Music industry facing ‘grave difficulties’, says trade body chairman Tom Watson

The music industry is facing “grave difficulties” and the Government should help it recover once the lockdown is lifted, UK Music chairman Tom Watson has said.

The former Labour Party deputy leader, who now works for the body which represents the industry’s commercial interest, said that “everyone is hurting” in the sector.

He told BBC Radio 6 Music: “You know, this is a sector that keeps 190,000 people in work – three-quarters of them unemployed.

Labour Party Conference
Tom Watson said the sector keeps 190,000 people in work (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Despite what the headlines say, most of them are on very low wages, below average wages, and most musicians and creators have worked in the gig economy before the gig economy was invented, and they’re losing income.”

He added that studio managers have reported a “three-quarters fall in their contracts” and the Music Managers Forum have said that £50 million has been lost in live music already.

The former politician said that despite the challenges it is also “a sector that’s swinging together” with “six or seven hardship funds” in place to help musicians.

“Everyone is swinging in to support their own, but we’re seeing very tough times in the sector,” he said.

Mr Watson added that it is “very hard” to say when the lockdown will end.

However, he said there is a “great imperative” for the Government to help the industry – which he said is worth £5.2 billion to the economy each year – get back on its feet after restrictions are lifted.

Labour’s deputy leader post
Mr Watson was formerly deputy leader of the Labour Party (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added that UK Music’s long-term ambition is that post-Brexit, the sector becomes the Prime Minister’s “calling card to all global capitals” when new trade deals are negotiated.

Mr Watson was appointed to his role with UK Music last month.