DATE: 19-05-2020

Updates on AEC advocacy activities

AEC's advocacy activities were again dominated by the corona pandemic. Compared to the previous month, however, a slight change of focus can be detected. At the beginning, for very understandable reasons, measures of direct financial and infrastructural support to ensure the livelihood of artists were at the top of the lists of demands, but also immediate action to maintain the operation of venues and institutions of higher music education. These demands were particularly addressing governments, at all levels, from municipalities to the institutions of the European Union.

The European Union has so far made a significant contribution. It is also noteworthy to point to the fact that Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, in her reply to an open letter on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on music and musical life expressly emphasizes on several occasions that she appreciates very much that the music sector brings its concerns and demands forward in coordinated action and speaks with one voice.

This letter had been launched by a coalition of European organisations active in the field of music, among them the AEC. This as well, is an important aspect of successful lobbying that should not be underestimated. But despite that, it also clear that Europe, compared to the national states, has only limited scope for action if it is about culture and education.

Surveys show that funding at the level of the national states and subordinate administrative entities might greatly differ from country to country. Whilst some countries are compensating even freelance artists for loss of earnings, long standing cultural institutions are collapsing overnight in others. A new gap between rich and poor threatens to open up, and this in the field of music that has always been characterised by cross-border thinking and acting. More dividing lines become visible: Whilst the symphony orchestras and opera houses, which are largely supported by the state or public institutions, might be able to stand some lean years, those areas that are much more dependent on private sponsors, such as jazz clubs and festivals, might be forced to turn out the lights all of a sudden.

The crisis has also brought topics to the surface that are not brand new, but often overlooked: in addition to the unacceptable state of social security of freelancers, the remuneration for artistic services provided online, e.g. when streaming concerts, became a hot topic on the advocacy to-do list to improve the work and living conditions of musicians.

In addition to the demands addressed to governments, actions and measures are getting more and more important which could be described as 'peer-to-peer advocacy' or 'internal advocacy'. These are e.g. actions of mutual support, the exchange of know-how and examples of good practice, the creation of common platforms and joint initiatives, for example in research or in online teaching.

The AEC launched a website quite early providing Tools & Suggestions by its members to its members, including experience reports on teaching online, but also tips how to assess and administrate studies online. This website is developing dynamically and we are happy to receive your input and comments.

The relocation of meetings and conferences from physical space to the World Wide Web, which was born out of necessity, have had some positive side effects. On the one hand, almost all organisers register a significant increase in the number of participants, but also a noticeable number of attendees from other continents. The AEC has had the opportunity to share this experience in the past few weeks in two specific cases. On 15 May, AEC Events and Project Manager Sara Primiterra presented online tools developed as part of the INTERMUSIC and SWING projects at a conference organised by Melbourne in Australia and thus not only reached out to new audiences, but also opened up new resonance rooms for the work of the AEC and its members.

AEC ExCom member Deborah Kelleher and CEO Stefan Gies had previously been invited to contribute to a webinar organised by Classical:NEXT on the topics of 'Distance Learning' and 'Opportunities arising from the Crisis'. Classical: NEXT operates from Europe, but reaches out to a predominantly American audience, and of course this applies all the more if this audience must not take the effort of a transatlantic journey. Here, too, it has been shown that everyone faces comparable challenges and that it is worth exchanging experiences and tips. However, it has also been shown that Europe and the AEC are world leaders, especially when it comes to online video conferencing for musical ensemble playing.