Covid restrictions leave live music industry on the brink of collapse

Image by Natalie Ball

The live music sector is at risk of complete collapse with many events falling through the cracks of government support.  

Keelan Willams as Martha Tydfil

In July last year the Welsh Government announced a Cultural Recovery Fund of £53 million. But for many pub singers, bands and live acts the pandemic has left them struggling financially. 

Drag artist Keelan Williams from Merthyr Tydfil says there is a serious lack of financial support for performers and many of his friends working in the live music industry have been reduced to requesting donations during online performances.  

Keelan said: “There’s no guidance from the Welsh Government when it comes to what we can do when everything opens back up. 

“Performing wasn’t just something I do for money. I miss dressing up as Martha Tydfil, it’s part of who I am.” 

Founder of the Porthcawl Elvis Festival, Peter Philips, moved the event which usually draws in crowds of over 35,000 online last year. He started a petition calling for a ‘bounce back’ fund to help the Welsh live music industry when Covid restrictions are lifted. 

Peter said: “Mark Drakeford is a philistine who hasn’t got an artistic bone in his body. 

Image by Ben Blyth.

“There’s a Welsh Freelancer Fund but the person has to demonstrate they deliver artistic value in their work. A wedding DJ or tribute artist will struggle to prove they’re providing artistic merit.” 

The Elvis Festival usually takes place in September and Peter still has hope it will go ahead this year, even if it’s at a reduced capacity.  

Live music festival Immersed has moved online this year after COVID restrictions have stopped it taking place in its usual home, The Tramshed. 

The Cardiff festival run by students from the University of South Wales hopes to raise awareness for the venues and local acts the pandemic has put at risk.  

The event runs from 29th – 31st of January and hopes to support struggling artists through the pandemic by reaching out to over forty thousand screens. 

The Kelly Line perform at the Immersed! festival, Cardiff. Image by Liv Davies

Welsh music label Libertino Records owner, Gruff Owen said: “2020 was such a negative and devastating year for all the arts but especially the live music sector. 

“Better days will come, and music is integral in lifting us up again.”  

There will be a debate in the Senedd next week in response to the Culture Committee’s report on the live music industry during the pandemic. 

A Welsh Government Spokesperson, said: “One of our main areas of support to date has been supporting grassroots music venues, who are at the heart of access to live music in Wales.

“During the last 12 months, we have supported 22 venues through our Grass Roots Music Venues Fund. In addition the Cultural Recovery Fund provided support of £3.3m for 38 live music venues.”

Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan is a champion for live music in the city and a member of the culture select committee. He has urged the UK Government to provide a sector-specific insurance scheme as it did for the film and television industry. He said: “Our £1.76 billion live sector is a key part of what makes the creative industries in the UK so successful.

“While a number of festivals and events have been able to adapt and innovate by moving online, this will not be enough to survive yet another year of cancellations.”

Words by Emily Price.

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