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UK faces “devastating loss” over cancellations, no-shows

A new survey from LIVE shows the impact of Omicron on attendance, cancellations and ticket sales, as industry takes "turn for the worst"

By IQ on 17 Dec 2021

London's Royal Albert Hall will receive repayable finance from the CRF

The UK live industry is contending with up to 50% audience no shows and widespread cancellations due to Omicron, a snap industry survey has shown.

The survey, conducted by LIVE, found that 70% of organisers were forced to cancel shows due to take place last week. Jessie Ware, Steps, Paul Weller, Coldplay and Lil Nas X are among the artists forced to cancel due to the virus.

Among the major artists that have this week cancelled remaining shows for 2021 are also The Charlatans (five dates), Supergrass (three), Stereophonics (two), Deacon Blue (two), Del Amitri (three), The Libertines (two) and Amy Macdonald (one).

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February– some as many as 10 each – and more expected to follow, according to LIVE’s survey.

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February

MØ and Brockhampton are among the artists that have already cancelled or postponed UK/EU tours scheduled for 2022 as a result of concerns around Omicron.

The trade association says that the widespread cancellations, alongside a high rate of audience dropouts, are leading to a “devastating” rise in lost income for the live music industry.

These losses are compounded by drastic falls in tickets sales, with expected ticket sales for 2022 live music falling by over a third in the last few weeks, the association adds.

Lucy Noble, National Arenas Association chair and artistic director at Royal Albert Hall, says ticket sales for the London venue have “fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”.

“Ticket sales have fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”

“We have already had a £20m loan from the government but we don’t want to accumulate any more debt,” she tells IQ.

Mark Davyd, CEO of The Music Venue Trust, warns that the position of the industry is taking “a dramatic turn for the worst”.

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months,” he tells IQ. “We are currently organising the sector to make applications for all available funding, but more than 50% of grassroots music venues across the UK do not meet the criteria to qualify for the funding currently available.

“The government needs to act on VAT, business rates, retail, hospitality & leisure grants and additional restrictions grants without delay. None of this is new; the government did an excellent job of preventing music venue closures in the last 23 months. We simply need that support reopened to deal with the latest phase of the pandemic.”

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months”

Commenting on the snap survey, a spokesperson from LIVE said: “These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it’s absolutely vital that the government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and a Christmas of Misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work.

“We also face a double-whammy as next year’s sales take a nosedive, meaning organisers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss.”

LIVE, on behalf of more than 3,100 businesses in the sector, is now calling for urgent financial support from government, including:

  • Scrap the planned increase in VAT, and institute and emergency reduction back to 5% during the worst of the Omicron wave;
  • Offer short term financial support for the sector as it battles with the immediate impacts of cancellations;
  • Cancel business rates well into 2022, and defer any loan repayments
  • Fix the government reinsurance scheme so that it covers the risks organisers face – in particular cancellation due to an artist getting Covid or the reintroduction of social distancing

 


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