Sam Mendes: Make Amazon and Netflix pay for Covid arts losses

Sam Mendes: Make Amazon and Netflix pay for Covid arts losses


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2020

From a brilliant polemic in the FT today:

… One last thing. While a huge percentage of working people have suffered over these past three months, there are also many (whisper it) whom Covid-19 has made rich. It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime et al — should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die. Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their Covid-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded? If so, I hope you’re reading this, and that you are able to think of the arts landscape as more than just a “content provider”, but instead as an ecosystem that supports us all.

Will they ever? Don’t hold your breath.


  • Player says:

    Yes, I wholeheartedly agree! But I won’t hold my breath.

  • Bone says:

    Amazon and Netflix provide a service; no one is forced to use it.
    Entertainers are compensated for their work; no one is forced to pay them for not working.

    • christopher storey says:

      Bone : You do not seem to understand that many of the streams do not result in ” compensation” for the artists. I have no idea whether Netflix and Amazon pay royalties – presumably they do – but there are many streams which are purely the result of pirated recordings or films , and for these the artists get nothing

      • Alvaro says:

        Netflix’s production budget is around SIX BILLION. Amazon’s is even bigger as they try to make content for Prime Video. You think they spend it on toothpaste? Its for the very creatives (actors, musicians, stage, etc) they engage.

        This means they already spend 10-15 BILLION in the arts, much more than many governments are giving.

        Does that mean that they should subsidize every artist in the planet? It’s neither their mission nor their duty.

        This is the problem with extreme left thinking, believing that if only the “rich” gave away all their money we would all have enough. Once you do the math, reality looks more like Venezuela or Cuba.

  • Ionut says:

    this is an incredible stupid take. Netflix and other streaming services invested private money to create the infrastructure, as well as to produce / buy movies that they stream to their subscribers. It’s a private service that people can pay for, or not, if they are or not interested in the product. Orchestras are in large part subsidized by the government. Although I am PRO (let me repeat it: I am PRO orchestras being subsidized by the government), if the classical music sector would have to sustain itself only by the revenue it generates, most orchestras would vanish.

    • SVM says:

      Many big tech companies enjoy far bigger government subsidies in the form of tax breaks. Amazon and Apple are particularly egregious in their accounting tricks and in where they locate their headquarters — the result is that they manage to pay a lower percentage of their profits in tax than most individuals and most other businesses. Apparently, this is legal, but I consider this outrageously unethical, and I have therefore, for the last several years, made sure not to give any of my custom to either of those two companies.

      It is high time that governments update tax law to ensure that all big tech companies pay their fair share of taxes (and give bricks-and-mortar stores a fairer playing-field). And yes, some of that tax revenue should be used to support arts and culture.

      • Alvaro says:

        If this situation has showed anything, is that even if you stripped Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and all the tech giants from ALL their cash (not even tax them, simply loot them like in Venezuela’s maduro). all that money wont event last 2 months.

        The US passed over 2T in support, and in two months ITS GONE. That’s already around the market cap of the top Tech companies.

        Again – Should companies pay more of their fair share? Yes. In reality, that’s simply a couple extra pennies. I’d rather they continue to innovate and be able to weather storms like this one than to make sure Walla Walla symphony can present a “FIESTA” gala for the N’th time by hiring whoever conductor has the longest hair to play the Mambo of Bernstein.

        It’t time to face the fact that the world doesn’t need many of these institutions.

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    This pandemic has cost me an awful lot of work. It would be a godsend if Sam Mendes were to cover my losses. Editor: feel free to share my contact information with Sam Mendes if he happens to reach out for me.

  • Anon says:

    Alvaro basically hits the nail on the head. In any case, Amazon and Netflix are largely loss-making on these services. Amazon loses money on Prime – it makes money on server space in the cloud. Streaming more doesn’t bring Amazon extra revenue, and the more data it serves out by an increase in streaming, the more their costs to do so increase. They are not really ‘making lockdown millions’, however much we might like to paint them as the baddies.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    What happens to artists who cannot work? Their art dies. They die. They subsist on welfare or unemployment or disability until they disappear from view.