By Andy Malt | Posted on Wednesday, May 6, 2020
A new study published by the Music Producers Guild shows that almost half of commercial recording studios in the UK are at risk of closure within three months as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. The trade body is calling on the government for additional support to ensure these businesses survive during the public health crisis.
While concert halls have benefited to some extent from holidays and grants to help them through the lockdown, MPG says studios have not been offered similar support, although they have also been largely constrained to close entirely due to social distancing rules.
Among engineers and producers who rent production space, the risk of closure is even higher, with 73% saying they will have to close shop in the near future without more support. Currently, many rely on landlords and local authorities to offer discounts on rent and rates.
Soho’s legendary Dean Street Studios said it won’t go until the end of this month unless additional support is offered. His two biggest overheads are quarterly rent payments — which have been deferred for this quarter — and rates — which he is not eligible for relief for. He says he has applied for government funding in case of hardship, but has yet to receive a response.
Its managing director, Jasmin Lee, says: “Studios seem to be at the bottom of the food chain in the music industry, still being beaten on pricing. For those of us who are self-employed, it’s always day-to-day about finances. A lot of us put all of our savings into starting our studios and keeping our doors open.”
Explaining the situation in more detail, producer Ben Hillier – who runs the Agricultural Audio studio and works as a live session musician – explains: “I was expecting to spend most of the year playing live to promote the next Nadine Shah album. All upcoming concerts have been cancelled, all bookings at my studios have been canceled or are subject to cancellation. All of my work is collaborative and generally cannot continue under the current restrictions.”
“I can theoretically continue to mix without the presence of artists but, even if I could suddenly do magic mixing sessions, the recording sessions of these projects will have been disrupted”, he continues. “I can keep my head above water right now, but the engineers and assistants who rely on my projects don’t have much to fall back on. We try to generate all the work we can to keep people busy, and maybe even paid, but without some form of help from industry or government, things look bleak.”
Commenting on the situation, MPG executive director Olga FitzRoy said: “The UK has some of the best recording studios in the world, but unless the government steps in with immediate support, half of these studios won’t be around when things return to normal, and the repercussions for the entire industry will be disastrous.”
“[The government’s] The Culture Secretary recently said he wanted to protect ‘basic architecture’ in the creative industries,” she adds. “If studios like Dean Street, where Bowie recorded ‘Ashes To Ashes’, aren’t considered worth saving, then I don’t know what is.”
Regarding existing government support initiatives, such as government guaranteed loans that were made available at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, FitzRoy continued, “I don’t know of any studio that was able to access a ready. Banks refuse to lend or only offer commercial packages at interest rates of 18-20%. And a lot [studios] are put off [anyway] because they have to pay commercial tariffs after twelve months and they plan to close their business rather than accumulate debts that they cannot repay”.
The new ‘rebound’ loan scheme announced by the government this week is ‘a step in the right direction’, adds FitzRoy, ‘but the government needs to increase the interest-free period to 24 months to give studios and engineers a fighting chance. to fight. recovery”.
Elsewhere, more than 50 members of the House of Lords signed last week a letter published by The Telegraph calling for greater specific government support for the creative industries during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Music and the arts help define the kind of society we are,” they wrote. “If we want them to survive this emergency, an urgent package of sector-specific financial support – similar to the €50 billion program in Germany – is desperately needed. Without significant intervention of this type, the cultural sector could be irreparably damaged at the end of this crisis”.
The letter was welcomed by the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, which has itself researched the effects of the current lockdown on musicians and music companies.
Last month he said the government’s initial coronavirus business interruption loan program was ‘not fit for purpose’after a survey of music businesses and organizations showed that none had received any money under the scheme – with around half saying they had received no response to their inquiries.
At that time, a third of respondents said they were a week away from having to lay off their entire workforce, while 25% said they were at risk of closing without support.