Feature: Music Industry v Covid 19

Many reading this will be furloughed writes Brian McGowan… over 6 million UK jobs have been so far. Many will not. Maybe you’re working from home. Maybe you’re less fortunate.

You’ll know that the music industry is an integral part of our lives. It’s just there. We can take it if we need it, ignore if we don’t. Either way, it works hard for our attention.

And it’s not all huge, Sony, BMG size corporations. Many hundreds of small & medium enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of the industry, publicising bands, albums, tours, arranging interviews, promoting gigs, getting stuff on the radio, TV, into print, pushing their clients on social media.

We at GRTR! have many, many such contacts, built up over the years. We asked them how the crisis is affecting them. Some of it surprised us, some confirmed what we already suspected.

Whitesnake - DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-15 June 2019

Many were pretty upbeat:

“Funnily enough, I’m absolutely getting massacred at work right now. Everyone’s releasing music still and the bands all want to interviews!”

“we’re adapting to new ways of doing things… online meetings with Zoom… providing content for online inc video & live”

“It’s important to stay positive, safe and well and get the job done.”

“A plus is that the pace is a little slower”.

“People are listening to music more. So that’s a good thing, now and hopefully long term”.

And the more personal observations:

“I’m in the fortunate position of being able to work from home nearly all the time.”

“Bands and labels becoming more innovative, live streaming interviews and album trailers”.

“Spending more downtime listening to music I haven’t listened to in a while.”

“Only 13 steps from my bedroom to my office… and another 13 for coffee in the kitchen”.

“So many albums and tours being rescheduled out until, optimistically, late summer, or perhaps more realistically end of year”.

“Missing spending time with clients, going out to meet them, doing interviews.”

“Personally missing going to live music gigs”.

PAUL CARRACK- London Palladium, 14 March 2020

All as you might have expected so far? But this one really had us sit up and take notice:

“It was an email towards the end of March that really brought it home to me. A friend, who doesn’t work in the industry, checking in to see how I was doing having seen what he described as the ‘bloodbath’ that was my Twitter feed!

As the Coronavirus emergency really started to bite, the vast majority of my ‘work’ now entailed postponing or cancelling the entirety of my proposed income stream for the rest of the year. What to do? What to try and hang on to? How to cut deals with clients on regular retainer deals to keep the engine running?

The answer, to me at least, was obvious. There is a danger of losing perspective and, currently, the travails and cashflow of a music PR company isn’t top of the list. I contacted all clients and told them that their bills for work in March would be issued as usual but that after that nobody would be billed anything until it was mutually agreed that it was appropriate.

My feeling is, truly, we are all in this together and that attempting to pass on the pain is ultimately selfish, but also naïve – in common with most companies of my ilk, there are no contracts to be enforced. Getting heavy with people who have also seen their income drop to zero is hardly the way to guarantee working together once the storm passes, which has to be the aim.

After an initial period of doom and gloom, I am now pretty sanguine about the situation. It’s a nightmare but I’m confident I’ll get through it, hopefully with most of my client base intact.

As a director of the company, it is my ‘fiduciary duty’ [cheers Mr. Accountant] to do what I can to keep the lights on. The social media that presaged the true extent of this shutdown can also keep rolling to provide a flow of information and perhaps generate to a degree a sense of business as usual, which is a good look at least in a crisis; hence filing this anonymously. On a commercial, industry-wide level there will be fallers, for sure, but those are not the casualties we need to be concerned about right now.”

Maybe that last response is the one that truly exposes what the Coronavirus Lockdown means for SMEs. Maybe the others are just putting up a brave front. We have no way of knowing.

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 24 July 2022.

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Power Plays w/c 8 August 2022 (Mon-Fri)
BORN LOST Take Time (Mouthpiece) (Revolver Records)
JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
SCARLET DORN Born To Suffer (SPV Recordings)
HOLDING ABSENCE Coffin (Sharptone Records)
TYRANNOSAURUS NEBULOUS Get Some (Echoed Past Records)
KROOKED TONGUE When The Beaches Bleed (indie)
SKYPILOT Knifed On The Beach (The Distortion Project)

Featured Albums w/c 8 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. Force Majeure (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Very Unusual Head (indie)

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