Snow Patrol, Ash and Van Morrison are among a group of nearly 150 artists calling on Northern Ireland’s government to save the country’s music industry.
The musicians wrote a letter to the Department For Communities (DfC) asking them to provide “urgent financial support” to venues, musicians and those working behind the scenes.
Writing to former minister Deirdre Hargey, the collective said the coronavirus pandemic would have “serious implications” for the industry. “As a result of COVID-19, the work of many in the music sector has come to an end overnight,” the letter read.
It continued to explain that while cancelling events and festivals had been necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus, “a vast majority of individuals who rely on music as their primary source of income” would also be negatively impacted by the move.
“We have never been more at risk,” the artists wrote. “Music and the arts must be protected and we need urgent financial support to survive in any recognisable form.” They added the effects of the pandemic were being felt by all parts of the music community in Northern Ireland, “from individual freelancers and micro-businesses to grassroots organisations, local music initiatives and established companies”.
“Swift action must be taken to safeguard and invest in the future of an industry which has significant economic, cultural and social benefits for Northern Ireland,” the letter concluded.
Speaking to the BBC, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody said: “There are no gigs and there will be no gigs in the foreseeable future. An artist that needs gigs to live day-to-day, has one or two gigs every weekend and needs that money to pay the rent, to buy food, they just disappeared and, to be honest, they’ll be gone for a while.
“There’s so much other stuff that goes on in the background that people don’t witness, there’s so many freelance workers in music as well as the musicians, the struggling musicians themselves, that are feeling, not just the bite of this, it’s swallowing people whole.”
Other artists who signed the letter, which was sent in May but only just made public, include Soak, Two Door Cinema Club, Stiff Little Fingers, and Neil Hannon.
Carál Ní Chuilín, the current Communities Minister, has since responded to the letter, saying she will talk to organisations about providing funding to help the music industry. Earlier this week (July 1), she announced a £4 million fund to help the arts in Northern Ireland.
“As an immediate next step I intend to engage directly with organisations to agree the detail of how the funds might best be put to swift use,” she said. “This pandemic has exposed the financial vulnerability of our arts and cultural organisations, many of whom are household names.”
According to research conducted by UK Music, music tourism in Northern Ireland generated approximately £90 million in spending in 2018, while more than 1,000 jobs equivalent to a full-time role were sustained by just music tourism in the country.
Yesterday (July 2), the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign launched, encouraging fans to write to their local MP in a bid to save the UK’s music scene.