Tallinn Music Week 2020 Conference Opening Panel: Policies For The Crisis | Tallinn Music Week

Tallinn Music Week 2020 Conference Opening Panel: Policies For The Crisis

Tallinn Music Week 2020 Conference Opening Panel:  Policies For The Crisis
Estonian Academy of Arts
Friday, 28 August 2020

While the state of the cultural sector usually varies across countries, the experiences gained during the pandemic reflect many common threads. The panellists all spoke of approaching the problem by first asking questions – through conducting research and using the results to provide input for policies that would make a difference in steering the sector through the crisis. A commonality in the results is also the discovery that the complex nature of the music industry has so far been insufficiently understood, with many of the participants in the value chain “hidden” or unable to access funds, as governments started to allocate support. The key to weathering the storm based on these presentations is in collective action, a collaboration between the creative sector and authorities, and effective communication. The panellists provided an interesting overview of the measures taken in their respective countries, as well as centrally at the European Commission level, with the discussion focussed on sharing insights about what should be considered going forward.


Photo by Aron Urb
Photo by Aron Urb


Barbara Gessler, Head of Unit Creative Europe – Culture, European Commission
Taaniel Raudsepp, Undersecretary of the Arts of the Estonian Ministry of Culture
Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy
Kimmo Aulake, Ministerial Adviser of Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland Department for Culture, Sport and Youth Policy, Division for Art Policy
Anni Syrjäläinen, Nordic Culture Fund
Dace Vilsone, State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture of Latvia
Moderator: Virgo Sillamaa, Director of Music Estonia (2014 – 2020), Coordinator at EMEE – European Music Exporters Exchange, and an independent consultant, analyst and writer, board member of the Estonian Authors’ Society.


Virgo Sillamaa. Photo by Aron Urb
Virgo Sillamaa. Photo by Aron Urb

In his opening statement, Virgo Sillamaa spoke of how the music sector, and more precisely how Music Estonia, an organisation focused on capacity building for music export, has experienced the crisis so far. Sillamaa likened the experience to growing new limbs since the organisation had to become more of a representative body for the music industry. The Ministry of Culture assured institutions and organisations dependent on state financing that they would not be abandoned. However, Music Estonia (ME) was concerned for the smaller operators – will they be taken care of? Music Estonia has around 80 members, but there are about 2000 operators in the music sector. To begin, ME gathered information, conducted a survey, and communicated daily with the ministry.  The result was a 2-tiered programme for music. The first programme is focused on state-funded organisations, who receive regular support – the “known knowns” for the state. The second programme is aimed at the private music industry, operators who had never before communicated with the Ministry of Culture. The budget allocated for the second programme was 2.2 mln euros, which is a landmark development. The second programme, however, contained several restrictions that in the first round stopped many operators from accessing the support. These obstacles have now been mapped, charted, and analysed, so currently there is the second round coming based on information from the first round.

Some of the key takeaways from the Estonian experience include:

  1. We realise today that the music sector is a complex ecosystem with very little redundancy, so when a crisis hits, all are immediately on thin ice. We need for our crisis or post-crisis policies to take into account the fragility of the ecosystem.
  2. More and better statistics are needed, as well as processes in place to talk with the sector. The crisis brought together more operators than ever before, but communication should be built into the everyday practice of the sector’s work. This would be beneficial also for regular development work and would be an important input for policymaking.
  3. Collective representation on a professional level is important. In a time of crisis, it is too late to build up representation, it needs to be ongoing. In the sector, all parties realised how important it is to have organisations speak for them regularly with the authorities.


Anni Syrjäläinen, Nordic Culture Fund:

The Nordic Culture Fund, involved in the stimulation of arts and culture in the Nordic region, also followed the countries in their crisis response in the cultural sector. Based on that research, they compiled a report describing the overall trends in the Nordic Countries, and Syrjäläinen presented the main results.

In March, governments started developing emergency funding programmes and compensation schemes to cover immediate economic losses and acute needs. In many countries, the relief measures continue, and more options are available as the criteria have been adjusted. Now the issue is how to shift the focus from compensation to stimulation of new activities and recovery. In the live sector, there is still great uncertainty and confusion over changing guidelines and restrictions. The message from the music industry is clear – in addition to immediate funding, it is also necessary to develop long-term solutions to help the sector recover and operate again.

The relief measures in Nordic countries reflect the basic funding structures and policies of each country. In countries with a tradition of private funding for arts and culture, private foundations have been seeking new funding options for artists. A new trend in these countries is new forms of cooperation between the public and private sector – public-private funding programmes. Another common focus has been on the digitalisation of arts and culture. An increased number of artists and organisations are exploring digital technology and forms of production and distribution. This has been crucial in maintaining the connection with the public and the accessibility of the arts, although it has not helped the sector in economic terms. Nevertheless, digitalisation has come to stay and it will complement real life in the future. At the same time, the shift from offline to online has created new opportunities, new partnerships and platforms that otherwise might not have occurred.

Lastly, the crisis has clearly created a need to research the arts and culture sector better, to learn about economic consequences, and find out more about the long-term consequences of the crisis on culture. In many countries, surveys have been conducted to coordinate funding in the future, but also to create a better knowledge base for future cultural policy development. For example, in Norway a huge analysis has been conducted on the economic consequences of the crisis, also including a special report on the music industry. In Iceland, a report was published recently on the challenges in the Icelandic music industry, and this paper also includes some recommendations for the future. There hasn’t been enough inside and intersectoral understanding about income structures and various value chains in culture sectors.

To end on a positive note, from the Nordic perspective the pandemic has brought more focus on arts and culture in the public debate more generally. The crisis has also directed attention to the fragility of the sector and its financial structures. There are many, who hope that the current situation could stimulate new directions in cultural policy, rethinking our existing funding structures, so that they would be more relevant for the arts and culture sector today.

Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy:

In the UK, the industry experienced the same challenges in relation to COVID. The government of the UK wasn’t the fastest to act, so the country was hit hard at the beginning of the epidemic. The government had a few schemes that applied to all industries – a loan scheme and a furlough scheme. The furlough scheme covered 80% of a worker’s salary up to 2500 pounds per month. Immediately millions of people were put on furlough. There were further programmes instituted for the self-employed, however, these did not meet everyone’s needs. Nevertheless, the furlough scheme was successful, covering upwards of 8 mln people. The scheme is being phased out and ends in October. Hundreds of thousands of music companies went on this scheme, however in the music industry, there is so much cash-in-hand and a lot of freelancers, so a lot of people from all parts of the supply chain were not included in the furlough scheme.  At the same time, an incredible amount of advocacy work sprang up around grassroots music venues. Venues run on very thin margins, with very little to no public subsidy involved, and are under extreme threat of closure. Led by the Music Venue Trust under #saveourvenues, the campaign raised a lot of money, mainly through crowdfunding. One of the things that were recognised – the wider supply chain was not understood by the government. This has been a long-term challenge – music is celebrated, but not recognised as an industry.

The Let the Music Play campaign was led initially by the live music industry organisation UK Music, which included promoters, booking agents, etc. The idea was to get as many well-known British artists as possible, to put the social media assets up on the same day, and have as many companies as possible follow the artists with their posts. These artists included, for example, Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, etc. The campaign was based on outlining the core value of the music sector to the British economy. Sound Diplomacy’s research found that per person, the music economy is worth far more in the UK than in any other European country. For example, 77 pounds per person in the UK, whereas in France and Germany it is 11-13 pounds per person. The music industry came together in an unprecedented way, with tens of thousands of tweets, millions of retweets. Other sectors also lobbied for support. What resulted? A sector-specific support scheme was announced – 1,75 bn pounds in relief for the entire arts and culture industry. Of that sum, only the tiny share of 3,5 mln has been allocated, and the first recipients are the grassroots music venues. Now applications have been submitted to the Arts Council for a further 500 mln, and another round will be held later in September.

At the same time, the situation is still challenging in the UK. Also, a few sectors were left out – electronic music, nightclubs, comedy clubs, so another campaign was started called the Let Us Dance campaign, which ended up being included in the 1,75 bn. This development is a very important one also because traditionally certain sectors benefit from state aid more than others.  Lastly, there are fears now that the end of the furlough scheme end will mean tens of thousands of redundancies. Numerous reports indicate that about half a million jobs are at risk in the nighttime economy. Big challenges still remain, since the rules state that establishments can be open, but opening means throwing money out the door.

The Let the Music Play campaign was incredible because for the first time the wider industry came together to advocate for each other. That will probably have to happen again in the future if the furlough scheme results in mass redundancies. The main argument is that the furlough scheme is much cheaper than paying unemployment to everyone.

Barbara Gessler, Head of Unit, Creative Europe – Culture, European Commission

From the outset, the EC was immediately aware of the crisis in culture and the creative sector. The impact wasn’t felt only by the artists themselves, but also by all the professionals linked to the sector.  At the onset of the pandemic, people reached out quickly, which was positive because it shows trust and confidence in the EU level. This crisis showed the importance of trustworthy relations between governmental institutions, authorities and the networks that represent the sector. The EC has had very good exchange not only through virtual platforms but also from the dialogue between commissioners and representative networks. This has been the basis that allows the EC to act. The EC has also been in meetings with ministries and established a platform for communication.

The EC has rapidly put in place instruments to help the overall economy – for example, the Corona Response Investment Initiative (CRII) for mitigating unemployment risk; the SURE mechanism; and the EC has set up the possibility for member states to have state aid measures for the benefit of the creative sector. Creative industries can also benefit from the EU recovery fund. REACT EU is also a possibility for the creative sector, and it will continue the CRII work. The EC is also adjusting the proposal for the future cohesion policy, social funding and regional development funding, to have even stronger support for recovery investments. For example, the creative sector support and SME support. In addition, the INVEST-EU is a future programme, which will support the sector; Windows is a programme that deals with cultural heritage, social investment, skills support in general. Also, the Digital Europe programme is an important one for the music industry.

The EC took immediate decisions, for example, the last collaboration call under Creative Europe – the allocated 48 mln euros is beginning to flow, and deadlines have been extended. The EC has also launched an important call in the sum of over 100 mln euros under the Erasmus programme, bringing together culture and the creative sector with the education sector.

As of next year, Creative Europe will have at least 33% more funding for the culture and creative sector. This endorsement shows that the advocacy the networks and industry have done towards Europe in a very constructive and positive way has brought results.

Lastly, there is a call for proposals on innovative support schemes for a green, digital and just recovery of the European music ecosystem, in the sum of 2,5 mln euros. The EC is looking at all actions under Music Moves Europe, including dialogue with the sector, the various studies and calls, for which the results are coming shortly. An evident element in all these calls is that there is very strong interest, which shows that what the EC is doing is meeting needs and more needs to be done – meet more, gather data, and be able to react fast and in a focused way.


What are the main challenges to reacting and devising policies and relief measures from the point of view of a ministry of culture?


Kimmo Aulake. Photo by Aron Urb
Kimmo Aulake. Photo by Aron Urb

Kimmo Aulake:
The challenges fall into two categories: practical and principal ones. The ministries are used to thinking about cultural and creative sectors as ecosystems, so they are fully aware of how crucial all parts are. However, taking that into account when devising and implementing policies is not easy. When the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture launched the emergency measures and support for the cultural sector, by now totalling 82 mln, the number of new organisations and businesses applying was high. Many were from parts of the music sector that are not used to dealing with the authorities and vice versa. At the same time, the ministry recognises the pivotal role they play in the music industry. The real issue was that all governments were flying blind in April and May, and coordinating all that activity was surprisingly difficult. It comes back to an ordinary question discussed across Europe – what is the relative importance given by political leaders to the cultural sector and the creative industries.

Dace Vilsone:
From March until mid-June, the sector was totally closed. The main issue was how to generate public support for the industry, manage the cultural sector and creative industry, and how to support them by the government. First, all employees received state compensated salaries, but the biggest concern was how to get to the self-employed as well. The programme came together well in the end – 875 creative sector companies and 5730 employees were supported over the first months. The second support scheme for the industry was the deferral of taxes, which was of great help to the companies.

The second issue was how to get in contact with all parts of the creative sector and how to develop the criteria for allocating the support. Corona was actually the reason why they managed to find a better approach for how to communicate with  the sector. The Ministry of Culture created an events industry advisory board, which includes musicians, producers of events, and technical support companies, which worked with the government.

The third part of the work involved creating support activities specifically for CCI. 32 mln euros were allocated for recovery to support organisations and NGOs. All the support is managed by the Culture Capital Foundation. The ministry also organised a campaign for content available on digital platforms for increasing digitalisation.


Taaniel Raudsepp. Photo by Aron Urb
Taaniel Raudsepp. Photo by Aron Urb


Taaniel Raudsepp: In Estonia, there was a measure from the unemployment office, which applied to all industries and compensated salaries. Also, there is now a measure at the ministry to support the self-employed and unemployed creatives. It is a small measure, but at least it is there and can be applied for.

What we realised during the crisis is that there were a lot of unknown unknowns. The positive outcome is that now there are many known unknowns. When looking at the entire cultural sector, where the state’s stake is bigger, for example, theatre, it was easier to design relief measures. However, this does not apply to music at all, so that is the main challenge – many unknown unknowns, which makes designing measures very difficult. But there has been a lot of learning and close collaboration with the ministry and the music industry.

Something that chimes through all comments is the self-employed status, which is different across countries, as also reflected in research. Does this call for greater EU-level harmonisation of the statuses of self-employed persons or is that totally overstepping the mandate of EU-level harmonisation?

Kimmo Aulake: We all know that the economies have been changing, so the proportion of self-employed persons has been rising for a long time. It has been a struggle everywhere to include the non-typical employment in labour and social protection schemes. In Finland, everyone is categorised as either entrepreneur, employed or unemployed, so if you are not in those categories, you don’t exist, however, that probably does not reflect the reality. Perhaps the silver lining of the crisis is that now we have a better understanding of the amount and importance of the self-employed to the whole of the economy, but also humanly speaking. The issue has become much better understood and will be impossible to neglect in the future.

Barbara Gessler:
The issue of the self-employed came up very quickly, from all creative sectors, which proves that it is a burning issue. This is obviously a member state issue, but I also believe that this crisis has shown that some action is necessary. If not coordination then at least facilitating the exchange of experiences and the search for common solutions. Within the framework of the open method of the coordination group, we are already looking at the social status of artists. This is becoming an increasingly hot topic, and while it is not a new topic, the crisis has increased the pressure to look at it closer. Clearly, in some member states, more is done than in others due to different potential, but perhaps there are also different assessments of how important the creative industry is for the specific local industry. Despite the regular saying that the creative sector is so resilient, we see now that there are points in the value chain that are not. Particularly individuals can be very hard hit, especially when furlough schemes end. But the big opportunity of this crisis is that there is limelight on these problems. There is more public awareness of the issue, which hopefully will be turned into something constructive. In the European institutions, we will be following these developments, but there are limits to what we can do. We are talking to member states about how they will design and define their measures for social funding in the next generation of programmes. We will do the best we can with our means to make sure that the arts and the creative sector are included in the reflections of member states.

Resilience is one of the main themes of TMW. Currently, we are dealing with relief, but in the long run public funding also has limits, so we need to turn to resilience in the long-term cultural policies as well. What does resilience mean in music policy?


Shain Shapiro: First, we have to recognise that whatever we were doing in the past didn’t work. We are in a privileged position in this conversation because we all live and work in countries with a social structure that provides support when needed. For example, in the USA 90% of venues are now under threat of closure. The idea behind the resilience handbook is that first we must recognise that if we want to withstand pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, whatever befalls us, we have to change how we think about music. The key issue in the music industry is that we value the created more than the creator. The financial ecosystem and the supply chain issues related to how a song makes it to market is uniformly and universally unequal and inequitable. If we actually value music, then we have to change policies all over the world, to recognise where that value actually comes from – that value starts and ends with those who are creating the arts, first and foremost.

The idea behind the handbook was to offer a positive vision of the future. If we think about a few different policy changes now, then we can build greater resilience for the future, especially the mid- and long-term. We work a lot with cities, so some of the ideas are geared towards cities. One issue is recognising intellectual property as property, this issue does not function equally globally. Another idea was community investment vehicles. But the bottom line is that rent is due at the end of the month and the month after that too, so paying people’s rent is great, but it’s not going to bring substantive reform of the value of music. The value of music should be far more than it is now. We are in an industry that is worth 20 bn USD, while it should be worth 75-80 bn USD if we just properly tracked things if we built policies globally that respect it and create transparent mechanisms around monetising intellectual property, if cities and governments, both regional and national, had robust cultural policies. If we really think about policy reform now, we can build a far more just and resilient sector for all in the future.

Beyond having good ideas for how to build policies, you also have to navigate the political climate, to get the political level to accept the policies. Even getting the first round of relief out is great work, but what could be done politically in the near future to make the cultural policies support the resilience of the cultural sector?

Taaniel Raudsepp: That’s a difficult question. In Estonia, I see that there is a willingness at the political level. When we started with the crisis package, there was talk of a couple of million euros, but we ended at 25 million euros. Of course, the industry should carry the discussion and make proposals for what to change in policy. I like the idea of resilience because public money is not there forever. It might be if the current fiscal system of quantitative easing and borrowing continues, but that is not resilient and the next crisis would then hit harder. But there is political will and the drivers should be from the industry because you know best how to organise things.

Dace Vilsone: I think that first of all, we should increase social security as well, especially for self-employment. We also saw the problem of people who are self-employed and in schools, it is difficult for them to get support through social security and unemployment schemes. This is a general problem that must be resolved.  The second issue is that in the future we must deal with the crisis and manage to be seen, and I think the digital environment should be increased. Not just for spreading content but also for getting value for it.

Kimmo Aulake: When the crisis started and its impact, as well as the measures and closures, became evident, the economic concerns were at the forefront. However, to me the question of resilience is not just about economic resilience. We are quite fluently talking about societal resilience as well, which is a hugely complex thing. All our societies were strained already before the pandemic – democracy was already almost under attack, the freedom of expression was at least partly under attack, we were not always celebrating cultural diversity, but rather thinking of it as a danger at times. The goal of public service, politics and democracy should be to try and provide a good life for everyone, but now it seems that political movements that play on fear and even hate are gaining strength. So not only do we need a vaccine for the virus, we need a vaccine for societal resilience. And culture will have to be a major part of that vaccine.

Taaniel Raudsepp: When talking about resilience, we should also talk about business models and whether policies can affect them. Unfortunately, when it comes to music, it has become somewhat similar to tap water – it is available everywhere and it is very cheap. Very little of that economic gain goes to the actual creator, which is a problem. As record sales decline and livelihoods become more dependent on live performances, the actual consuming happens through streaming services. In the streaming services, only very few, who are very successful win. In order for digitalisation to be part of the resilience, we need business models that would actually support the creators.

Kimmo Aulake: One of the three key themes of TMW this year is SDGs – unless from now on we, the policies, the cultural sectors, the economy becomes more sustainable and we genuinely start achieving the SDGs, there isn’t much that could be resilient. I know the EU governments and the Council and EC are committed to promoting sustainable development, and the green deal is very much a part of that, in order to meet the Paris Agreement goals, etc.  But those things have not gone anywhere and it is frightening that even with this drastic reduction of economic activity in March-May, that cut was not enough to make global production sustainable.

Question from Helen Sildna, Founder of TMW: I think we are facing more restrictions and lockdowns as we go along, but at the same time we are talking about how this virus isn’t going to disappear, so we need to start adapting, changing our behaviour. At the same time, cultural events are being closed down. Do you see any good collaboration between the events sector and scientists, because I think that is the key to finding ways for people to be able to come together and for the events sector to up their game. What’s being done to make sure people can come together? We need to face the facts, we can’t stay closed forever.

Kimmo Aulake: Some things I have heard, for example, the Tampere Hall, which is the largest venue in the Nordic Countries, has discussed the issue with the chief epidemiologist of the region, and I understand that they have an almost complete understanding of what needs to be taken care of.

Taaniel Raudsepp:  I think the understanding of what kind of events pose the most serious threats is emerging. The aim at least at the Ministry of Culture is to keep things open as long as possible and keep the restrictions to the minimum necessary. We can’t and shouldn’t stay closed indeed. I think the dialogue with scientists is a good idea because they have openly stated which kinds of events are a threat. Right now we are talking about specific types of events, and we have been discussing a granular approach, for example, prohibiting alcohol sales in certain parts of Estonia.

Shain Shapiro: There is a great report published this week in the UK, of research paid for by the Nighttime Industries Association and written by the Institute for Occupational Medicine, essentially virologists, epidemiologists, and doctors. It outlines a safe way to return to music. It is purely about temperature checking, constant testing, and social distancing. At the website NTIA.co.uk the report is available for download. It is the most scientifically-based report about common-sense measures that we can all take to return to a new normal.

Barbara Gessler: If all the participants in the debate talk about the granular approach, you can see how manifold the approaches would be at the European level, so here we have to talk about what we can do best, which is facilitating exchange, for which we have two platforms. One is for the member states and one is for the sector. We encourage everyone to participate and put in the measures that they have taken for constructive example-setting. What’s valid in one country from a virology point of view applies to other countries as well, so a lot of effort could be saved if we managed to look across the border and inspire each other. Also for musicians, regarding future touring and international cooperation, it makes a lot of sense to know about other countries.


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