A broad range of immediate, medium-term and longer-term policy initiatives, based on responses by composers and performers to CMC’s Survey, for consideration by the state and its agencies and implementation during and after the current Covid–19 pandemic

The following is a broad range of immediate, medium-term and longer-term policy initiatives proposed by the Contemporary Music Centre, and submitted by CMC Director Evonne Ferguson to the Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht on 15 April 2020, for consideration by the state and its agencies and implementation during and after the current Covid–19 Pandemic.

CMC recognises that the Covid–19 pandemic has hit at the very core of society worldwide, across all sectors and sparing none. The arts and cultural sector in Ireland, which encompasses 23,000 artists and arts workers, was one of the first to be impacted. And, because the sector’s very existence depends on public performances, by definition, it will be one of the last to recover. Already, over 12,000 events have been cancelled, with 2.4 million audience engagements lost. A survey by the Arts Council of almost 300 arts organisations estimates that arts organisations in Ireland will lose €2.9million in income per month during the Covid–19 restrictions, and the economic impact to date is estimated at over €10 million.

In the context of CMC’s role as the resource organisation for contemporary music on the island of Ireland, and based on responses by composers and performers in the contemporary music community to the ongoing sectoral survey being conducted by CMC since 20 March 2020 (88% of whom stated that they have already been badly affected financially by the Covid–19 crisis, with unrelated reasons why the other 12% have not yet been affected), CMC has proposed the following range of policy initiatives to Government. CMC has requested that these proposals be considered by the state and its agencies, and implemented during and after the current Covid–19 Pandemic, to ensure that contemporary music from Ireland survives the pandemic and to help it to recover thereafter.

Overall Concerns of CMC

  • Contemporary Music Commissions CMC’s main concern is that music commission funding be significantly increased on an ongoing basis. Due to the financial fallout of Covid–19 and also uncertainty with regard to the feasibility of premiere performances of newly commissioned works for the foreseeable future, composers have expressed deep concern that what is already a stretched Arts Council Music Commissions Award will be reduced in the future. In this regard, as an interim measure, CMC has specifically requested that the Arts Council give consideration to an increase in the funding available for the Music Commissions Award currently open with a deadline of 30 April 2020. However, as stated above, CMC’s primary concern is that increased commission funding be made available on an ongoing basis immediately through establishment by the state of new schemes (e.g., equivalent to funding provided for the purchase by the state of visual art works in addition to funding provided to visual artists).

  • Professional Artists Active in Contemporary Music In addition to artists who combine their creative work with other work (often teaching, but sometimes unrelated to music), many composers and performers active in contemporary music are full-time artists, and have no income whatsoever for the foreseeable future while all performances are cancelled. Many are also freelance artists. The current Covid–19 situation serves to highlight the ongoing precarious financial state of affairs for professional composers and performers, which urgently needs to be addressed.

  • Long-Term Funding of Contemporary Music from Ireland Three years ago, the Taoiseach made a commitment to double the Government budget for arts, culture, and sport over seven years (2017–2024). In light of the financial impact of the Covid–19 Pandemic, the contemporary music community is concerned that long-term funding for the arts will be significantly reduced despite the Taoiseach’s commitment, leading to even greater hardship for composers and performers.

  • Critical Importance of International Dissemination of Contemporary Music from Ireland In order to regain lost ground internationally, schemes like the following will need to be introduced as soon as travel becomes possible again:
    • travel- increase travel grants to enable composers and performers of contemporary music to reignite their international contacts for long-term international performances and profile
    • professional development - introduce travel awards for composers and performers for professional development purposes
    • Composer-in-Residence - establish multiple Composer-in- Residence initiatives abroad, with appropriate stipends
    • international tours - introduce a general requirement on Irish performers and performing groups to include at least one work by a composer from Ireland (however short or long) on all international tours supported by Culture Ireland
    • trade and culture missions - include composers and contemporary music from Ireland in all Government-led international trade and culture missions

Immediate Supports

  • Initial Covid–19 Government Relief CMC has written to The Arts Council in relation to its response in the form of the €1m Covid–19 Crisis Response Award, which was launched on 3 April 2020 with matched funding of €500,000 provided by the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, including how this award fails to dovetail in an equitable manner with the Covid–19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The issues raised in this letter need to be resolved.

  • Emergency Awards While the Covid–19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is welcome, it is designed for regular job losses as opposed to loss of future revenue from cancellation of events and projects of artists who are wholly dependent on performances for income; establishment of a suite of emergency awards/funds for composers and performers affected by Covid–19 cancellations and indefinite postponements, with an emphasis on ease of access to funding, is needed, including for example:
    • an immediate increase in current commissioning through the establishment of a new Covid–19 Commission Fund
    • an emergency Cnuas for non-Aosdána members
    • expansion of The Arts Council’s Ciste Columcille[1]
  • Funding Decisions In order to enable artists to begin to plan for the future, decisions by all state bodies in relation to all types of funding, awards, grants, touring, travel, training, etc. need to be made immediately

  • Cancellations & Postponements Cancelled and/or postponed performances featuring works by composers from Ireland have become a major issue overnight:
    • rescheduling - there needs to be a commitment to reschedule postponed events that feature works and/or new commissions by composers from Ireland as soon as is possible, and as a priority over historic classical repertoire
    • extra costs of rescheduling - in order to enable the organisers to reschedule without impacting on production resources for unrelated future events, additional funding is needed to cover extra costs for administration, design, advertising, etc. that are associated with postponing events
    • artists’ cancellation fees - where events have had to be cancelled and cannot be rescheduled, promoters, festivals, venues, organisations, et al. need to be instructed to pay cancellation fees to all artists involved, as a matter of urgency
    • concert promoters/festivals - where events have had to be cancelled and cannot be rescheduled, concert promoters/festivals should not receive (or be allowed to keep) full funding without delivering the proposed artistic event if they are not paying cancellation fees to performing artists and contract technical staff or not paying composers commission fees where the commission was dependant on a now cancelled performance, and the fees that had been agreed should be paid direct to the artists
    • out-of -pocket expenses - compounding the loss of income currently and suddenly being experienced by composers, many have already invested financially (with regard to time, equipment, travel, collaborative resources) in advance of any funding stage payments for certain projects, leaving them out of pocket if these projects are cancelled (as opposed to postponed); these out-of-pocket expenses need to be reimbursed without delay
  • Composer-in-Residence Establish multiple composer-in-residence initiatives in Ireland, with appropriate stipends, in state agencies, Government Departments, public buildings, state homes, libraries, lodges in publicly-owned gardens, etc.

  • Repertoire Grants Special one off grants to contemporary music performers and ensembles to dedicate time to learn new repertoire by composers from Ireland, during the Covid–19 social distancing restrictions, for future post-pandemic public performances

  • Music Recording Grants Grants for recording/production of works by composers from Ireland for release on CD, audiovisual formats and digital formats and dissemination at home and abroad

  • Virtual Online Performances Artists are being extremely resourceful in reaching out to audiences during the Covid–19 restrictions, and they are adding more content online in an effort to ensure that the general public is aware of their situation; however, many composers (as opposed to performers) do not have the wherewithal to create and promote virtual performances of their works:
    • software/equipment - software/equipment grants are needed for composers who cannot make this investment currently
    • training - online training is needed for composers who do not have the ability to produce virtual online performances
    • performers’ fees - for the many composers who are not also performers, funding is needed to pay performers
    • promotion - online training is needed for digital promotion of these virtual performances, creation of a centralised hub for advertising online events, etc.
    • revenue - in addition, deriving revenue from virtual online performances is difficult at best, so training in setting up channels for subscriptions/donations is needed

Medium-term Supports

  • Radio Broadcasts As royalty income is one of the only sources of income for composers, freelance performers and independent labels during the Covid–19 restrictions and radio broadcast is a much greater opportunity for disseminating music than streaming, there is an urgent need for increased broadcasts of contemporary music from the island of Ireland by broadcasters - for example, agreed quotas of works to be broadcast by composers from Ireland, contemporary music from Ireland being broadcast in a more mainstream way across the spectrum of general music programmes, etc.

  • TV & Print Media TV coverage and coverage in the print media would also be welcome with a view to increasing overall public awareness of contemporary music from Ireland

  • Funding Announcements In order to enable artists to plan projects into the future, all state bodies need to communicate clearly and quickly their medium-term and longer-term plans in relation to all types of funding, awards, grants, etc.

  • Multi-Annual Commissioning Fund Establishment of a multi-annual commissioning fund (minimum of 3 years, for financial stability) with a rolling deadline, to enable composers to gain commissions into the future

  • Aosdána Expansion of membership, including in particular to redress the imbalance in terms of membership of composers

  • Online Income Fairer income for composers from online streaming of their music that is recorded by performers and disseminated online

Longer-term Supports

  • Critical Importance of Awareness in Ireland of Contemporary Music from Ireland In order to increase awareness at home of composers from Ireland and contemporary music specialist performers, the importance of contemporary music from Ireland must be recognised and actively embraced by the state and all of its agencies, including through new initiatives like annual awards for the contemporary music community and ongoing sustained awareness campaigns by Government

  • Dedicated Performance & Resource Space The contemporary music community needs a dedicated venue and shared music resource centre similar to Dance House in Dublin for performance/rehearsal/experimentation, including facilities for online concerts on the basis that, while virtual concerts cannot replace live concerts, they are likely to be a feature of the future music scene

  • Security for Self-Employed Artists in Ireland The perilous state of self-employment for artists in Ireland needs to be recognised and mitigated against:
    • it is time that something like Universal Basic Income for Artists is considered by Government
    • tax breaks are not an option if income is absent in the first place; however, income relief for self-employed artists in general should be reviewed
    • support of greater contractual norms might help artists to track what they should have been paid in relation to cancelled events, so that they can record losses (e.g., artists often have to pay for travel and other expenses upfront and wait to be reimbursed until after the event)

For further information and enquiries, please contact Linda O’Shea Farren, Communications & Projects Manager at CMC Email: losheafarren@cmc.ie