Jazz musicians and volunteer promoters – falling between the cracks

Whilst this paper deals with jazz musicians and volunteer promoters it would be equally applicable to many genres from folk to brass bands and from indie music to rap.

This paper reinforces the findings of the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors: First Report by the select committee for Digital Culture Media and Sport. MPs say the response of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been hampered by the Department’s fundamental misunderstanding across Government of the needs, structures and vital social contribution of sectors such as the creative industries. The Report finds the loss of performing arts institutions and cultural workers would put at risk the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and reverse decades of progress in cultural provision, diversity and inclusion.

The paper highlights the problems experienced by jazz musicians and jazz promoters in terms of funding and access to funds for self-employed musicians who are falling between the cracks.

The £1.5 billion recovery funding for arts and culture is to be welcomed along with the lowering of VAT to 5% for concerts. Regrettably, there are concerns about the delivery of the fund and the criteria that have been set by the DCMS. The fund is designed to support the survival of cultural and heritage organisations that are of international or national cultural significance, or that contribute to the levelling-up agenda, and that are at risk of no longer trading viably by the end of this financial year. Swathes of individuals and volunteer organisations crucial to a healthy music seen will fall through this particular crack. Bands and musicians do not suddenly arrive at the O2 Arena there is an infrastructure that assiduously works to get them there and if that infrastructure is left to flounder through a lack of investment, the UK will lose its competitive edge, in terms of music development, music exports and “soft power”.

Who determines who is of national cultural significance? As the Arts Council is delivering the fund, there is a potential for a conflict of interests between Arts Council funded National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and all the many organisations who do not receive funds form Arts Council England who will all be applying to the fund. The Arts Council to its great credit has produced full reports on the expenditure of their emergency funds to date of £64.8 million invested in 9,666 people and organisations plus £33 million to 196 National Portfolio organisations. However a “snap” audit is essential of those individuals and organisations who have received funds plus the title of the emergency funding scheme that provided these funds. This audit is crucial in order to identify those people and organisations that are falling between the cracks.

There is a problem with the ministerial task forces – they are not joined up. The arts are in the hands of the DCMS, whilst pubs and restaurants are with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Pubs and restaurants enable a great deal of music making, entertainment, maturing circuits, comedy clubs. A prima facie example is the Pizza Express restaurant chain.

There is a flaw in the Entertainments and Events Working Group comprising 49 organisations. 69% of the organisations are based in London and 31% outside of the M25. Of the 49 members only two organisations are representative of diverse communities.

It is crucially important that with a new post-Covid and Brexit landscape a national arts plan is developed that ensures that the arts and culture play a part in healing the nation and drives the export of arts and culture. To make this happen the arts requires a reformation in arts funding with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts, entertainment and culture where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.

The Government should retain the 5% VAT rate for the performing arts and entertainment for the long term to assist recovery.

See below to download the full paper:

Jazz Musicians and volunteer promoters – falling between the cracks

The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture Media and Sport and are awaiting a reply.