Over There

Although it is easy to talk about the “music industry,” just what is it, or, more accurately, what are the elements that establish the whole?

I found an answer in a report prepared by UK Music, a trade organization that represents—yes, exactly what its name unambiguously states.

In its codification there are six primary sectors and then a various number of subsectors in each:

  1. Music Creators: musician, composer, songwriter, lyricist, vocalist, producer, engineer
  2. Live Music: music festival organizers, music promotors, music agents, production services, ticketing agents, convert venues and arenas
  3. Music Publishing: publishing rights holders, publishing companies
  4. Recorded Music: recorded rights holders, record labels, physical manufacturing and distribution, digital distribution, recording studios
  5. Music Representation: collective management organizations, music managers, music trade bodies, music accountants, music lawyers
  6. Music Retail: retail of musical instruments, manufacturer of musical instruments, digital music retail, physical music retail

Of the sectors, Music Creators has by far the greatest number of people employed (“full-time equivalency,” meaning this is what they do), with 142,000 of the industry’s total 197,168. In second, way, way, back is Live Music at 34,000; then Music Retail, 11,300; Recorded Music, 5400, Music Representatives, 3,100; and Music Publishing, 1,368.

The importance of the music industry is really significant to the UK economy. According to UK Music, it contributed £5.8-billion to the UK economy in 2019. To put that into some context, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK automotive trade association, the auto industry contributed £15.3-billion during the same period. The music industry employs 197,168. The auto industry 864,300.

But whereas people who work in the auto industry work for employers, according to UK Music, 72% of the people in the music industry are self-employed. When times are good, that is not bad. But when times are bad, that is not good.

And we all know which time we’re living in now.

While the UK government has established the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (yes, Scheme is part of its official name, not some sort of linguistic dodge) as part of its response to the COVID-19, UK Music estimates that only about a third of those working in entertainment and the arts qualify for it.

So UK Music’s position is: “It is. . .critical that the Government makes available targeted support that recognises the unique dynamics of the music industry and how it is impacted by the pandemic. By doing so it would ensure the artists, managers, composers, songwriters, sound engineers and countless others that the sector relies on, get the support they need so that the industry can get back on its feet and continue the work of rebuilding this world-leading industry to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

UK Music estimates that compared with 2019 figures, 85% of Live revenue will be lost in 2020 due to the pandemic. And this study occurred before the most-recent UK lockdown. Sixty-five percent of Music Creators income will be lost, and for those who are heavily dependent on live performances or studio work, that figure is up to 80%.

“Music has always been a British success story and a national asset,” UK Music states.

While the organization is optimistic that that can be achieved once again—after all it cites “Artists, songwriters and producers such as Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Dave, The 1975, Lewis Capaldi, Carla Marie Williams, Fraser T Smith, Jin Jin and Paul Epworth,” so presumably they’re all taking an economic hit but not going away.

It is hard to think about rock and roll without thinking of British acts, which have been arguably dominant since the early 1960s.

Think of it: you can have a spirited argument on the subject of whether the Beatles or the Stones were the best band. What is the analogous set of bands for the U.S. (or for anywhere else, for that matter)?

The likes of Ray Davies and Elton John, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart weren’t knighted by the Queen because she expects them to go out and slay dragons.

No, it was because of their cultural (wink-wink) contribution to the UK (as in what they helped contribute to the country’s coffers).

It is clearly something that the UK can’t afford to have diminished in any way.

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