Leeds musicians speak out over lack of COVID support

Musicians, event organisers and those within the industry are speaking have faced great challenges during the global pandemic and believe that the government could be doing more to help them.

While the coronavirus pandemic has affected the livelihoods of millions across the UK, musicians are finding unique ways to return to practising and performing.

21 October saw a spectacular performance in Leeds Town Hall as part of the Royal Academy of Music’s Leeds Lunchtime Chamber Music events. The key difference with yesterday’s event was how socially distanced the audience were, with all chairs spaced six feet apart.

James Gilbert (clarinet) and Matthew Kitteringham (bassoon) impressed their audience with music from Beethoven, Gordon Jacob, Oscar Lorenzo Fernández and Poulenc.

While certain events are still able to continue, the rehearsals for these performances are still subject to changes with many practice sessions being reduced to certain instruments to limit group sizes and screens being used to physically separate musicians.

Joe Allen, a Leeds based musician, music director and orchestra manager, has been out of professional music work since the lockdown in March and has estimated a £3000 loss in earnings which he would have had from performing during the summer.

We spoke to Joe about what it means to be a professional musician during covid, how it has affected practicing and performing and his opinion on the government’s response to musicians and artists.

“Artists are having to do Zoom sessions rather than studio sessions to work with their producers and song writers and obviously this will hinder the creative process,” says Jasmine Paterson, a music industry professional who manages the social media accounts of large musicians.

“Because there’s less income coming in for certain artists, people are having to make cut-backs within their teams. I work in social media management and some artists just can’t afford it, they’re cutting back on the social agencies.”

“The main thing is gigging. A lot of the music industry is freelance so there’s a lot of light engineers, sound engineers, runners – people behind the scenes that are part of live events who are out of a job right now because they’re technically self-employed freelancers,” Jasmine said.

It’s writing on water. Every time you think it’s going to be a certain way or you think you’ve got it sussed out, it just washes away.

Joe Allen

The music community has been outspoken against the government’s lack of support during the pandemic.

The Musicians’ Union has compiled lists of petitions and crowdfunding sites where musicians and supporters can aid the industry.

The MU has also found that 37% of professional musicians are considering abandoning their careers music in wake of the coronavirus pandemic and that 87% of musicians will be earning less than £20,000 this year.

2020 has been a difficult year for people in all industries, trying to adapt and change to work in these times. We can only hope that, once the coronavirus is truly behind us, we’ll still have music and live events to enjoy.

About the Author

Kane Daly
LeedsNow journalist

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