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Finale risk: Rolling Stones, Lennox and McCartney among stars seeking music aid

Rupert Neate
·3-min read

The Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney and Dua Lipa are among 1,500 musicians and bands calling for the government to take urgent action to help live music in Britain avoid collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A letter signed by artists, including Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Annie Lennox and Sam Smith, warned that the UK could lose its prime spot on the world’s musical stage unless the government commited to supporting businesses and set out a timetable for reopening live music venues.

The performers said venues are at risk of mass insolvencies and that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost.

The joint letter to the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “Live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak. Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”

Many of the artists who signed the letter, including George Ezra, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi, and Little Mix, were due to perform this summer at festivals in Britain, including at Glastonbury, All Points East and Parklife.

The artists said the live music industry supports 210,000 jobs across the UK, and that venues, concerts, festivals and production companies added £4.5bn to the economy in 2019.

The letter called on Dowden to deliver a three-point strategy for restarting the live music sector. It asked for a clear, conditional, timeline for reopening venues without social distancing, a comprehensive business and employment support package, and VAT exemption on ticket sales.

Lipa said: “It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK. From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career.

“I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels ... small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms and into arenas, and of course festivals in between each touring cycle.

“But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”

In a coordinated campaign starting on Thursday artists and venues will post on social media photographs and films of their last gig or event with the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. Fans are also encouraged to post about the last gig they attended in a show of support.

Emily Eavis, co-organiser of the Glastonbury festival, said: “The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges. If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”