Rolling lockdowns, social restrictions, entertainment curfews and the inability for large crowds to gather have all had a profound effect on the way we've lived our lives over the last eight months. Of all the industries that the British economy relies on to keep trucking along, the music sector is far from insignificant, contributing close to six billion pounds in 2019 and, pre-pandemic, employing over 200,000 people. Despite the easing measures intended by the national furlough scheme, self employed support and various emergency funds for displaced creative workers and businesses, tens of thousands of people are still out of work, and facing hardship over the coming months.
Apologies for kicking off with a doom-and-gloom introduction, but let's face it, it's a pretty damn dire situation. The wide-sweeping action by the British Government did, to their credit, save this situation from becoming a whole lot worse. However, there are still vast swathes of music industry workers who slipped straight through this broad net, and have no prospect of money coming in until at least Easter 2021. Artists and performers, stage crews, technicians - the freelance live music sector as a whole frankly - are still looking towards uncertain futures, despite the prospective light at the end of the big-pharma vaccine tunnel. It really is a problem that needs addressing, and fast.
ok there's a problem, but where to start?
Simply put, the live events industry needs to start rolling again as soon as it can. So that means promoters and bookers need to be able to start rescheduling their shows. How does that happen? Depending on the size of the event, in various ways. For the thousands of major events that happen across the UK each year, it's very likely that the first port of call is a booking agency. As musicians and promoters ourselves, we've got to know our region's booking agencies and agents well over the years.
One of the most reverred in the Southwest is Midnight Mango, a nine-strong dedicated team who collectively look after a whole multi-genre range of amazing artists, securing them performances at events and festivals, and arranging their shows and tours internationally. That is, until the pandemic reached our shores. With all shows pulled, festivals cancelled and tours on hold indefinitely, the income that would usually keep these guys and girls going quickly dried up. It's not like there wasn't work to do though. Every contracted show needed cancelling or postponing, including all travels plans, stage crews, accommodation... a huge amount of work goes into these events behind the scenes to make them happen, and all that work had to be undone.
Now, with the recent announcement of potential vaccines and hopeful prospects of restrictions easing by Easter, they're already under pressure from all sides to begin looking to reschedule everything again. The issue, as many will have already realised, is that the agents don't get paid until the shows happen. So how can agencies who have exhausted their capital just staying afloat since March, suddenly start paying the full time wages needed in order to help bring the music industry back to its feet next year?
enter... midnight mango's lockdown fund, and our flagship contribution
Understanding the greater importance of getting the Southwest's agents back to work, we contacted Midnight Mango and offered our assistance. Before long, a plan was forming. A selection of artists from their roster agreed to donate tracks, which we compiled to produce a limited edition vinyl pressing dubbed 'Lockdown Songs'. These records became the flagship award in a new Crowdfunder campaign recently launched by Midnight Mango, which aims to create a fund to help freelance booking agents back to work, in turn giving the live events industry the kickstart it needs to get back into gear for the Spring 2021.
Midnight Mango took it a step further still with a range of merchandise, and acts on their roster even stepped up to offer VIP tickets to rescheduled tour shows next year. At the time of writing, their Lockdown Fund already starts at 85% of its initial target, but the more capital they can raise, the more booking agents they can support, the more events can be scheduled for 2021, and the quicker the music industry can go back to doing what it does best: putting on a damn good show. Right now, that's just about the most exciting prospect we can think of.
Check out the Crowdfunder here, and pick yourself up a limited edition Lockdown Songs compilation.
"this is all great, but what more can i do?"
No matter our own personal situations, we need to recognise that for many people, we're not out of the proverbial woods yet. We've said it before, but if you're reading this you very likely have friends in the music industry. When was the last time you spoke to them? Reached out, checked they're doing alright? With lockdown restrictions potentially reducing in the coming weeks, it may be a great opportunity to catch up with a few of those you've accidentally lost touch with this year. The holidays can be a solitary time for many, so just make sure you're there for those who need you most.