James Hendicott: Music Industry to suffer collapse after successful 2019?

by James Hendicott

UK research has shown that turnover in the music industry is to collapse by 50% due to the coronavirus crisis, according to umbrella music rights organisation across the water, ‘UK Music’.

A similar scenario in Ireland seems to be a reasonable hypothetical – perhaps a still bigger collapse, given our more stringent lockdowns.

The vast, vast majority of events due to take place in Ireland since March have been cancelled, replaced only by a brief dabbling in very small-scale socially distanced shows towards the end of the summer.

Streaming – which is noted for its poor payment – has increased, including in paid subscriptions, but not to a level that would anything like replace the income generated from live shows. Streaming also fails to provide income to the numerous ‘side jobs’ in music, from gig promotion to lighting, bar work to stage hands.

2019 was one of the most successful years on record for live music, but that won’t stop the departure of small and mid-sized acts in particular as the struggle to survive through music comes to a head. Many established acts with financial commitments such as mortgages, as well as the aforementioned staff, have found supports offered simply don’t cover their everyday expenses.

As part of the ‘50% collapse’, the report details a 65% estimated loss of income for artists themselves, and a collapse of over 80% in live income, a figure likely to be still higher in Ireland.

Optimists will see light at the end of the tunnel, however, with festivals including the newly announced ‘Road to the Great Escape’ – a Dublin version of a popular new-music-led festival based in Brighton – announcing for next year this week, and including a number of local artists. They had been due to debut this summer, but had to pull the event.

The spate of bookings associated with festivals like this over the coming weeks, plus the much-touted vaccine, might provide light at the end of this particular tunnel.

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