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The Special Feature 3/2021 Editorial: What can a welfare state afford? – Of music and money in a post-pandemic world

by Anu Ahola

In the past year and more, the pandemic has had an upsetting and crushing impact on the economy of the music industry worldwide. Some of the changes we are seeing actually began to happen earlier but were further accelerated by the pandemic. At the time of this writing, in September 2021, we are finally beginning to see Covid restrictions being lifted and societies cautiously opening up all over Europe. This does not remove the fact that the revenues and structures of the music industry are in a state of flux, and this will continue to be the case in the post-pandemic world.

What the pandemic brought into sharp focus is that the structures of the music sector in Finland are not crisis-proof. Traditional organisations that enjoy public funding were the best placed to weather the crisis in financial terms, while a considerable number of freelancers and independent operators simply fell off a cliff, so to speak. The crisis is still very much an ongoing thing for many operators in the music sector, and the reduction in copyright royalties due to the pandemic, for instance, manifests itself with a delay.

Finland has always been generous by international standards in supporting arts and culture (see also the column by Kimmo Hakola published in December 2020). The subsidy system relies largely on the robust contributions of central and local government, the channelling of gaming revenues into government funding for culture, and the government grant system set up to provide financial support for arts and culture institutions. Finland’s cultural policy structure has traditionally been quite stable and resistant to changes in the ways the political winds happen to be blowing.

However, to continue the weather metaphor, dark clouds are gathering over the arts, music not excepted. Not all of this impending gloom is due to the pandemic. Austerity measures in public finances had begun to bite in the music sector in Finland prior to the pandemic, and the pressure towards budget cuts has only increased in the meantime. Revenues from gaming, an important source of support for the arts, have been steadily decreasing for years, and although the Government has decided to compensate these losses, the allocations made are not enough to fully make up the difference. All this will inevitably have an impact on the operating potential of the arts and culture sector in Finland.


In this FMQ Special Feature 3/2021, we look at the income sources of music professionals now and in the future and at the prospects of funding for music in post-pandemic Finland.

Merja Hottinen explains how the livelihood of musicians, music makers and composers is made up and how revenue is distributed among artists and groups. There are some positive expectations for the future.

Kare Eskola discusses funding for the arts in Finland, having invited five experts in music funding to share their thoughts on the current state and outlook of that funding – and on the delicate balance between stability and freedom. Composer Pasi Lyytikäinen writes about the evolution and outlook of a composer’s livelihood in Finland.

Kaisa Rönkkö, Executive Director of Music Finland, reminds us that recovery and continued growth in the music industry will not be possible without government investments. “The word in the street is that our decision-makers are completely indifferent to culture. They do not recognise its enormous economic, industrial, health-related and educational importance,” she writes.


In the months and years of recovery to come, decision-makers in Finland and elsewhere will have to decide the best way in which to spend their depleted budget resources. This involves taking a long, hard look at the fundamental values of society: what are we prepared to give up, and what is not negotiable?

Can we afford not to invest in arts and culture?

FMQ is supported by a regular funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture. In 2021, this funding was cut by 16%.

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
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