Boris Johnson should have known better but he didn’t. Neither did his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who is more directly responsible.
You see, after he announced that he was re-focusing government support to concentrate only on “viable” employment, Sunak had to answer questions about what was to be done with people whose jobs were “unviable”, according to his reckoning.
His answer? “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” He wanted people to re-train for different jobs.
No doubt he is now left wondering why people in some employment sectors have taken his words as an attack…
… especially after a government advert that appeared today:
HM Government’s next job could be in the workshop of the prison where they’re serving their sentences for corruption. They just don’t know it yet. pic.twitter.com/Ntp00WpL4Y
— Mike Harrison (@mjohnharrison) October 12, 2020
It specifically targets entertainers – “Fatima” is a ballet dancer, and therefore belongs to a highly-exclusive corner of the live entertainment sector.
And it suggests that her time would be better-spent working at a desk, in front of a computer, making money for somebody else. Hence this response:
— Mark 'Being sure to wipe carefully' T (@Spungletwit) October 12, 2020
(Of course the reference is to the fact that the government lost more than 16,000 positive Covid-19 traces because it was recording them on an Excel spreadsheet that ran out of fields.)
Others have responded equally bitingly – and often amusingly. I’ll intersperse what follows with some of these.
But it is important to mention the elephant in this particular room: the fact that entertainment is a multi-billion pound industry that deserves government support that Sunak and Johnson aren’t providing.
The case was made very well by Rou Reynolds. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the lead singer of the band Enter Shikari – a personal favourite of This Writer’s stepdaughter, before you all start labouring under illusions that I’m suddenly “with it”.
In an open letter to Sunak, published by that venerable pop periodical Kerrang!, he made the case for entertainers to receive support – and he made it well:
Musicians rely on live performance for their main source of income.
The music industry has been one of the most drastically hit industries throughout the whole [Covid-19] crisis. And as the government furlough scheme ends in a few weeks, your government has decided to give the least amount of support for one of the hardest hit industries.
Like a fish writhing in the dust at the bottom of a drained lake, in losing the option of gigging, those in the music industry have been deprived of their life-source.
And the government is standing on what was once the shoreline, suggesting to the fish that it retrains as an elephant.
Not sure the new HM Government ad has entirely judged its tone right. pic.twitter.com/gbrNwR9JyB
— Ian Rennie (@theangelremiel) October 12, 2020
Most people in the music industry are now being told they no longer have a “viable job” and must retrain or otherwise adapt. There is to be no financial support for them. This, from the same government that wasted £2 billion on helping businesses that are actually thriving during the pandemic. From the same government that wasted millions painting planes, handing out dodgy coronavirus contracts to its ill-equipped pals and employing inept private companies to do jobs they aren’t trained for.
— Clifford K 🇪🇺 (@holte) October 12, 2020
Lots of people are rightly focusing on the economics, pointing out that the music industry adds £5 billion a year to the UK economy. Live music specifically adds the same amount as the whole of the UK fishing industry.
But I would argue that even more important than the economics, live music creates community, friendships and it brings people together indiscriminately – something that this country desperately needs. It is a reliable tonic for our mental health, both for the performers and the listeners. It heals, it unites, it gives hope, it provides escape, it motivates us and it connects us.
— Ganymede & Titan (@ganymedetitan) October 12, 2020
Of course, these things are not measured in our economic statistics. Nor do they seem to be acknowledged at all.
Telling artists to diversify, retrain, or simply get another job is even odd in itself, to be honest. Most artists do have other jobs already. Most artists juggle multiple aspects of their own career already. Many could attempt to get more hours in the jobs they have outside of the music industry and just what…? Leave it to rot? Leave it in the safe hands of the well-funded, “establishment-approved” mainstream, and lose all the beautiful diversity and nuance of the underground, the alternative and the more esoteric scenes? The very scenes that have made UK music the world’s most inventive and leading cultural force for decades.
That Cyber First / HM Government 'Rethink Reskill Reboot' ad with Fatima the ballerina is really inspiring…
— Division Order (@divisionorderuk) October 12, 2020
And it’s not just artists that are going to struggle either without support, is it? It’s not just whinging, complaining singers like me!
You remember those iceberg diagrams? The musicians are the little bit of the iceberg we see above the water. Look below the surface and you witness the true extent of the colossal size of the industry: it’s huge.
It’s the stage technicians, lighting designers, engineers, management and production teams, agents, press teams, media, photographers, videographers, promoters, venue staff, security, bus and truck drivers, caterers, even the kebab shop near the venue that relies on the gig-goer’s custom to keep its doors open. What happens to them?
And if you remove an artist’s main source of income, how are they then supposed to afford to record new music? You’re then impacting the record producers, the studio engineers, the mixing and mastering engineers, the session musicians, the video directors and music video production teams, the labels and the publishers.
You and your government must reconsider.
Rou Reynolds (unviable content creator, awaiting retraining)
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