Summertime blues: Five days for a public affairs agency to save live music

The Blakeney Group’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign became the top trend on Twitter, globally, with a £1.57bn government rescue package announced just days later. PRWeek explores how they did it in this case study.

The campaign hashtag was projected on to iconic music venues such as the Royal Albert Hall
The campaign hashtag was projected on to iconic music venues such as the Royal Albert Hall

The Government has been besieged by industry interests demanding support during the pandemic. The agency's challenge was to cut through the noise of the various sectors clamouring for help.

The agency was approached by LIVE, the industry group representing live music, in June amid rumours that the Government was close to announcing financial support for the arts.

Time was of the essence, and it took just five days between the client coming for help and the campaign being launched on 2 July.

The central aim was to ensure live music was included in the support being given by the Government.

Key messages focused on the economic contribution of the sector, which supports 210,000 jobs and is worth £4.5bn to the economy, and the need for government support to save it from collapse.

Campaign targets were the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Number 10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, with an approach of getting their attention by highlighting the support for the industry.

Blakeney opted for a tried and tested public affairs tactic, in recommending that the industry send a joint letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. The tone was deliberately constructive, rather than confrontational.

Support for the letter went beyond what anyone anticipated. The Rolling Stones, Cher, Paul McCartney, Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Little Mix, Lionel Richie and P!nk were among 1,500 artists who backed the campaign.

A press release was issued to coincide with the letter, echoing the ‘plea’ for the Government to help.

Social media was the main driver of the campaign, with people asked to post a film or photo of the last gig they played or saw, using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay.

Blakeney used the Concert Promoters Association’s website as a hub for campaign activity, including key messages and data, as well as downloadable social assets.

An image of the hashtag was projected on to iconic music venues to help stimulate interest in the campaign.

A parliamentary briefing for peers and MPs was also held on Zoom Webinar.

#LetTheMusicPlay achieved hundreds of millions of social media hits, trending at #1 globally and in the UK on Twitter.

View this post on Instagram

I miss this so much! I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've been given. Now it's time to pay back to the incredible people who make up the UK music industry including all the crew who work so hard behind the scenes. From the very start of my own career, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels…small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms and into arenas, and of course festivals in between each touring cycle. But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger and the livelihoods of those who work behind the scenes are at risk. The industry urgently needs Govt support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals & promoters are ready and able to operate independently again. #LetTheMusicPlay

A post shared by DUA LIPA (@dualipa) on

It was covered in every UK paper and broadcast outlet, raised in Parliament, and reported in 83 countries.

A £1.57bn rescue package for “Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues” was announced by the Government just three days later.

Blakeney claims that this announcement was brought forward, and the amount increased to include live music, as a result of the campaign.

And the Government’s decision to reduce VAT from 20 per cent to five per cent was extended to include live music events.

This week it emerged that music has been allocated more than a quarter (27 per cent) of the first tranche of funding from the £1.57bn culture recovery fund – with £68.8m out of £257m in grants announced on Monday.

Gabe Winn, founder and CEO of Blakeney, said: “#LetTheMusicPlay is the biggest public affairs campaign I can remember, and the fact that the team conceived, planned and executed it in just five days is mind-blowing.”

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