The entire UK music industry could be “chopped off at the ankles” if small venues are not supported as the nation comes out of lockdown, according to an Aberdeen live music bar.
Craig Adams, representing the worker’s collective which owns and runs tiki dive bar Krakatoa on Trinity Quay, was one of over 500 signatories on an open letter to the UK government from grassroots music venues across the country.
The letter calls for an immediate £50 million financial support package and a reduction on VAT on future ticket sales – measures which it says are critical for the survival of the sector over the next three months.
Craig believes, while Krakatoa is in a relatively stable position, a lack of action from the government could initiate a series of disasters and ultimately cause the precarious industry to collapse.
He said: “We can completely mothball the venue if the worst happens. But it means most of us would have to find alternative employment or go on Universal Credit.
“At least we’re able to mothball.
“The issue is for other venues who don’t have that ability, because they’ve got rent to pay, or some other cost like mortgages. The problem for them is that they might not be able to reopen.
“And now we have this very strict noise legislation, it’s very expensive to open a new venue, because of all of this soundproofing you’ve got to put in. In our case we spent £250,000 on that – it’s a massive capital outlay for anyone thinking of doing this, which makes it cost-prohibitive.
“If these other venues close down around the country in their hundreds, nothing’s going to come along and replace them.
“There’s going to be no joined-up touring system if so many of these venues close down. The whole industry will collapse. And if that happens, where do the next artists come from?
“No one plays their first gig in an arena, every major artist starts out playing the grassroots circuit.
“The UK industry’s a massive industry, it generates a massive amount of money for the UK economy. It pays a lot of tax. But we stand to lose all of that if we chop it off at the ankles.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Among the pressing issues facing Krakatoa are the need for a new ventilation system – adhering to guidance from government scientific advisory group SAGE – and imminent changes to the furlough system.
From August, employers will be asked to cover costs such as national insurance and pensions. The following month, the government will pay 70% of furloughed staff salaries with employers topping up the extra 10%.
Then, in October, the government percentage will lower to 60%, with employers covering 20%.
“What this means is, any business that can’t afford to pay that 20% because it’s closed and it’s not trading and there’s no money coming in, isn’t going to be able to claim furlough payments,” said Craig.
“We’ve got no money coming in at all, because we’re completely closed, but we will still have to make up this extra 20% under the government’s rules, so where’s that money going to come from?
“We’ll be OK in the short-term, because we’ve already got a bit of a war chest anyway. But what about places that don’t have that? How are they going to get to the point of being able to make this extra 20%?
“It’s completely unfair. It’s very elitist.”
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We are doing all we can to support our grassroots music venues through substantial financial measures including loans and the extended Job Retention Scheme that thousands of individuals and organisations have accessed.
“We are working directly with representatives from the industry on detailed guidance to help its recovery and renewal.”
The full open letter can be found at www.scribd.com/document/466569754/Open-Letter-to-the-UK-Government