Music Industry letter to Minister for Communities

Deirdre Hargey MLA
Minister for Communities
Department for Communities
Causeway Exchange
1-7 Bedford Street
Belfast BT2 7EG
12 May 2020

Dear Minister

We write to you today with regard to the serious implications of COVID-19 on the music sector of Northern Ireland (NI), particularly on the self-employed and freelancers within this sector. We welcome the measures set out to date by the UK’s Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as your recent announcement to provide a £1.5 million fund to support the Arts sector.

Furthermore, we acknowledge the broader remit of the Department for Communities and its significant commitment to the policy areas of health and mental health, housing, support for children, and pensions and benefits. We appreciate the Department’s efforts in protecting the livelihoods of our fellow citizens and recognise the need to prioritise these critically important matters.

Mindful of the responsibilities of the Department for Communities, however, we would ask you to consider further the support you can provide for local musicians and music-related businesses at this time.

As we understand it, the Creative Support Fund – which has now closed for individuals – requires applicants, both individuals and organisations, to pitch ideas for new and innovative projects. It does not provide funding to support the cash flow concerns or immediate financial needs of NI’s music community. The sector needs a practical response to the crisis, a meaningful lifeline by way of an Urgent Response Fund for individuals, mirroring the efforts made by our neighbours in the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

Across NI, the music sector employs live performers, music teachers, composers, music managers, producers, events crew and many more. There are also a number of charities and organisations working to enable future generations of music talent and engage local communities in music activities, using the power of music to transform and improve lives.

Research published in 2017 by the Irish music body IMRO revealed that music was worth almost three quarter of a billion euros – €703 million – to the Irish economy and accounted for over 13,000 jobs. Furthermore, in 2018, the music sector in the North of Ireland helped to generate £90 million in spending in music tourism alone, and accounted for over 1,000 full-time jobs and countless freelance opportunities. More than 300,000 people came to NI in 2018 for live music events, with 30,000 of these coming from overseas.

However, the nature of COVID-19 dictates that live events and public gatherings, both large and small, have been banned. While the immediate impact of this can be seen by way of cancellations of concerts, festivals, weddings and the closure of entertainment/nightlife venues across NI, the financial toll of these necessary measures and the impact on their mental health will be felt by a vast majority of individuals who rely on music as their primary source of income.

  • According to a survey conducted by the Musicians’ Union, musicians across the UK have lost more than £20 million in earnings so far, over 90% have had their work affected, and job opportunities are down 70% on this time last year.
  • The Music Producers Guild has found that UK producers and sound engineers have lost an average of 70% of their income and their average earnings loss in March was £3,300, rising to £4,300 in April.
  • The Music Managers Forum calculates that artists and managers have lost £50 million, which could rise to £118 million if the lockdown continues.
  • The Music Venue Trust reports over 550 Grassroots Music Venues are under immediate threat of closure, 82% of the entire grassroots network. This represents the potential permanent loss of over 5,000 jobs, over 100,000 concerts, over 300,000 performances by musicians, and over one million temporary employment opportunities for gig economy workers.
  • Arts Council England (ACE) has provided emergency relief of £160 million to the arts sector in England, with £20 million dedicated to supporting creative practitioners and cultural workers; the Scottish Government has provided £13 million to support people working in the arts at this time; and the Welsh Government, along with the Arts Council for Wales and Sports Wales, has provided an £18 million package for arts and sports, including the creation of a £7 million Arts Resilience Fund and further funding for music venues.

As a result of COVID-19, the work of many in the music sector has come to an end overnight; the outbreak is already having a far-reaching impact on both the personal income and quality of life of many in NI’s music community, from individual freelancers and micro businesses to grassroots organisations, local music initiatives, and established companies. We have never been more at risk; music – and the arts – must be protected and we need urgent financial support to survive in any recognisable form.

We, the undersigned, are asking you, as the Minister responsible for arts and culture, for immediate help. We need to work together, with support from our local political leaders, to withstand the challenges we face during these unprecedented times and to ensure there is a future for NI’s musicians and music-lovers. Swift action must be taken to safeguard and invest in the future of an industry, which has significant economic, cultural and social benefits for Northern Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Acheson, The Wood Burning Savages
Iain Archer, Singer/Songwriter
Stuart Bailie, Broadcaster/Author/Journalist
Kevin Baird, Two Door Cinema Club
Stuart Banford, Downtown Country
Lynne Best, Oh Yeah Music Centre
Leif Bodnarchuk, RNR Workshop Musical Instrument Repair
Michael Bonnar, Moving on Music
Robert Brown, Chordblossom
Neil Brogan, Sea Pinks/Owner CF Records
Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers
Joshua Burnside, Musician
Ian Burrows, Chair Belfast TradFest & Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association NI
Andy Cairns, Therapy?
Barry Campbell, JABA Music
Rachael Campbell Palmer, Black Box
James Cassidy, JABA Music Ltd
Paul Clegg, Crossland Touring
Brian Coney, The Thin Air
Nathan Connolly, Snow Patrol
Paul Connolly, The Wood Burning Savages
Peter Corry, Singer/Producer

Anne Coulter, Panarts
Liam Craig, Primative Sound
Aine Cronin-McCartney, Presenter/Music journalist/Artist manager
Neil Crowther, Matchetts Music
Aaron Cunningham, Chordblossom
Kwame Daniels, DJ/Director of Bounce Culture
Dr John D’Arcy, Lecturer Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast
Joe Dougan, The Limelight/Belsonic
Barry Douglas, Pianist/Artistic Director Camerata Ireland and Clandeboye Festival
Charlotte Dryden, Oh Yeah Music Centre
Mike Edgar, Mike Edgar Production Ltd
Andy Ferguson, Bicep
Elliot Finlay, The Wood Burning Savages
Robert Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive Odyssey Trust Company
Lisa Flavelle-Stephens, Belfast89FM & Quiet Arch/Associate Lecturer Belfast Met/ Broadcaster/DJ
Stu Fletcher, NI Coordinator, Music Venue Trust UK
Dr Eamonn Forde, Author/Music journalist
Joby Fox, Musician
Si Francis, Musician/Producer
Rory Friers, And So I Watch You From Afar
Alan Galbraith, Director Global Licensing Spotify
Bronagh Gallagher, Actress/Musician
Kieran Gilmore, Open House Festival
Ben Glover, Singer/Songwriter
Mark Gordon, Score Draw Music
Sam Halliday, Two Door Cinema Club
Jack Hamill, Space Dimension Controller/DJ
Linley Hamilton, Musician
Mark Hamilton, ASH
Paul Hamilton, Focal Management
Neil Hannon, The Divine Comedy
Charlene Hegarty, Artist manager
Help Musicians Northern Ireland
Mark Holden, Artist manager
David Holmes, Musician/Composer
Terri Hooley, Good Vibrations
Les Hume, EMS Audio Ltd/Dawsons Music Belfast
Taylor Johnson, Brand New Friend
Phil Johnston, Co-owner and Creative Director Sonic Academy
Sean Kelly, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
Dr Brian Kennedy, Singer/Songwriter
Carla Kieran, CK Communications
Claire Kieran, An Droichead
Phil Kieran, DJ/Producer
Paula Kiernan, Moving On Music
Ciaran Lavery, Musician/Songwriter
Declan Legge, Artist manager/Producer
Stevie Lennox, The Thin Air
Dave Lievense, Mass Motion Studio
Gary Lightbody, Snow Patrol
Joe Lindsay, DJ/Broadcaster
Chris Logan, The Rising
James Loveday, The Distortion Project
Ben Magee, Director, New Champion Management
Colin Magee, Panarts
Harry Martin, Domino Records
Neil Martin, Composer/Musician

Davy Matchett, Third Bar Belfast Artist Development
Carolyn Mathers, Snow Water
Phil McAlister, Strangeworld Management
Ben McAuley, Recording engineer/Producer
Fiona McAuley, YMU Group
Matt McBriar, Bicep
Sarah McBriar, AVA Festival/Up Productions
Mark McCambridge aka Arborist, Musician
Garry McCartney, EJECA/DJ
Johnny McDaid, Snow Patrol
Martin McGill, Nerve Centre
Ruth McGinley, Musician
Richard McGinnis, MAMA Festivals/Warehouse Project/Parklife Festival
Gary McGuigan, Gary McGuigan Promotions
Michael McKeegan, Therapy?
Lee McMahaon, Touring audio engineer/Director Linear Live
Alistair McMillan, Audio engineer/Owner Slipway Studios
Ryan McMullan, Musician
Rick McMurray, ASH
Matt Minford, Owner Forfey Ltd Audio Visual
Conor Mitchell, Composer/The Belfast Ensemble
Bridie Monds Watson aka SOAK, Musician
Andrea Montgomery, Artistic director
Sir Van Morrison OBE
Dylan Murphy, CEO Mabfield
Cormac Neeson, The Answer
Oisin O’Brien, Visual Spectrum Studios Ltd/DSNT Records
Eoin O’Callaghan, Musician/Producer/Composer
Francesca O’Connor, NI Regional Champion, AIM (Association of Independent Music)
Cahir O’Doherty, New Pagans/Producer/Stage manager
Cormac O’Kane, Composer/Producer/Redbox Recording Studio
Sean O’Neill, Owner Spit Records
David O’Reilly, Broadcaster/Producer
Rocky O’Reilly, Start Together Studio
Professor Joe O’Sullivan, Musician/Consultant Oncologist Queen’s University Belfast
Ross Parkhill, Stendhal Festival
Hannah Peel, Composer/Musician/Presenter
Jonny Quinn, Snow Patrol
John Reid, President Live Nation Europe
Mark Reid, Touch Sensitive Records
Jeff Robinson, Publicist
Darrin Robson, Artist manager
Julie Robson, Artist manager
James Rollins, Entertainment Publicist
Chris Ryan, Robocobra Quartet
Stevie Scullion aka Malojian, Artist
Feargal Sharkey OBE
Davy Sims, Broadcaster/Lecturer/Writer/Author
George Sloan, Audio engineer/Co-owner of Half Bap Studio
Helen Sloan, Photographer
Ciaran Smyth, Voodoo
Pete Snodden, Broadcaster
Gareth Stewart, Celtronic Festival
T Stewart, The Night Institute/Extended Play
Steve Strange, X-Ray Touring
Anthony Toner, Singer/Songwriter
Sheridan Tongue, Composer/Producer/Songwriter

Ryan Vail, Musician/Producer/Composer
Foy Vance, Singer/Songwriter
Tim Wheeler, ASH
Conchúr White, Musician/Songwriter
Peter Wilson aka Duke Special, Musician
Michael Woods, The Wood Burning Savages
Chris Wright, Citizen Music Ireland
Tony Wright aka VerseChorusVerse, Musician/Writer

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.