"When this is over we'll have to have a big party" - Aylesbury Friars Club founder David Stopps on how COVID-19 will affect live music and life in general

We have been speaking to Aylesbury Vale people and organisations who are uniquely affected by the COVID-19 crisis

Friday, 24th April 2020, 11:04 am
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 11:07 am
David Stopps at the launch of Aylesbury's David Bowie statue

Aylesbury Friars founder and performance director of Public Performance Limited (PPL) David Stopps shares his reflections on the pandemic so far, and how it is affecting the music industry and us all...

Two alarm bells are ringing.

The first is climate change and the second is global infection.

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David Stopps

When we all finally get vaccinated against CV19 and the dust settles, both of these issues will have to be centre stage going forward. The way we live our lives, our values, our relationships and politics will never be the same again.

One big change has been the emergence of the amazing Zoom video service which I can’t recommend highly enough. I’ve had so many Zoom meetings in recent weeks, some with up to 40 participants, all of which have gone smoothly. When this crisis is over, a large percentage of meetings will continue to be done via Zoom which will result in much greater efficiency and far less travel which will result in a substantial reduction in carbon emissions. The government is committed to lowering our carbon footprint drastically so why are they continuing with HS2 which will take 120 years to become carbon neutral? Will thousands of people need to travel from Birmingham to London every day at 200mph? HS2 is already out of date and needs to be scrapped.

I’ve always lived life with a degree of optimism and firmly believe that there’s an upside to everything. No matter how bad something appears to be, something positive will always come from it. The trick is to find and recognise that positive something.

The one thing that’s happening as a result of CV19 is that we’re re-evaluating what’s important to us and guess what…it’s not so much money and possessions as appreciation of those near and dear to us. My son Joe, my daughter-in law Nikki and my granddaughter Hazel have all had CV19. I was worried sick about them but thankfully all three have pulled through without needing to go to hospital. The relief I’m feeling about that is overwhelming.

David Stopps with Rob Stringer at the launch of Aylesbury's David Bowie statue

Like many industries, the music industry is in a state of turmoil….or part of it is. The record companies are doing OK with global music streaming up 3% since lockdown although the physical market (CDs and Vinyl) are way down. Interestingly CDs and Vinyl still make up 30% of the global recorded music market. Streaming on services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music have revolutionised the fortunes of the record companies, particularly the three majors Universal, Warner and Sony. For example Universal was valued at $6.5B in 2013. In 2019 it was valued at $42B.

The live music sector on the other hand has been devastated. As soon as lockdown and a ban on mass gatherings was announced it fell off a cliff. Musicians, production staff, booking agents, ticket agencies, promoters and venues had all income terminated overnight. Musicians who depended on live work to live, suddenly wondered where next week’s food was coming from.

As a Performer Director of PPL (Public Performance Ltd) I’ve been in touch with another Aylesbury boy Rob Stringer (Global CEO of Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV publishing) about the urgent need for the three major record companies to provide help for performers in their hour of need. Sony Corp announced a $100M global emergency fund, part of which is aimed at supporting the global creative economy. We are yet to find out how much of that will be supporting UK musicians but it will hopefully be substantial.

We have also been campaigning for PPL itself and the BPI (trade body of UK record companies who organise The Brits) to assist and I’m very pleased that that is bearing results. PPL donated £500K to help musicians through the charity Help Musicians and the BPI in conjunction with Amazon Music and the Brits have created a £1.5M fund most of which will also go to Help Musicians. Spotify, Apple and Youtube (Google) are also in the process of creating and distributing funds.

As you may know the Waterside Theatre is currently closed and we have postponed our Friars Aylesbury date with The Damned, originally scheduled for 18 May, to 2 November. Tickets already purchased are valid for the new date. Our Friars dates with Big Big Train (17 July) and The Flaming Lips (24 July) are still in the diary but we have been working for some time with both bands on a possible Plan B, should it not be possible to present them in July.

When this is over we’ll have to have a big party.

Stay safe

David Stopps