The good news: The UK music industry’s contribution to the UK economy was up 26% in 2021 compared to 2020. The bad news: It was still down 31% from its pre-pandemic peak in 2019.
These figures were released by UK Music, the umbrella organization of several industry-specific trade bodies in the country, in their new This is music 2022 Report. She used the release of the numbers to urge the UK government to provide more support to the industry to avoid a collapse, stressing their importance to both the domestic economy and its export power.
The UK music business – across all sectors including recorded music, music publishing and live – contributed £4 billion (US$4.56 billion) to the UK economy in 2021. This was an increase from the 3.1 billion pounds ($3.53 billion) generated in 2020. Both years have been hugely affected by the pandemic, with tours and festivals being restricted at various stages.
That growth, while encouraging, still fell drastically short of the £5.8 billion ($6.61 billion) generated in 2019 before the pandemic hit. This was an all-time high for the British music business.
With parts of the industry shutting down completely, over a third of workers were laid off when the pandemic hit in early 2020. That year there were 128,000 jobs across the industry. As the recovery slowed, that number rose to 145,000 in 2021. But that’s still 26% down from the 197,000 jobs in the industry in 2019.
Exports in 2021 were £2.5bn ($2.85bn), up 10% from 2020 – but still 15% below £2.9bn ($3.3bn) that were reported in 2019.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, said government support was badly needed as the industry still faces a “major threat from strong economic headwinds”.
The report notes: “Although music studios were allowed to remain open with restrictions, government-mandated restrictions meant live venues were closed or operated at limited capacity for a significant part of the year. This was a major factor in the decline in the economic contribution of the music industry.”
Njoku-Goodwin added: “It is vital that government acts to protect and support a sector that creates jobs, contributes to the economy and matters to millions of people across our country. The new prime minister [Liz Truss] has said it wants to cut taxes to boost growth. If she’s serious, then she should use the emergency budget to lower the tax burden on the music industry […] This would stimulate investment and boost UK music exports, which are at risk due to increasing international competition and the problems following the UK’s exit from the European Union.”
The British music business has faced a triple threat in recent years.
First, the country’s exit from the European Union (aka Brexit) has made it increasingly difficult and expensive for British artists to tour mainland Europe.
Second, the pandemic has resulted in whole parts of the business being closed and mass layoffs, with skilled professionals having to retrain and seek employment elsewhere, meaning certain sectors, particularly live music, are facing serious staff shortages .
Third, rising energy costs are expected to hit businesses hard, particularly small venues, which have already suffered and are now facing mounting uncertainty. The Government has confirmed that the Energy Bill Relief Scheme will cap wholesale energy prices for all companies for a six month period from October 1st.
There are also major concerns about the cost of living crisis in the UK, where food prices, energy prices, rental costs, mortgage rates and more are rising sharply, as is inflation. People will be forced to severely restrict their spending across the board, with entertainment spending expected to be particularly hard hit.
The domino effect here will be most apparent in the live music business, particularly grassroots venues, and this is something the Music Venue Trust has been campaigning for for several years.
“We have a music industry in the UK that is the envy of the world and a talent pipeline that continues to produce world stars and an army of highly skilled professionals,” said Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. “It is vital that the government works with us to protect and nurture the music industry from the economic turmoil we are facing so that we can get through and create the jobs and investment to make it even stronger than it has been.” before the pandemic.”