stage front with crowd

COVID 19 AND THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: DAVID GLOVER, PRODUCER

David Glover is a record producer operating out of a studio in Sheffield. He is also a session musician (bass) and writer.

We interviewed David Glover on 27/7/20, after the government’s announcement of limited funding for small venues and the general easing of lockdown measures implemented in June/July.

How did Covid-19 affect your income and/or earnings in the weeks immediately following lockdown?

Within five days of lockdown, I lost around £3,000 of work due to recording artists cancelling their sessions in my studio. I didn’t really do any work then until July, but the recording work is now picking up and I expect to be at or around pre-lockdown levels next month, but how long it will last is another question.

Did you apply for any Covid-19 loans or grants and were you successful?

I fell between two stools as far as government support is concerned – I’m not self-employed, so could not apply for the SEISS, and I’m a director (not an employee) of my own company , so could not use the job retention scheme. I did apply and receive a £500 financial hardship grant from the helpmusicians.org.uk scheme.

I don’t pay business rates separately, so I couldn’t claim the rent relief available. I applied for universal credit (UC), but because my girlfriend is a ceramist and earning, we were only awarded a small amount in our joint UC claim. I did get a discretionary grant of £3,000 from the council related to premises/rent, but it has been very tough financially.

[I made a grant application to the Arts Council pre-Covid under their “developing your creative practice” stream – this is a new development fund designed to support independent creative practitioners. I was waiting to hear about whether I’d been successful but the scheme was suspended with lockdown.]

Have you developed new ways of working, or diversified what you do, in response to the impact of Covid-19?

My producing work was immediately affected by lockdown – I had a band booked in to the studio for five days to make an EP which became impossible due to travel/distancing guidance because half the band are from London and the other half are from Sheffield. I lost around £1,250 from the cancellation of this EP: this amount would have covered the studio costs and started to pay me. I’m still trying to reschedule this EP recording.

As a writer and producer, I’m used to working with a group of people (usually a band), and this work immediately disappeared with lockdown. I did a bit of mixing from home initially, and more recently have done a bit of live streaming from my studio – this is something I’m going to have to do instead of my session work as live gigs won’t be happening for a while.

I’ve done three live streams so far, but am wondering about how to monetise streaming. Up-and-coming bands like those I work with can’t afford to charge £10 a ticket like artists such as Laura Marling did for her recent Union Chapel stream. There is a danger that the streaming side gets over-saturated – there’s already lots of low quality streaming out there, but it’s expensive to do properly (you need a studio and typically a crew of three people). It’s mainly labels that are putting out the high-quality streaming at present, but this doesn’t help the grass roots/unsigned artists.

In recent weeks, working practices have settled in to a “new normal” (masks in the control room, 5-person limit on the number of people working in the studio) but the amount of work is not back to pre-lockdown levels. It is really difficult to forecast how things will go, but lots of the bands I work with are on indie labels so, without the touring that is vital to fund album recordings, this will have a knock on effect on my studio work in 2021.

What about alternative sources of income other than that earned in the music industry?

I don’t have any source of income outside the music industry – in a typical year I earn 85% from producing and 15% from my session work. However, if I get a chunky 3-4 week tour, this session work is lucrative and can mean I make up to 25% of annual income from playing bass. One thing I can say positively about not being able to record or play live music – it has given me the chance to rewire the studio and have a proper clear out!

How do you see yourself emerging from lockdown in the medium and longer term?

At the moment, there’s a bit of a surge in people wanting to use the studio (some may have been extra-creative over lockdown, or saved some money to fund a recording), so I think I’ll stay busy through September. But I’m feeling pessimistic about how long this bounceback will last, and feel a lot less certain about how much studio work I will have from October onwards.

There’s quite a bit of excitement around at the moment – people feel they can start working again – but I think this will tail off quite quickly when they realise they can’t tour to promote and sell the output of their lockdown creativity, and also how difficult it is to monetise streaming.

What about support for the arts from national and local government and agencies? What do you think needs to be done to help artists and venues access information and sources of financial support?

I feel like the government should have supported individual artists more quickly. I know £1.5 billion is being made available, but the details of the scheme are sketchy and I’m not sure even if individual artists will be eligible. It’s been a very stressful time for everyone – I’ve got friends who do front-of-house at big venues and they say there’s so much uncertainty around. The government presents this optimistic view, and they have a recovery roadmap, but everything is still so uncertain.

If the package of support focuses on venues and buildings, rather than artists, sooner or later these venues will run out of material to present because all the artists and musicians have had to go off and do something else – artists and venues are co-dependant. The whole infrastructure of the industry needs help for the music industry as a whole to move forward, not just venues, but artists, studios, rehearsal spaces, crew, P.A companies etc … the lot.

I did a lot of google searching during lockdown to discover sources of financial support for people in the music industry. I also read information from the PRS and also kept checking the Arts Council website – they announced something last week, which I need to read up on. I’m not sure how the region could help, but some support with the cost of renting rehearsal space, or other performing spaces, would be good.

Jobs in the music industry will change as new ways of working are established – how should training opportunities develop to meet the needs of the “new normal”?

Colleges will need to adapt what they teach to reflect the new job roles in the industry post-Covid. People already in the industry, but in traditional touring jobs, will struggle if there’s a big switch to streaming, or live touring doesn’t restart anytime soon. Front-of-house people, stage techs and those involved in selling merch on tour will probably have to quickly look outside the industry for work.

Live music is vital for the wellbeing of people, but how can we get this message across to politicians and funders?

Music makes a massive contribution to the nation’s finances, but also to the wellbeing of all of us, but it’s often difficult to demonstrate or measure this contribution.

David Glover is a record producer operating out of a studio in Sheffield. He is also a session musician (bass) and writer.

We interviewed David Glover on 27/7/20, after the government’s announcement of limited funding for small venues and the general easing of lockdown measures implemented in June/July.

How did Covid-19 affect your income and/or earnings in the weeks immediately following lockdown?

Within five days of lockdown, I lost around £3,000 of work due to recording artists cancelling their sessions in my studio. I didn’t really do any work then until July, but the recording work is now picking up and I expect to be at or around pre-lockdown levels next month, but how long it will last is another question.

Did you apply for any Covid-19 loans or grants and were you successful?

I fell between two stools as far as government support is concerned – I’m not self-employed, so could not apply for the SEISS, and I’m a director (not an employee) of my own company , so could not use the job retention scheme. I did apply and receive a £500 financial hardship grant from the helpmusicians.org.uk scheme.

I don’t pay business rates separately, so I couldn’t claim the rent relief available. I applied for universal credit (UC), but because my girlfriend is a ceramist and earning, we were only awarded a small amount in our joint UC claim. I did get a discretionary grant of £3,000 from the council related to premises/rent, but it has been very tough financially.

[I made a grant application to the Arts Council pre-Covid under their “developing your creative practice” stream – this is a new development fund designed to support independent creative practitioners. I was waiting to hear about whether I’d been successful but the scheme was suspended with lockdown.]

Have you developed new ways of working, or diversified what you do, in response to the impact of Covid-19?

My producing work was immediately affected by lockdown – I had a band booked in to the studio for five days to make an EP which became impossible due to travel/distancing guidance because half the band are from London and the other half are from Sheffield. I lost around £1,250 from the cancellation of this EP: this amount would have covered the studio costs and started to pay me. I’m still trying to reschedule this EP recording.

As a writer and producer, I’m used to working with a group of people (usually a band), and this work immediately disappeared with lockdown. I did a bit of mixing from home initially, and more recently have done a bit of live streaming from my studio – this is something I’m going to have to do instead of my session work as live gigs won’t be happening for a while.

I’ve done three live streams so far, but am wondering about how to monetise streaming. Up-and-coming bands like those I work with can’t afford to charge £10 a ticket like artists such as Laura Marling did for her recent Union Chapel stream. There is a danger that the streaming side gets over-saturated – there’s already lots of low quality streaming out there, but it’s expensive to do properly (you need a studio and typically a crew of three people). It’s mainly labels that are putting out the high-quality streaming at present, but this doesn’t help the grass roots/unsigned artists.

In recent weeks, working practices have settled in to a “new normal” (masks in the control room, 5-person limit on the number of people working in the studio) but the amount of work is not back to pre-lockdown levels. It is really difficult to forecast how things will go, but lots of the bands I work with are on indie labels so, without the touring that is vital to fund album recordings, this will have a knock on effect on my studio work in 2021.

What about alternative sources of income other than that earned in the music industry?

I don’t have any source of income outside the music industry – in a typical year I earn 85% from producing and 15% from my session work. However, if I get a chunky 3-4 week tour, this session work is lucrative and can mean I make up to 25% of annual income from playing bass. One thing I can say positively about not being able to record or play live music – it has given me the chance to rewire the studio and have a proper clear out!

How do you see yourself emerging from lockdown in the medium and longer term?

At the moment, there’s a bit of a surge in people wanting to use the studio (some may have been extra-creative over lockdown, or saved some money to fund a recording), so I think I’ll stay busy through September. But I’m feeling pessimistic about how long this bounceback will last, and feel a lot less certain about how much studio work I will have from October onwards.

There’s quite a bit of excitement around at the moment – people feel they can start working again – but I think this will tail off quite quickly when they realise they can’t tour to promote and sell the output of their lockdown creativity, and also how difficult it is to monetise streaming.

What about support for the arts from national and local government and agencies? What do you think needs to be done to help artists and venues access information and sources of financial support?

I feel like the government should have supported individual artists more quickly. I know £1.5 billion is being made available, but the details of the scheme are sketchy and I’m not sure even if individual artists will be eligible. It’s been a very stressful time for everyone – I’ve got friends who do front-of-house at big venues and they say there’s so much uncertainty around. The government presents this optimistic view, and they have a recovery roadmap, but everything is still so uncertain.

If the package of support focuses on venues and buildings, rather than artists, sooner or later these venues will run out of material to present because all the artists and musicians have had to go off and do something else – artists and venues are co-dependant. The whole infrastructure of the industry needs help for the music industry as a whole to move forward, not just venues, but artists, studios, rehearsal spaces, crew, P.A companies etc ... the lot.

I did a lot of google searching during lockdown to discover sources of financial support for people in the music industry. I also read information from the PRS and also kept checking the Arts Council website – they announced something last week, which I need to read up on. I’m not sure how the region could help, but some support with the cost of renting rehearsal space, or other performing spaces, would be good.

Jobs in the music industry will change as new ways of working are established – how should training opportunities develop to meet the needs of the “new normal”?

Colleges will need to adapt what they teach to reflect the new job roles in the industry post-Covid. People already in the industry, but in traditional touring jobs, will struggle if there’s a big switch to streaming, or live touring doesn’t restart anytime soon. Front-of-house people, stage techs and those involved in selling merch on tour will probably have to quickly look outside the industry for work.

Live music is vital for the wellbeing of people, but how can we get this message across to politicians and funders?

Music makes a massive contribution to the nation’s finances, but also to the wellbeing of all of us, but it’s often difficult to demonstrate or measure this contribution.

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