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SMIA Activity Update, July 2020

This is an extremely challenging time for all of us. Since the coronavirus crisis escalated in March 2020, the Scottish Music Industry Association has been working at (and above) its full capacity to do its best to achieve its core mission objectives of representing and developing music businesses, and the people behind them, in Scotland. Here is an update on our recent activities.

I am a member of the Creative Industries Advisory Group (CIAG) at Scottish Government, co-chaired by Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture and Bob Last, independent film producer (and for music industry executive, founder of the Fast Product record label). I was been invited to participate in a special CIAG phone meeting on Monday with the First Minister. CIAG has around 30 members but only nine of us were on the call. I am the only member from music in the group. We wanted to give the FM examples of how businesses have been affected by the pandemic. I contacted a cross section of 20 key SMIA members and asked them for feedback. I have compiled these case studies into a report which I have sent to the Cabinet Secretary’s team, at their invitation. They provide useful industry insight. Much of it is heartbreaking.

Our research activities are significant. We’re working on a Grassroots Music Venue project part-funded by Skills Development Scotland. We are conducting a feasibility study for the formation of a Scottish Music Export Office (paid for by our Creative Scotland RFO research budget). A Brexit Impact and Opportunity research project, part-funded by Scottish Enterprise, has begun; the opportunity part is especially crucial currently. And our Music Economy Mapping PhD with University of Glasgow (funded by AHRC via SGSAH, conducted by Robert Allan of Glasvegas, has been revised and refocused and is progressing well. We are working with members on equality, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility research and we are exploring environmental impact and means of mitigating it.

Please complete our current survey: The Impact of Coronavirus on Scotland’s Music Industry (July 2020). The more data we have, the better we can understand the severity of the situation and work out what could and should be done to help.

Our digital-only workshop series continues with valuable topics aimed at helping music businesses cope, pivot and reposition their operations. Our consultancy project Music Business Innovation delivered in-depth business development advice for the four participating companies. Follow up sessions are being revised and refocused due to the pandemic as we try to tailor all of our development programme activities to help people get through the crisis and be in a position to bounce back when the situation improves.

I chaired two discussions at XpoNorth around impact and innovation due to the coronavirus crisis which Fiona Ellis (DF Concerts) from our Company Board and Susan Montgomery (23rd Precinct) from our Advisory Group plus national and international industry professionals such as Lisa Whytock (Active Events). Both sessions were very well received. You can watch them (and many other excellent discussions) back on via the XpoNorth Socio Event App. And we will be delivering a round table discussion at Wide Days exploring trade opportunities between the Scottish music and animation industries.

SAY Award 2020 has launched and, as ever, our small, dedicated team are pouring their heads, heart and soul into the project. Our general manager Robert has written an extensive, meticulously thought-out, beautifully articulated strategy for utilising the SAY Award campaign to showcase recorded and live music activity in Scotland internationally.

Through my own digital media company, my team there and I have been working with Lisa Whytock (Active Events, Showcase Scotland Expo) on a series of dynamic digital showcases and virtual festival projects. These have been very positive and productive, leading to new business opportunities for showcasing artists. I will write up case studies on these projects in the near future. They are inspiring, positive and provide good return on investment. Showcase Scotland Expo’s remit is for folk, traditional, world, roots and acoustic music but the results and processes of these projects point to potential for other scenes and genres; indie, rock and pop, hip hop, electronic, jazz and classical.

We are involved in several conversations around positive practical projects exploring new revenue streams and live performance, live streamed, content monetisation activities. Caroline Parkinson from our Company Board and I are investigating the potential for collaborating with an exciting pan-European project. We will share ideas, results and resources as and when they are ready.

On behalf of SMIA, my colleagues and I are involved in numerous groups. These include CIAG, the Cross Party Group for Music at Holyrood, the RFO Sector Development Organisation Working Group which we helped establish and Creative Scotland’s COVID-19 Reference Group which consists of sector development RFOs and a few other bodies, Creative Scotland staff and Scottish Government civil servants from the creative industries team. We are talking with MMF and MVT, the latter mainly through the extensive work being done by their Scottish representative, Nick Stewart, also an SMIA Company Board director. Nick has been a powerhouse of activity and voice of reason when it comes to the issues faced by grassroots music venues.

We were invited to be part of a new Commercial Music Operator Task Force which includes key live sector representatives like Regular Music, Active Events, DF Concerts, Sneaky Pete’s and others. This group has co-written a letter to Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop in response to the recent announcement of £10M for theatres and performing arts venues which will welcome that news and the UK Government’s £1.57 culture, arts and heritage announcement announced on Sunday; £97M of which will come to Scotland. The Taskforce has made the case for something similar for the commercial music sector. SMIA will support and work with this group as much as possible. It is possible that this group may be temporary, existing to lobby for support for the live sector. SMIA potentially could form and support similar working groups/task forces in the future, if we have the resources to do so.

And the issue of resources is a big one for us. As I said at the start of this update, we are working flat out. More than we are set up to do, to be frank. The four (well, three and a half as I am only meant to be part time) of us are stretched very thin. We have some great freelance support but we need more hands-on assistance. We are investigating ways for us to solve our problems, so we can continue to represent and develop individuals and professionals working in the business of music in Scotland. Commercial operators especially need money, urgently, and then the whole industry needs strategic direction and then a rethinking of how its economic ecosystem functions to make it more resilient to future pandemics, and other potential problems of this scale.

Our recent and current ongoing research reveals a previously-prosperous, normally resilient, industry on its knees, facing total collapse through no fault of its own. The Scottish music industry is creative, resourceful and innovative. But it is next-to-impossible to innovate when you are continually fire-fighting and struggling to make ends meet. Financial support is vital to sustain businesses during the crisis and investment to enable innovation when they are ready to bounce back.

Dougal Perman, Executive Chair, Scottish Music Industry Association, July 2020

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