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How will Covid-19 change the music industry as we know it?

Updated: May 29, 2020

Such a funny thing life is. Just when the whole of the UK music industry was asking the question ‘How will Brexit affect us?’ and we all thought that our biggest challenge in 2020/2021 would perhaps consist of overly complicated tour and distribution arrangements, life and nature reminded us that their power extends way beyond that of politics and economic deals. Glastonbury, SXSW, Coachella, The Great Escape, MIDEM and Eurovision are only a small part of the numerous big music events that were postponed (or delayed, for now) as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with the rescheduling of other large-scale events, such as the UEFA Euro Championship and the Olympics, and with a super long list of acts whose shows and tours have been cancelled or rescheduled, 2020 begins to look like something that no-one actually thought it would be.

But what does the worldwide state of emergency actually mean to our industry? How do the current circumstances affect it, and will they lead to a change in the way it is structured?

As almost any other kind of industry, ours is customer-oriented, and the customers are those who make it work. Well, the customers certainly haven’t gone anywhere, even as a matter of fact, they have probably never been so ‘not-going-anywhere’ in a very long time. This clearly does have a negative impact at present. Only less than half a year ago UK Music revealed that out of the £5.2 billion contribution of the music industry to the UK economy in 2018, the live music sector’s contribution was equal to £1.1 billion. However, from the examples mentioned at the beginning, we can only try to guess what the financial impact on this year’s music business will be. We can perhaps only easily assume that the live sector numbers in the reports on 2020 won’t be even close to the above-stated ones. In fact, a recent survey by the MMF (Music Managers Forum) and the FAC (Featured Artists Coalition) reports seven-figure losses for artists and managers in the UK from cancelled shows, lost record and merch sales, and lost artist-brand deals contracts. But as the old saying goes, ‘what’s important is not if you fall down, but how you get back up’.

The change of circumstances has obviously led to a change in our customers’ behaviour (as reported by DSPs), but they are still here and it may well turn out that they are thirstier than ever for any new piece of content that we can put out there. Not only the lockdown has not really had a negative effect on the music release schedules, but with the now-trending home-based live concerts and with the amount of time that people currently spend on streaming platforms and social media, we can only imagine how much music content is being consumed. Furthermore, it could be stated that the current consumption is of a higher quality, because the current circumstances may possibly mean that consumers are actually paying way more attention to the music content that they are being exposed to.

And to end this on an even more positive note (from a purely business perspective), earlier this week, the Association of Independent Music (AIM) ran the AIM SYNC Conference, despite the tendency of events being cancelled. In fact, the Zoom-YouTube-hosted event turned out to be the first ever entirely online-based conference of this kind, and the 4,000+ attendees from over 20 countries clearly demonstrated that the music industry of 2020 is up for the challenge to keep working, even from home. We surely don’t know what the future has prepared for us, but surely the creative industries people are ‘creative’ enough to adapt and keep finding new ways to reach the audience.

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