London-based saxophonist and composer Aaron Liddard has worked in the bands of Amy Winehouse, Beverley Knight, Bob Geldof and for Prince’s now-legendary 21 days at the 02 Arena. His music encompasses jazz, funk and world music. In this piece he presents his personal view of the future for music and the industry in which he works. It originally appeared on his Facebook page and is re-published here, in full, and with his permission. Aaron writes:
A very supportive and wonderful fan just told me that this is an inconvenient blip for musicians and our industry. I’d like my friends, family and colleagues to be aware that’s a fantasy.
My entire industry has been turned off and we’ve been left up the creek without a paddle.
Government telling us we’re “unskilled” and “not viable” and to re-train as soon as possible. Venues small and large are closing forever. That entire £1.67 billion arts package is being used to mothball some of the larger enterprises but none of it is reaching the workforce.
Any entrepreneurial musician is being threatened with up to £10,000 fine if an event fails to meet ever changing rules and laws.
Most live gigs break even at 60-70% capacity. 30% capacity with zero government support is a big old loss for everyone unless our audience is prepared to pay triple what they’re used to.
If government cared they’d support us by supplementing ticket sales the way they supplemented restaurant bills. Dominic Cummings has been widely quoted as having shouted “tell the ballerinas they can get to the back of the queue.”
Other countries are looking after their arts. But we’re economically barred from visiting.
Quarantine, which is exempt for haulage, medics and other industries requiring travel, is being enforced for travelling musicians. In order to play a single show in France I must isolate for an entire month. In order to work abroad one day I must turn down other work for 30 days. Not to mention finding accommodation and food while I’m quarantining there.
Then, in three months time we’ll need to pay unknown legal fees to go work outside the Brexit barrier because our corrupt and inept political administrators don’t give two hoots about our second largest export. That’s right they’ve killed the second largest contributor to our treasury.
We in the arts might appear eternally happy and aspiring but in the forums we’re discussing which alternate careers to take. Amazon, call centres, TEFL, classroom teaching, post office… most avenues for monetising music have already been closed by streaming and lack of legislation. In recent years we’ve been told “the money is in gigging. Give your music away for free and earn it back by playing shows”. We’ve been mugged into thinking our creativity is unviable unless we give it away and now we’re told we mustn’t try to earn even from the last remaining avenue.
Writing music for libraries is still valid but there’s a two-year lag between doing the work and getting any money. Even busking has gone. My last gig paid 1/5th of minimum wage.
The latest is that we’ll be offered 20% of our net income (loosely 33% of turnover, so 6.5% of our normal gross income) providing we can earn 1/3rd of our normal income from an industry that’s been manipulatively switched off. Let me say that another way, any musician who’s cunning enough to continue working will be given £54 a month boost, while facing potential fines up to £10k.
This is more than an annoying blip.