; sympathetic rate relief; better transport and internet access across the country; a long-term music strategy; relevant statistical research, good training and mentoring, etc.  

As I mention in my report, Welsh Government also needs to understand what its music industries are, and the best way to do this is to develop a Taxonomy. Most importantly, Creative Wales’ membership would have to ensure it represents it.

As I have mentioned in an earlier evidence session last year, we also need to make sure the school music curriculum reflects the modern music industries. However, those involved in the post covid music industry will require an even more distinct skill set, depending on the impact of the vaccine – so we need to ensure that education and training is up to date.

It is apparent that most of the major music industry bodies provide Mental Health information – so I would suggest that Welsh Gov should also prepare and provide advice for the Creative Industries and Performing Arts more broadly. Also, there is a lot of research verifying how good music participation is for Well-Being – let’s use it! 

I would also suggest that Welsh Government needs to ensure it engages with the ways in which the nations creators can a) be exploited more both within the nation via a dedicated web site and also possibly via national media outlets and b) be compensated more for their work, by reducing the value gap for Welsh artists.

The value gap is where much of the mechanical income from music making is in the hands of technology giants such as You Tube, Facebook, Spotify and iTunes. One of the objectives of the 2018 ‘European Copyright Directive’, is to reduce the value gap between internet platforms such as these and the content creators themselves, something which will become essential in a post-covid world, where performance income may be restricted for some time to come. 

Finally, I would say Welsh Government could do some work to ensure the means through which the music industries access funding is demystified as much as possible – making it clear where funding is available and how to complete any paperwork. 

To finish this blog post, I would like to say a few words about what the Welsh Music Industry could do in order to be more resilient in the future. These are points that I did not mention in the evidence session: I would suggest A) fix what was already broken – by ensuring the pertinent themes that have been discussed in the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committees evidence sessions thus far are considered and actioned. B) this is a long shot, but could Wales move in the direction of allocating more finance to at least some grassroots live music venues, in a similar way to European venues – so there is less reliance on commercial income. To ensure this we would require more publicly owned venues! C) Is it possible for Welsh Government to develop a philosophy which focuses on support to open, as opposed to support to remain closed? D) The arts more broadly have often been accused of not facilitating equal access to its various sub-sectors, but Welsh Government also need to be made aware that a move toward more online provision has the potential to not alleviate this trend, but to exacerbate it, for those (audiences and music industry stakeholders) currently experiencing ‘digital poverty’. We need to ensure the whole of Wales has access to fast reliable Broadband.

Posted in Covid-19, Live Music, Music Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Welsh Music Industries in a Post Covid World: Reopening and Recovery Strategies

Those of you that read this blog, may remember that near the start of the pandemic I wrote a few posts about the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry – then it went quiet…. Just to explain that the reason for this silence was not because I had lost interest, but because in July I was commissioned by Senedd Research to document a report on this very subject. The resultant document is entitled ‘The Welsh Music Industries in a Post Covid World’. I am currently in the proofing stage and it is 36000 words long – so I have been busy. This report is written for The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, with a view that they will take on some of the recommendations and present them to Welsh Government.

I will be giving evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on November 19th, with the report being officially published just before then. However, as a taster, I thought I would publish some of the recommendations in the run in to publication. I have copied the first couple below – all of which are related to ‘reopening and recovery strategies. Feel free to offer any comments/observations.

For Welsh Governmentto develop a detailed and clear short-term reopening strategy for the Welsh music industries, which outlines what is possible now; what is not possible yet; what will never be possible and what support will be available for all of these outcomes. This strategy should closely consider how sub-sectors that are open for business can maximise income, in addition to considering closely how it can support the strategically important parts of the industries that are closed for public health reasons get back on their feet. 

In conjunction with relevant expertise from the music industries, the university sector and the Arts Council of Wales, for Welsh Government to develop a long-term three-year music industries recovery strategy, which takes the ongoing impact of Covid-19 into account. This plan should have a range of outcomes and consider via an action plan factors such as how it can sustain, retain and incubate talent; how public confidence can be re-established; how the various parts of the music industries can be supported and invigorated; how realistic alternative business models can be implemented; how industry training can meet the needs of the ‘new sector’; how alternative business models such as virtual music making can be implemented; and how the technical infrastructures of venues/rehearsal rooms/recording studios can become ‘covid-proof’.  

Thanks – Paul

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Live Music in Wales and Covid-19: The Next Steps…

Anyone who has been following this blog over the last few weeks would have noticed I have been attempting to keep up to date with how the Welsh music industry has been responding to Covid19. Off the back of this work, I am delighted to announce that I am now doing some research for the Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committee, who directly challenge Welsh Government on policy. Aside from some time that I am taking off over August, this is the project I will be placing most of my attention on over September and October.

So, first and foremost can I ask anyone who has any questions for Welsh Government in terms of what we need to do better to safeguard our stakeholders in the music industry and our ‘bricks and mortar’ infrastructures, to please drop me a message and I will try and build it into the narrative of the report. I gave some evidence in October on the committee’s enquiry into live music, so am so pleased to be helping out with how that very industry can respond to Covid19.

The main thrust of the report will be examine how we can learn from practices and policy elsewhere in the world, so please drop me a line of exemplars you hear about. Also, aside from the assistance currently available, what policies and funding can Welsh Government, Creative Wales and the Welsh Arts Council continue to implement that assist the music industry recover from Covid19? In a Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee evidence session on June 25th, the Music Venue Trust praised the initiatives that had already being developed in Wales, so I am keen to ensure this narrative continues.

Despite the deviation this pandemic has caused, I also want to explore how music as a cultural artefact, can engage with Wales’ local and national recuperation in terms of ‘wellbeing’ and community engagement? In what ways can we empower this to take place when social distancing is still instigated?

It has been somewhat bizarre writing some of these posts recently-hard to believe that the live industry I love so much has been decimated-and that much of the work done in the aforementioned enquiry into live music, is in the short term at least – irrelevant. We are living in dystopian times, but musical creativity is something even a pandemic can’t stop. Musicians will continue making music, so I hope to play a tiny part in providing as good an infrastructure as possible to monetise the fruits of their labour.

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Grassroots Music Support: Wales Leading the Way in UK

As reported in a variety of sources this week, The Music Venue Trust (MVT)  called on the UK Government for a £50 million financial injection to assist the grassroots music sector over the coming months, in addition to a three year VAT holiday. MVT estimated that up to 90% of venues and festivals could go out of business if action is not taken at governmental level to support the sector until customers can safely return (England recently announced that theatres and concert halls can open, but can not showcase live music). Off the back of a petition to the UK Government, MVT also suggested there is a straightforward way to support not only grassroot music venues, but the cultural sector more broadly – by cancelling the festival of Great Britain and reallocating the funds. This will be an interesting test to see where the country places its priorities.

Most problematically, MVT report two parallel issues for those working in the grassroot music sector –

1) those who have not been eligible for general government support and have therefore received no support to date. (The musicians Union suggest that up to 40% of its members are not eligible). 

2) those whose support will be coming to end, before the sector is given the green light to open its doors to the public (no one knows when this will be).  

While the issues associated with category 1 are immanently self-evident, it is easy to consider those under category 2 to be ‘doing ok’ financially at the moment. However, there are currently no plans to open music venues so they can ‘do businesses’ (and even if they did open, the general public don’t have the confidence to attend). So, when furlough does stop, a cultural catastrophe is a real possibility:

Imagine a world with no grassroot music venues! Not only would this result in the ‘supply chain’ of musical talent being devastated, but also the destruction of a cultural artefact that too many of us take for granted. Grassroots music venues have been argued as being the foundation of the UK music industry, which generates around £5.2 billion per year to the economy – their potential decimation is far reaching and should be a concern to not only those who visit the venues, but also to those of us who love good music!

Related to this, the Welsh Government’s Guidance on Coronavirus and Working Safely in the Creative Industries document was published this week, which in addition to general information for the Creative Industries, does have a small section specifically dedicated to music. It reports on how Creative Wales are working with ‘all areas of the music industry’ via recently established ‘stakeholder groups’, which recognise that the music industry will be one of the last to ‘return to normal’ and in real need of a long-term strategy. The safe reopening of venues is of course a priority and the document reports on an initiative led by MVT entitled ‘Reopening Every Venue Safely’ (REVS), which is also operated in North America. However, it is apparent that ‘safe’ does not mean ‘profitable’, with one venue in Swansea being a microcosm of a bigger problem: reporting that its capacity would be reduced from 370 to 26 under current guidelines – which is obviously reflective of all venues-if current social distancing rules are maintained.

Having already gone through a really hard time in terms of profitability and fear of closure, the grassroots music sector is facing its biggest challenge by far at the moment, it is therefore essential that the aforementioned government financial support scheme happens.

To close, it was good to see MVT giving evidence at the Culture, Welsh Language Committee on June 24. Mark Davyd reported that although the grassroots music sector technically shut down on March 21st, the downturn in trade started before then, with the public, who were obviously beginning to understand the impacts of COVID19, were beginning to vote with their feet and not attend shows. Davyd also reported that MVT has 45 venues in Wales and that the impact of lockdown has gone way beyond the venue owners and musicians, to include crew, production, bar staff, etc. Indeed this could be extended to include the many businesses who experience a positive ‘knock on’ effect of live music taking place in their locality, such as hotels and restaurants for example,

Despite the serious nature of the discussion, it was gratifying to hear Davyd talk about the ‘excellent support measures in Wales’. Indeed he stated that, despite there still being a long way to go, of all nations in the UK, Wales is the least in debt, due to very effective interventions from Welsh Government, Creative Wales and Arts Council Wales. The 45 venues were reported to be collectively around £120,00 in debt, ranging from those that are in a similar position to before, to those carrying significant dept.

The funding that Davyd is referring to is the £401,551.39 funding allocated to 22 grassroots music businesses across Wales as part of Welsh Government’s £18 million support scheme of the Creative Sector (In April 2020, Creative Wales were allocated £1 million for the grassroots music sector). Additionally, Arts Council Wales announced a £7m ‘Resilience Fund’, jointly financed by the Welsh Government and National Lottery sources. This was part of Welsh Governments ‘Economic Resilience Fund‘, aimed at supporting businesses and charities across Wales.

In terms of the performance opportunities that have been lost, Davyd reported around 3,500 performance opportunities lost across the UK, which he estimated to be around 95,000 single session job opportunities (bar staff, etc) for self employed workers. The impact on full time employment was less significant – around 550 jobs in total. He also reported that as a direct result of the support the grassroots sector had received in Wales, the venues themselves were able to fundraise to assist their self employed workforce. Mark also outlined how the UK wide  Save Our Venues Scheme had raised around £2.3 million, which has/will assist those who those who have ‘fallen through the gaps’.

You can listen to the whole debate here

Other News

Finally here are a few links I have also found interesting this week.

The Journal of Music Health and Wellbeing are starting to publish a number of ‘covid related’ papers. You can access some of the abstracts here. Titles include.

‘Taking “Ethno Gatherings” on-line: Sustaining inter-cultural musical exchange during the COVID-19 Pandemic

From Clinic rooms to Zoom: Exploring music therapy clinical training possibilities during times of social distancing’

‘An Evaluation of Nigerian Choristers’ Leverage on Technology in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic’

‘Autism, Technology and the Singing Voice: Adjustments in the Time of COVID-19’

‘Punk Musicology as Self-Care and Community Building During COVID-19’

Call on Congress to investigate Live Nation’s controversial post-COVID memo

Also, check out the interesting industry seminar hosted by the Music Managers Forum. 

New of a Socially Distanced Club Night Held in Germany

Germany Plan for Post Lockdown Theatre

German based drive in Raves

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