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UK live organisations react to PM’s resignation

The UK’s live music industry is facing up to a further period of uncertainty following the resignation of prime minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who succeeded Theresa May in 2019, is stepping down as Conservative leader after a controversial three-year reign, but has stated his intention to remain as PM until the autumn, when his successor is decided in a leadership contest.

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” he said.

His announcement, made outside Downing Street this morning, came on the heels of an extraordinary few days in British politics, which saw mass resignations by more than 50 government members in protest at the PM’s leadership – a crisis triggered by revelations that Johnson was aware of allegations against MP Chris Pincher prior to appointing him as deputy chief whip earlier this year.

Members of UK trade body LIVE have given their reaction to the news, with Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed outlining its ramifications for the live sector.

“The resignation of the PM and subsequent disruption further complicates and slows down the policy making process,” he tells IQ. “It effectively puts the government in a holding pattern until a leadership contest is concluded, when we need intervention on VAT and further support during this recovery phase, in which festivals are facing a range of very difficult trading conditions.”

“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history”

Dave Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association (PSA), describes Johnson’s exit as “inevitable”.

“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history,” says Keighley, speaking to IQ. “It was, in my mind, inevitable that Boris Johnson was left with no alternative but to resign. I for one, thought he should have resigned when he was issued with a fine for breaking lockdown rules. In the end it is always the lies and deceit that cripple politicians and their careers.

“Boris has been the victim of his own arrogance, selfishness and stubbornness. Let’s hope the party and government can find a replacement as soon as possible.”

The move has also created speculation regarding the culture secretary position, currently held by Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries.

The Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd told Music Week that Dorries, who became the seventh politician in less than five years to hold the post when succeeding Oliver Dowden in 2021, was the first culture secretary to decline a meeting with the organisation since it was founded in 2014.

Media, digital and infrastructure minister Julia Lopez and tech and digital economy minister Chris Philp, meanwhile, both joined the government exodus earlier this week.

LIVE CEO Jon Collins recently spoke to IQ about how the government could help the live music industry navigate its well-documented post-pandemic challenges.

“Significant cost pressures and the cost-of-living squeeze mean trading remains challenging,” he said. “It is of vital importance therefore, that the government takes steps to support those across the live music ecosystem. In particular, introducing a cultural rate of VAT on ticket sales which would secure the sector’s recovery, boost the UK economy and deliver many more weekends like the one that lies ahead.”


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Notting Hill Carnival boss named new AIF chair

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has named Notting Hill Carnival CEO Matthew Phillip as its new chair.

Phillip is the CEO of London’s leading Carnival development agency, Carnival Village Trust, which is dedicated to supporting and delivering an integrated programme of carnival arts.

In addition, Phillip is the CEO of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, the organisation that manages Notting Hill Carnival, and MD of Mangrove Carnival Arts CIC.

“The AIF has shown itself to be an incredible champion for independent festival operators – no more so than in recent years, both during the pandemic and what is still now a very difficult time for promoters all over the country,” says Phillip. “It’s with great pride that I take on the role of AIF chair. I look forward to offering my experience and expertise to further the organisation’s great work and help it evolve to meet today’s challenges.”

“It remains a critical time for AIF as we emerge from the worst effects of the pandemic”

Phillip succeeds Jim Mawdsley, who has stepped down after a seven-year tenure.

At AIF, Philip will work alongside the organisation’s board, vice-chair Nick Morgan and CEO Paul Reed.

“Following a robust search for the right candidate, I’m delighted to welcome Matthew as the new chair of AIF,” says Reed. “Matthew brings a wealth of relevant experience in governance and leadership as the CEO of the globally renowned Notting Hill Carnival, among other important roles.

“It remains a critical time for AIF as we emerge from the worst effects of the pandemic. Our members are facing some very difficult trading conditions, and we have a renewed focus on climate action, audience welfare and diversity. AIF’s role as a collective voice and support network to our members remains vital and I look forward to working with Matthew to ensure that the organisation evolves and continues to be a powerful advocate for the independent festival sector.”

Reed recently spoke to IQ about the UK festival sector’s “incredibly challenging” summer.


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‘Incredibly challenging’ summer for UK festivals

The UK festival sector is facing up to an “incredibly challenging” summer, with a mixed picture emerging across the board.

A report in the Guardian earlier this week said that despite flagships such as Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds selling out, many smaller festivals were struggling due to a multitude of factors.

Newcastle’s This Is Tomorrow, Brainchild Festival in East Sussex, Summerfest in Blackburn, Lancashire’s Leighton Live and Fife’s Breakout have all cancelled their 2022 editions as the business recalibrates following the Covid shutdown.

“Festivals are facing some very difficult trading conditions”

“We’re very pleased to be operational this summer after two years of complete or partial shutdown, but festivals are facing some very difficult trading conditions,” Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed tells IQ.

“The key points are increases of 30% or more in infrastructure costs; supply chain pressures – which we’re starting to see play out now we’re in the season – and audiences dealing with a cost of living crisis, so that’s being reflected in some sales patterns. It’s incredibly challenging out there.”

He continues: “I think everyone saw this as a big bounce back year, so promoters engaged in more activity, which puts more pressure on the supply chain. But from an audience consumer point of view, they have more choice than ever and there is a trend across the live industry towards last minute sales. Obviously, there’ll be exceptions with shows that are particularly hot and sell out, but from what I can tell that they’re few and far between at the moment so it’s incredibly nerve racking for a festival promoter.

“Something else we’re seeing is an audience trend towards attending shows internationally, and all of these things affect the domestic market.”

“There seems to be a narrative emerging that some of the larger festivals have sold out and the smaller ones are struggling, but I don’t think it’s as binary as that”

More positive news has emerged outside the UK – at least for the major players – with Austria’s Nova Rock becoming the latest festival to report a record sell-out. Germany’s Rock am Ring recently announced that a record 90,000 weekend tickets had sold for its 2022 edition, while twin festival Rock im Park shifted more than 70,000 tickets. Belgium’s Rock Werchter and Brazil’s Rock in Rio, meanwhile, sold out in record time.

However, contrary to reports, Reed stresses the issues experienced in the UK at least are not limited to events of a particular size.

“There seems to be a narrative emerging that some of the larger festivals have sold out and the smaller ones are struggling, but I don’t think it’s as binary as that,” he says. “Some small-to-medium-sized festivals have sold out. I know there has been a small trickle of cancellations, but I’m not expecting mass cancellations this season.

“The sector has proved to be remarkably resilient in the face of existential challenges, so it’s not all doom and gloom.”

“We’ve talked a lot about the problems, but not much about what can be done to alleviate them”

Reed suggests the government could also do more to help get the industry back on its feet.

“We’ve talked a lot about the problems, but not much about what can be done to alleviate them,” he says. “Festivals are often thought of as fun parties, which of course they are, but they’re also an economic powerhouse, generating £1.76 billion in GBA and supporting 85,000 jobs.

“There are interventions from government that would be helpful: for example, a cultural VAT rate – preferably of 5% – on tickets, which would bring us in line with many other countries across Europe. Also, encouraging incentivising people to get back out there to events – Spain approved a plan for 18-year-olds to receive €400 to spend on the arts and France and Italy have similar plans from what I understand as well.

“Obviously, the sector is very pleased be back delivering festivals for audiences, but I think people are looking towards next year as the kind of reset year where many of these issues will hopefully be resolved.”


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UK festival bosses react to gender balance report

UK festival promoters have responded to a BBC study which revealed that only one in 10 headliners at this summer’s leading festivals are female.

The study, which focused on 50 of the biggest festivals in the UK, found that, out of 200 headline acts, 13% were an all-female band or solo artist, 74.5% were either an all-male band or solo artist, 12% had a mixed line-up of male and female performers and 0.5% identified as non-binary.

The figures come despite a series of gender balance initiatives being rolled out over the past few years. More than 550 music organisations across six continents have signed up to gender equality initiative Keychange‘s pledge to achieve a gender-balanced programme by 2022, while Festival Republic announced three-year funding scheme Rebalance, supported by PRS Foundation. Equality campaigner Vick Bain also launched the F-List, a directory of UK female and non-binary musicians.

Becky Ayres, MD of Sound City, the UK’s lead festival partner for Keychange, tells IQ the findings are “sad to see”.

“As an industry, we have to look at what the issues are for female artists coming through”

“Festivals have got a big part to play because they are very visible – their line-up is on a poster that everyone can see – so it’s important to be attentive to what artists are out there,” she says. “Female artists like Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo are doing their own tours rather than festival headline sets, so there are quite a few different things at play. But, as an industry, we have to look at what the issues are for female artists coming through.

“Festivals will probably be scrutinised more, but if you look across the music industry as a whole last year, only 15% of the best selling songs were by female artists, so it is [an issue] across the recorded music industry as well. And a lot of the time it’s not just about who books the artists, it’s about who’s developing them.

“It’s about gender diversity as a whole and gender minorities are still not being represented either. So it’s important to look at every aspect of it, but festivals have a key part to play because they are so visible.”

Ayres suggests the reason some of the biggest events are yet to adapt their booking policies is because the controversy has not adversely affected their ticket sales, but expects that to change in the years to come.

“Over time, I think that people will vote with their feet”

“Audiences are more savvy and more critical of things than ever,” she says. “There’s more choice out there than there ever was with live music, especially since the pandemic, so I think people will vote with their [feet] and over time you would expect to see that.”

For Sound City Liverpool’s 2022 edition, which was held from 30 April to 1 May with headliners The Lathums and Self Esteem, Ayres expanded the event’s gender equality pledge to include the conference as well as the festival.

She adds: “I know that if we just had a completely male dominated line-up one year, we’d really see an impact. People expect us to now have a very gender balanced lineup because of us being a UK Keychange Festival, and I believe that that is something that is really important for us to uphold.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) chief Paul Reed agrees the matter is a symptom of a wider issue.

“While gender inequality in music is often easiest to see on festival line-up posters, this is a problem that exists right across the talent development pipeline, with festival main stages at the very end of that process,” he says. “It is an issue that the entire industry must take responsibility for. There are a number of initiatives, including Keychange and The F List that are having an impact here, as well as festivals such as Standon Calling and Strawberries & Creem who have achieved 50/50 line-ups and set a good example for others to follow.

“It’s also really positive that our latest member demographic survey suggested that 49% of AIF festivals are run by promoters who identify as female, so we have come a long way in that regard. We hope that this kind of progress and continued efforts under the Keychange initiative will soon translate to greater representation on festival stages.”

“We felt it was important that our programming was representative of society as a whole”

Standon Calling, which runs from 21-24 July, achieved gender parity by booking more than 50% female and non-binary artists across all of its stages this summer, including main stage headliner Anne-Marie, Laundry Meadows second stage headliner Self Esteem and electronic headliner Annie Mac. The festival signed up to Keychange in 2018.

“At the time, I think probably about 30% of our line-up was was female/non-binary and so it did feel like quite a mountain to climb,” says Standon Calling founder and director Alex Trenchard. “But we felt it was important that the programming was representative of society as a whole – not just lads playing indie music, but a full spectrum of what UK music has to offer. That was our goal and this year we’re at 53% female/non-binary artists. We’re delighted to become one of only three festivals – and the only mainstream, multi-genre music festival – that has achieved the target.”

Trenchard says the latest UK-wide statistics did not come as a particular surprise.

“But I would also say that the UK music industry has been working hard, particularly over the last sort of five to 10 years, at producing incredible new acts,” he adds. “And I do think that perhaps focusing on headliners doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s still work to be done, particularly at headliner level, but festival bills are becoming more diverse and gender balanced across the whole line-up. And initiatives like Keychange have really helped drive that progress.

“If you look at the artists who aren’t quite at headliner level, but are almost there, that’s where it’s exciting”

“It’s easy to criticise festivals at the moment and saying, there’s only 13% of headliners. But actually, I think if you look at the artists who aren’t quite at headliner level, but are almost there, that’s where it’s exciting. In our case, we’re always looking for opportunities to give artists their first headline slots. Wolf Alice did their first festival headline slot at Standon Calling and that’s something we’re really proud of. So we’re looking for more opportunities like that and it will be good to see those female artists like Sigrid coming through to headline festivals in the UK.

“Ultimately, we know that a gender balanced line-up challenges us to programme better and not always go for the easy option. We think really hard about booking the best artists in a gender balanced way across the whole festival.”

Keychange project manager Francie Gorman recently spoke to IQ ahead of the organisation’s progress report this autumn.


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Over 100 UK festivals commit to tackling sexual violence

Over 100 UK festivals have backed the Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) Safer Spaces at Festivals campaign, which is aimed at tackling sexual violence at festivals.

Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters, Reading & Leeds, Bluedot, Parklife and Shambala are among the 105 signatories.

Originally launched in May 2017, the relaunched initiative sees festivals commit to an updated charter of best practice, developed with input and guidance from experts at Rape Crisis England and Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs For Women, Girls Against and UN Women.

The Charter states that all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence will be taken seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated. This is supplemented by a commitment to clear, robust reporting and disclosure procedures, including how to report incidents onsite and post-event.

Festival policies will include relevant health guidance and connections to local services, and the campaign will feature advice on how to be an active bystander including the ‘5 D’s’ of Bystander Intervention devised by Right To Be (Direct, Delegate, Distract, Document and Delay).

“Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society”

In addition, the festivals will actively promote the principle of consent regarding sexual activity onsite at events, defining consent as “someone engaging in sexual activity if they agree by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice” and reiterating that consent can be revoked at any time.

Participating festivals are sharing key messages on social media across a 24-hour period from 9 am today (16 May) and will also display key messages onsite this summer at events.

There will also be a resource hub linking to all partner organisations, up to date advice, guidance and best practice examples of what festivals are doing on the ground.

AIF membership & operations coordinator Phoebe Rodwell says: “The original Safer Spaces campaign has had a positive impact across festivals for music fans and festival staff alike. Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society. Our understanding and approaches to tackling the issue are evolving all the time. That’s why it’s important that we renew the Safer Spaces campaign in 2022 with up-to-date messaging, resources and practices, to prevent sexual violence and promote a survivor-led approach, helping festival organisers to fulfil their duty of care at events.”

Media and communications officer at Rape Crisis England and Wales Kelly Bennaton adds: “We’re encouraged to see the commitment and consideration from festival organisers in making their events safe places for women and girls. The AIF Safer Spaces Charter acknowledges the importance of dedicated training, awareness raising, and the provision of specialist support services for survivors.

“Festival goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to and believed, and that those working on site are equipped to handle all reports with knowledge and empathy. They also deserve to know that festivals are taking a proactive approach in preventing sexual assault, and that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. We’re pleased to have worked with AIF on developing this charter, and hope that the wider festival industry will follow its lead.”


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UK live sector frustrated by mini-budget

The UK’s live music industry has reacted with disappointment to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement, which was delivered today in the House of Commons.

Calls to extend the VAT break on live event tickets sales past the end of this month again went unheeded, with the temporary 12.5% rate now set to revert to 20% from 1 April. There were also no improvements announced to the government’s £800m insurance scheme for live events

Trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) has appealed for the government to work with the industry to consider a cultural VAT rate of 5% on ticket sales.

“Live music is facing new and unprecedented challenges that threaten to wreck one of the UK’s cultural crown jewels – a 7.5% increase in VAT on tickets, wholesale cost increases and major ticket cancellations due to spiking covid cases,” says a spokesperson for the organisation. “At the same time, the last remaining help from government is being withdrawn.”

However, better news for the sector arrived in the form of the previously announced 50% discount on business rates, which was confirmed by the chancellor.

“While we welcome the business rates discount, we need further measures that can provide a cash injection to all areas of the sector, such as action on VAT,” adds the LIVE spokesperson. “We are calling on the chancellor to look again at these measures, which would help secure the sector’s recovery and allow our £4.5 billion industry to continue boosting the UK economy.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed suggests the mini-budget has done little or nothing to assist the recovery of the festival circuit.

“We are disappointed that the chancellor has not responded to our repeated calls to grant an extension to the 12.5% VAT rate on festival tickets beyond the end of March”

“We are disappointed that the chancellor has not responded to our repeated calls to grant an extension to the 12.5% VAT rate on festival tickets beyond the end of March,” he says. “Festival organisers are experiencing cost increases of between 20-30%, which is way beyond rapidly rising inflation, with extreme pressure along the entire supply chain. We urge the government to look at this again and maintain the reduced rate on VAT.

“We also ask the government to urgently reconsider the removal of tax incentives to use certain biofuels. These should be maintained at the current rate as a transitional measure to encourage use of greener fuels at festivals. To do otherwise is completely contrary to the government’s objectives of incentivising energy efficiency and reducing emissions.”

Despite giving the thumbs-up to the business rates discount for grassroots music venues, Music Venue Trust chief Mark Davyd is keen to highlight other concerns.

“With no action for businesses on energy bills, or NI liability, and the missed opportunity of action on VAT that would support the sector to recover from the Covid crisis, the outcome of the budget is that none of the extraordinary financial pressures being placed on venues have been mitigated or alleviated,” he says. “This budget has failed to respond to inflationary increases from rent, supplies, and services running in excess of 20% across the sector.

“We note that the government has recommitted itself to supporting business investment, especially research and development. We again ask that the secretary of state for culture should enter into meaningful discussions with the live music industry to create R&D tax incentives and direct financial support to achieve that outcome.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), meanwhile, went further still in its criticism, declaring itself “extremely disappointed”, warning the sector faces a “perfect storm” of challenges over the next 12 months, particularly in light of the cost of living crisis.

“We called on the chancellor before the spring statement to produce a package that included an extension of VAT and business rates reliefs, a cancellation of the proposed NI hike, and action on businesses energy bills and fuel duty, to allow the sector financial headroom to survive in something resembling its pre-pandemic form,” says NTIA chief Michael Kill. “It is very disappointing that today he took none of these steps.”


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AIF chief forecasts ‘transitional’ festival season

The boss of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has told IQ 2022 will be a transitional year for the sector as it prepares for its first full season since the Covid crisis began.

CEO Paul Reed says there are still major obstacles for the industry to overcome, despite a general feeling of optimism about returning to action.

“People, for all intents and purposes, are planning for a regular summer, but there are intense pressures,” he says. “I think what we’re looking at this year is quite an exceptional year really, just in terms of the extent of activity across the board, from festivals to large tours, stadium shows, and the government’s own events in the form of the Jubilee and Commonwealth Day concerts.

“All of that is going to put incredible pressure on infrastructure, and lot of suppliers have pivoted out of the industry and they’re not coming back, so there has been a loss of expertise.

“The average margins on a festival can be 10% or less, just in an average year, and now they have to contend with cost increases of between 20% and 30% – and you can’t just simply pass that cost on to the customer if you’re holding a load of tickets you’ve rolled over from 2019, and in the wider context of a cost of living crisis. So it’s going to be very tough, and the sense I’m getting is that people just hope that the supply chain, in particular, has a chance to stabilise and self-correct to an extent. But it’s not going to happen for this summer, that much is is very evident.”

AIF, which is in the process of recruiting a new chair following the departure of former Evolution Festival director Jim Mawdsley, now represents 90 festivals and reported year-on-year membership growth of 34%.

It has previously warned of a ‘perfect storm’ heading for the UK’s season, with the supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit chief among its concerns.

“We’re getting back to all the issues we were dealing with pre-pandemic”

“Something needs to happen to alleviate this,” Reed tells IQ. “We’ve suggested extending the reduced VAT rate beyond the end of March – even another six-month extension would really help there – but I think government also needs to look at how it can support the supply chain and encourage investment, because there are concerns there isn’t going to be enough infrastructure to go around.

“However, there is optimism and people feel the customer confidence is going to be there to return to festivals en masse. It’s going to be a unique, transitional year, in my view.”

Reed adds that he is unaware of any members utilising the government’s controversial £800 million insurance scheme for live events.

“It’s simply not fit for purpose,” he says. “I know some members pursued quotes, but considered it not viable. Standard festival premiums have increased significantly year-on-year, so you might be paying something like 2.5% of your overall cost just on your standard cancellation premium insurance. Add another 5% to that, and you’re talking about maybe 7.5% of your cost on insurance.

“We did warn the government there would be limited take-up due to the limited scope and the cost, and so it’s proven.”

AIF’s flagship Festival Congress conference took place in Bristol last month, with more than 300 independent festival professionals in attendance. Reed adds that after two years dominated by coronavirus, it has come as something of a relief to be able to start focusing on other problems.

“We’re getting back to all the issues we were dealing with pre-pandemic,” he concludes. “I must say, it’s quite a welcome shift to be thinking about those challenges rather than thinking about managing Covid or whether there will be a festival season at all.”


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Major European markets fear for festival season

Major European live music markets such as Germany and England have shared fears over the impending festival season.

German live music association LiveKomm has today warned of “the end of club and festival culture as we know it”.

The association has penned an urgent appeal to policymakers, calling for clarity around the reopening of the cultural sector.

“The political mode must be more transparent, otherwise the industry cannot prepare for opening scenarios,” reads the letter.

“Optimistic voices assume that the rules will be relaxed soon, this must not happen without the clubs being taken into account and must also be communicated as such. Everything is currently up in the air, staff, planning and operation, festivals and clubs are completely blank.”

LiveKomm is also urging that the federal government take preventive measures before the autumn in case of another wave of Covid-19.

“Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented. After two years politicians can be asked to take preventive measures and plans that start before the wave to protect the cultural industry,” it reads.

“Anything else would be a total failure. This includes, among other things, test capacities, and the lack of PCR test capacities cannot be justified for this winter. Any planning omissions in the coming period will destroy livelihoods in autumn.”

“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’”

LiveKomm’s plea follows a similar appeal from Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) to the government to follow the lead of other European nations and drop all Covid restrictions.

England, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are among the markets that have fully reopened – though many have warned that the lifting of restrictions isn’t a silver bullet for the live industry.

In England, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is warning of a ‘perfect storm’ heading for the UK’s festival season.

A live entertainment supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit are chief among AIF’s concerns.

“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’ without critical support for festival organisers,” AIF CEO Paul Reed said today during his opening speech at the 2022 Festival Congress.

“That’s why we’re calling on the government to aid our recovery and maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, as well as looking at some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain,” he continues.

“We also urge government to reconsider removing the tax relief for certain biofuels, which further increases cost and is completely counter-productive to promoting better environmental practice across the sector.”


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Euro festival bosses size up the ’22 season

European festival chiefs shared their optimism for the summer season, while warning of the challenges ahead on the opening day of ESNS (European Noorderslag).

For the second consecutive year, the European festival and conference in Groningen, Netherlands, has moved entirely online in response to the government’s latest Covid-19 measures.

A standout panel for day one focused on this year’s festival season, and featured Yourope’s Christof Huber, along with FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt, Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania and Paul Reed from the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

Huber, who is booker and festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen, said the ’22 schedule was starting to look more promising following some difficult weeks.

“I don’t see any point why bigger events in the summer time – let’s say from May to September – shouldn’t take place,” he said. “Despite the fact that it was a quite a difficult situation over Christmas, etc, I think it’s promising. I think everybody’s quite confident that the summer will be there and also, that most of the governments react differently than they did a year before.”

“We’re facing enormous costs”

Huber said that ticket sales were “solid” but had slowed down over the past couple of months, amid the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

“Right now, it’s important to show the confidence that [the 2022 festival is] happening,” he added.

However, Thanscheidt pointed out the return would not be straightforward, with additional costs due to Covid and other factors, along with the damage the pandemic had caused to the supply chain.

“Not everybody who worked in our industry… is there anymore,” he said. “Also, prices have gone up drastically in all kinds of production parts. And we’re facing a lot of challenges because, as we postponed the festivals two times, the ticket prices were based on everything we calculated in the second half of 2019. Now, we’re facing enormous costs.”

FKP’s festival portfolio includes events such as Southside and Hurricane in Germany, but Thanscheidt said that raising ticket prices was not an option as most of the ticket-holders had been holding their tickets over since 2020.

“It will be a challenging year, but it will also be a creative year”

Reed said he was confident consumer confidence would come back as restrictions are eased (UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced today that England’s plan B measures would be lifted next week).

” I think there will be that appetite for experiences,” he said. “The whole planning cycle has been shifted by this: announcements have been earlier than ever and some festivals have artists rolled over from previous years. It makes it a bit more challenging for them to market a line-up that has already been announced and is out there. And I think competition is going to be fierce.

“To come back to supply chain, that all puts a lot of pressure on inventory and infrastructure, particularly on the smaller organisations that don’t have the bargaining power or the leverage with that. The supply chain was in disarray last year and I don’t think it will self correct for this year.

“There’s no clear solution, really: it’s loss of companies, it’s loss of skills and you throw issues around Brexit into the mix and you’re potentially facing a bit of a perfect storm. But I do think that the audience confidence will be there and we’ll have more activity than ever, but it is going to be challenging.”

Vulcu referenced concerns over market oversaturation, bringing up the situation in Romania last year.

“At this point, there are so many shows, huge shows, on sale for 2022… it will be impossible for the audience to have enough money to go to every show there is and I believe that many people will lose a lot of money,” she said. “Last summer you could only have smaller events in in Romania so you had practically every single Romanian band play every single city and venue. Bands that normally would have sold maybe 1,000 or 2,000 tickets sold only 300 to 400 because there were so many acts. It was a disaster, almost every single ticket paying event in Romania lost money.”

Due to the Covid shutdown of 2020 and ’21, Thanscheidt suggested two-and-a-half years of shows were having to be squeezed into the next eight months.

“It will be a challenging year,” he said. “But it will also be a creative year, and will also be a year where we all go back to work again. And so even if you face all these problems, I am very positive and very happy to finally start booking things again and running festivals and tours again. So I’m generally positive.”

ESNS runs until Saturday (22 January). Tickets are still available here.


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Green Code of Conduct consultation launched

Sustainability initiative Vision:2025 has launched a consultation for a music industry Green Code of Conduct to provide clear, minimum, environmental standards for all UK outdoor events.

The code has been developed by trade bodies including AIF, AFO, NOEA and EIF, as well as organisations such as Festival Republic and Julie’s Bicycle, with support from live event promoters across the UK.

“Developing a code of conduct by the industry for the industry has multiple benefits,” says Chris Johnson, chair of Vision:2025. “It will provide standards for sustainable practices that are credible, realistic, and crucially, workable, for all event organisers. It will bring the clarity, along with national consistency, that stakeholders across the sector are asking for, as we take steps to reduce emissions and impacts as part the industry’s journey to net zero.”

Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards

The Green Code is a direct response to recommendations made by the select committee on the future of music festivals, in May. It also relates to the framework set out for the wider music sector in the LIVE Green vision, launched earlier this year.

“Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards,” says Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn.

Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, and chair of the Event Industry Forum (EIF), which oversees health and safety publication the Purple Guide, says: “The Purple Guide is an established publication that advises how our industry manages health & safety best practice. This Green Code of Conduct could provide the blueprint for a new sustainability chapter.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) adds: “The development of the Green Code of conduct will help AIF members and all outdoor events to manage their impacts and agree on some top-level shared principles. It is vital that we continue to work together as an industry and with government to mitigate impacts and take collective action.”

The online survey is open for comments here until 14 January.


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