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Event Research Programme publishes final reports

The UK government has published its final reports from the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP ran for four months and encompassed 31 pilots, including music events such as Sefton Park Pilot music festival in Liverpool, the BRIT Awards, Latitude, Tramlines and Download, as well as the Euro 2020 football tournament and Silverstone Grand Prix. Events were grouped according to type: indoor seated, mainly outdoor seated, mainly outdoor semi-seated and mainly outdoor unseated.

The report noted that improvements to air quality – either by improving ventilation or reducing crowding – can be made to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission.

“It was found that high crowding can be maintained without significant negative impact on air quality, in settings such as open-sided marquees or sheltered outdoor seating which have very high levels of natural ventilation,” it says. “Improvements can be made in indoor settings; opening windows, doors or adding fans strategically can increase air quality. However, reducing overcrowding was found to be more immediately impactful on air quality.”

It concluded that “outdoor unstructured ERP events, specifically festivals”, posed the highest increased transmission risk from events examined as part of the scheme, with a 1.7 fold increased risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees. Potential reasons include “behaviour whilst at the event, overall event size and duration or mode of travel to and from the event”.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals, says: “Since emerging from restrictions earlier this year, festival organisers across the UK who were able to stage an event implemented a range of measures to mitigate the transmission of Covid-19, with over 70% implementing full certification according to our data. This went far beyond what was mandated by government at the time.

“Our members will continue to go above and beyond and we continue to liaise with government and wider industry on recommended best practices. The safety of audiences will, as ever, be of paramount concern as they plan for the 2022 season.”

We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide

Across all events, 87% of people with a positive Covid-19 test result during the study period were unvaccinated, 8% reported having a single dose and 5% reported two doses.

Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, chair of ERP science board, says: “We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide, event organisers and government for the best understanding to date of the risk of transmitting coronavirus at live events and how we can best keep this risk low.”

“The Events Research Programme broke new ground on the size and scale of scientific research undertaken at live events and has undoubtedly contributed to the early reopening of our crucial business, sporting and cultural events sectors,” adds Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport, tourism, heritage and civil society.

“The programme has provided an important template for event organisers the world over to continue to be able to plan their events safely and that’s great credit to the scientists behind this world-leading study.”

Elsewhere, results of the clinical trial organised by French live music association Prodiss and Paris hospital AP-HP under the banner ‘Ambition Live Again’, have been published in UK-based medical journal, The Lancet.

The findings from the 29 May test concert at the Accor Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris with DJ Etienne de Crécy and the band Indochine showed that attending a concert was not associated with an increased risk of transmission when certain hygiene and testing protocols are followed.

 


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AIF welcomes six new board members

The UK’s Association Of Independent Festivals (AIF) has announced six new board members.

As part of the organisation’s annual rotation, CEO Paul Reed welcomed Lauren Down (End Of The Road), Zac Fox (Kilimanjaro Live), Kate Osler (AEI/El Dorado), Jon Walsh (Shambala), Chris Rutherford (Boomtown Fair) and Gill Tee (Black Deer) to the board of directors at yesterday’s (11 November) AGM in London.

AIF, which now represents 90 festivals, also reported year-on-year membership growth of 34% and announced the return of its flagship Festival Congress at M Shed Museum in Bristol on 15 February 2022. The post-conference festival party will take place at Lost Horizon – an independent venue launched by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri La area.

The theme of this year’s AGM was ‘Resilience’ in recognition of the unprecedented challenges faced by the festival sector since the onset of the pandemic.

The fact that AIF has welcomed so many new members in recent months demonstrates the power of the collective

“When considering the last 18 months, resilience really is the word, and our sector should take great pride from the way it has adapted and survived during the pandemic,” says Reed. “AIF is pleased to have played its part in supporting independent festivals and fighting their corner.

“The fact that AIF has welcomed so many new members in recent months demonstrates the power of the collective and the need for community in difficult circumstances.”

Reaffirming its commitment to action on the climate emergency, the trade body revealed that it is supporting and funding an industry-wide green code of conduct that will be developed by Vision 2025. It also confirmed it will relaunch its Safer Spaces campaign and charter before the 2022 festival season to raise awareness around sexual harassment and violence, and promoting best practice at member events.

In addition, AIF announced a new, wide-ranging partnership with Music Support, which includes discounted Mental Health First Aid training for members and free access to Music Support’s recently launched Addiction And Recovery awareness training.

“The pandemic isn’t over, of course, but it’s good to be able to turn one eye to the future with some new faces on the board to drive us forward,” adds Reed. “There are plenty of other issues facing our industry that we have a duty to confront head on. Not least reaffirming our commitment to taking practical action on the climate emergency, as well as sexual violence and harassment at events.

“I’d also like to thank Music Support for their partnership in helping us strive for better mental health provisions for our members. It is more vital than ever given the turbulence of the last 18 months that they have access to the right support services.”

 


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UK live sector gives mixed reaction to 2021 budget

The UK’s live music industry has given a mixed response to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget, unveiled today (27 October) in the House of Commons.

The chancellor, who upgraded this year’s economic growth forecast from 4% to 6.5%, pledged an additional £850 million in culture sector funding, the majority of which is ring-fenced (including £2m earmarked for a new Beatles attraction on Liverpool Waterfront), alongside temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure properties for 2022-23, worth almost £1.7 billion.

The government is also freezing the business rates multiplier in 2022-23 – a tax cut worth £4.6bn over the next five years, and has increased the headline rate of orchestra tax relief.

However, calls to extend the VAT break on tickets sales beyond next March fell on deaf ears, and no improvements to the government’s £800m insurance scheme for live events were forthcoming. In addition, no cash was allocated to help the sector deal with Brexit’s impact on touring, while the absence of the word ‘music’ from the budget document left a sour taste.

“We’re glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today’s spending review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding,” says a spokesperson for trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news

“However, with the word ‘music’ completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from Covid and the long-term growth of the sector. We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news.”

It remains to be seen whether music will be eligible for the £52m of government funding set aside for museums and “cultural and sporting bodies” next year to support recovery from Covid-19, with an additional £49m allocated for 2024-25.

“We look forward to hearing more detail about some of the measures announced by the chancellor today, in particular the allocation of further Covid-19 recovery funding for the cultural sector,” says Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed. “On the surface, however, it doesn’t go far enough in supporting our truly world-leading festival industry.

“It is clear that the most effective way for the government to support the industry’s recovery into 2022 and beyond would be to extend the VAT reduction on tickets, look closely at a permanent cultural VAT rate, and completely remove festivals based on agricultural land from the business rates system. Unfortunately, none of this was forthcoming today.”

Referencing UK Music’s latest This Is Music report, which revealed the impact of Covid-19 wiped out 69,000 music industry jobs – one in three of the total workforce – the organisation’s CEO, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, says further action is needed to support the music sector’s post-pandemic recovery.

“It is crucial that we get government support to help us continue to rebuilding and hiring people who went so long without work due to the pandemic,” he says.

“Covid halved music’s economic contribution to the UK economy from almost £6 billion a year to £3.1 billion in 2020. If the government strikes the right note by delivering the support we need, our music industry will come back stronger and bigger than ever.”

The government has missed an opportunity

Setting out a three-point plan to boost the business, Njoku-Goodwin adds: “We are pleased to see the extension of the orchestras tax relief yet the government has missed an opportunity to not take forward further music tax incentives to help boost jobs and economic growth. Similarly, business rate relief for venues is very welcome yet we remain concerned about next April’s VAT hike for live events.  

“Ministers must put turbo-chargers under the efforts to clear away the barriers that are still making it so hard and expensive for musicians and crew to tour easily in the EU. As the domestic music market recovers, the government should also build on recent trade deals by giving more funding and support for music exports.

“As well as music’s huge economic and cultural importance, we also need to see the government fully recognise its huge value to our wellbeing by properly funding music education to help nurture our talent pipeline and provide the stars of the future.”

AIM CEO Paul Pacifico welcomes new measures for venues and hospitality, but stresses the importance of a tax relief scheme for music.

“It’s encouraging to see the government recognise the serious blow Covid dealt to the UK’s music industry in today’s budget, discounting business rates for music and other hospitality venues and for premises improvements and green tech use as well as increasing tax reliefs for orchestras,” he says.

“However, more must be done to support the globally significant independent music sector to ensure a viable future for diverse music, creators and entrepreneurs. One key proposal is a tax relief scheme for music, like those successfully implemented in other creative industries such as film and games. This cost-effective measure could provide our sector with the boost it needs, attracting inward investment and creating a ripple effect across the wider music ecosystem. We urge government to include music in such schemes at the next opportunity.”

There were also contrasting emotions from Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill.

“The improved forecasts for growth announced by the chancellor today are good news, and the reopening of the night time economy has been a key part of this better-than-expected bounce back,” says Kill. “We were disappointed that the chancellor chose not to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality – this is a missed opportunity, and it will prevent those forecasts from improving further still.”

 


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Concerns grow over UK government insurance scheme

Concerns are growing within the UK business about the government’s much-trumpeted £800 million insurance scheme for live events.

The Live Events Reinsurance Scheme, announced at the beginning of August, will cover costs incurred if an event has to be cancelled, postponed, relocated or abandoned due to a government-imposed lockdown in response to Covid-19.

However, Association Of Independent Festivals chief Paul Reed says that not only is the extent of the cover available limited, event organisers have not even been able to obtain quotes so far – despite the scheme being opened last month by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

“It doesn’t cover a festival needing to reduce capacity or cancel due to restrictions being reintroduced, and it’s clear from the government’s winter ‘plan B’ that restrictions will be reintroduced long before there is any sort of national lockdown,” says Reed.

“The scheme only covers you in the event of a civil authority shutdown at either local or national level, so it is extremely limited in scope. We surveyed members on this recently and asked them how likely they would be to pursue quotes, and 58% said ‘not likely’, 5% said ‘very likely’, 21% said ‘likely’ and the remainder said ‘unsure’. That isn’t indicative that the scheme is going to be widely used by the sector.

“We surveyed [AIF] members on this recently and asked them how likely they would be to pursue quotes… 58% said ‘not likely’”

“At the moment, you can’t obtain actual quotes, so that’s another issue. Until this is properly in play, we won’t know the full extent of these issues and whether it is a viable scheme or not. So they need to get on with it and get it in a position where it can be rolled out properly.”

The cover, which is a partnership between the government and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, is now available to purchase alongside standard commercial events insurance for an additional premium.

To be eligible, event organisers must purchase the relevant cover from participating insurers within the scheme, including Arch, Beazley, Dale, Hiscox and Munich Re.

Premium is set at 5% of the total value of insured costs (plus Insurance Premium Tax) and claims will be subject to an excess of 5% of the value of the insured costs or £1,000 (whichever is higher) per policy.

“Another concern is the fact that it doesn’t cover artists or workforce”

“Another concern is the fact that it doesn’t cover artists or workforce,” adds Reed. “So I think, as it currently stands, it’s going to take a bit of work from government to get to the point where it will be more widely used.

“I appreciate government has put a lot of work into this. There are still details being thrashed roughed out around the scheme and questions that the sector has put to government, so the scheme could well change in some ways. But I think the fundamentals aren’t going to change and it’s not going to cover anything other than some sort of shutdown – that’s basically a trigger point that the government has agreed with the insurance industry.”

Solo Agency boss John Giddings previously dismissed the scheme as a “joke”.

“They want far too much money and there are too many caveats in it,” he told IQ. “I think they just keep paying us lip service like they have done all the way down the line.”

In Australia, meanwhile, live music figures continued to pressure the government to underwrite Covid cancellation insurance for live events at a parliamentary hearing last week. The Senate committee will report back on the bill by 3 November before it is voted on, reports Australasian Leisure Management.

John Watson, president of music company Eleven, described the lack of insurance options as “market failure”. More and more people are just saying it is too risky to take on touring,” he told ABC.

 


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Green Guardians: Artists and activists

The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.

The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.

This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.

IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at activation, communication and marketing.

 


Paula Birtwistle
During the pandemic, Paula Birtwistle’s work life switched from travelling across the country to large gigs, to creating hyper-local experiences in her hometown. Working with local partners Culture Weston, Loves music venue, and Music Declares Emergency, she has been able to produce a series of live gigs with low environmental impact but huge social impact.

Birtwistle attended online training with Walk The Plank/Green Production Lab, a course designed to empower production managers to make better environmental choices in their work. “It’s interesting how people accept my advice on health and safety matters, but my advice on environmental impact should be taken just as seriously – and I am starting to see this happen,” she reports.

“For my latest series of gigs, I used a solar system to power them, backed up with investment in some very efficient lighting and sound kit. Even with Kosheen rocking the tent of 120 people we only pulled about 1,100W, or less than half [the amount of power required to boil] a domestic kettle!”

In addition to thinking about power, Birtwistle made sure everything was sourced locally, even down to beer brewed in the town and locally made vegan food. “I’ve also been thinking more about how to start important conversations,” she adds. “For example, I worked with Music Declares Emergency on a really cool inclusive gig that used the pull of free, quality live music to talk about local climate issues and small changes people could make. We hope to take this bandstand model around the country.”

“The UK live events industry is made up of people with exactly the skills needed to find new sustainable solutions”

Greenbelt Festival
Code Red for Humanity – that was the stark warning on 9 August from UN secretary general António Guterres. A brutal but realistic assessment highlighting just how important it is that we all join forces to avert a rapidly approaching climate catastrophe.

Organisers at Greenbelt have always advocated that there is strength in unity, in working together and learning from others, and that has been no different during the pandemic. Throughout this tricky time of cancelled festivals and plans A, B, C and D for any interim events, Greenbelt’s Green Guardians have persisted with their desire to find new and sustainable ways of doing things.
The organisation has talked regularly with the A Greener Festival community, shared knowledge with others in training sessions, and envisioned how the festival might be improved in 2022.

They’ve continued to support Vision:2025 and helped to set up a sustainability steering group for the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

“One thing we know for certain is that, battered and bruised as it is, the UK live events industry is made up of incredibly talented, problem-solving individuals – people with exactly the skills needed to find new sustainable solutions, new ways of powering things, of avoiding waste and inspiring audiences to make changes,” says Greenbelt’s Mary Corfield. “We can do this, if we all work together – we look forward to working alongside you.”

Openstage is seeking to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50,000 tons of CO2e per annum from the UK music market

Alison Hussey
After 32 years of being the first global concierge service to actively offer green and ethical options and support to rock stars and events, and with a history of working with global superstar vegans and activists, lockdown changed everything for Alison Hussey – as it did for so many.

Finding a silver lining in the situation allowed her to work towards the Vision:2025 aim of building the industry back greener (#BuildBackGreener) and to continue concentrating on promoting green lifestyles, holistic living and sustainability behind the scenes via social media, with her own company VIPZeronauts. She was also able to devote more time to her advisory roles with Openstage and NOQ, helping to empower companies that are making a difference in sustainability.

Openstage – with its capacity to use fan data to quantify and reduce emissions associated with live events, analysing location clusters of ticket purchasers and offering lower-emission travel alternatives to attendees – is seeking to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50,000 tons of CO2e per annum from the UK music market, and by 10% in any other country they operate meaningfully within.

NOQ, meanwhile, is revolutionising food and drink ordering at events and venues, solving problems around queue management whilst enhancing customer experience and providing a covid-safe solution. The NOQ app is an all-round more sustainable solution for events and venues, increasing sales whilst reducing food wastage, manpower and cash transactions through pre-ordering, and working with NCASS, AIF and NOEA.

“Shambala is becoming a disposables-free event, embracing new energy technologies, and working on a radical new food strategy”

Chris Johnson
In 2019, Chris Johnson spent around six months on furlough – his first break from festival organising in 20 years. As well as giving him the time and space to learn how to relax, it also provided him with the opportunity to get involved with various sustainability projects.

Johnson recently joined the Climate Live Advisory Board and is proud to have played a small role in getting singer-songwriter and political activist Declan McKenna onto a boat outside the UK Houses of Parliament with the message “Can you hear us yet?”

Meanwhile, at Vision:2025, which Johnson chairs, efforts were refocussed on communication and resources to support climate action. A monthly industry newsletter was launched, and a new ‘knowledge hub’ website constructed. The organisation also gained EU funding to develop a European knowledge hub and e-learning course for event professionals, which is under development.

In his role as CEO of UK music industry sustainable travel charity ecolibrium, Johnson was able to support a rebrand and strategic review, giving the organisation stronger foundations.

Last year, he also launched Chris Johnson Consulting, which has been working with marketing agencies, events companies and industry bodies on sustainability strategy.

And if all that wasn’t enough, his festival, Shambala, has also been busy on the sustainability front, including becoming a disposables-free event, embracing new energy technologies, and working on diversity and a radical new food strategy. “I can’t wait to get my teeth back into this in 2022,” says Johnson.

“Amplify gives 25 musicians a three-day immersion into nature connection and environmental awareness training”

Sam Lee
In addition to being a working artist, Sam Lee keeps himself busy through multiple projects. He is a co-founder of Music Declares Emergency, hosting their monthly radio show, supporting their No Music on a Dead Planet campaign, and sits on the Live Green working group focusing on creating a greener Live Music Charter.

Informing IQ how he has spent the pandemic, Lee says, “I released my first book, The Nightingale, a biography of this red-list endangered bird and its cultural importance. “Through my arts and environment organisation, The Nest Collective, I have been running many ecological awareness projects including my six-week concert series, Singing with Nightingales, both in-person and hosting the online broadcast series for Earth Day and International Dawn Chorus Day.”

Lee is also leading a series of the ecologically unique chalk stream awareness nature walks for audiences around the southeast of the UK. He continues, “I produced and led an artists’ development programme called Amplify, giving 25 musicians a three-day immersion into nature connection and environmental awareness training. I’ve also been holding numerous lectures and panels at conferences and events online on the importance of arts and creativity in the campaign for climate justice and sustainability.”

 


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Working guidance for UK festivals updated

Working guidance for UK festival organisers has been updated to provide ‘support and strategic direction’ in the planning of events until the results of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) and reviews on social distancing and Covid-Status Certification later this summer.

The new interim briefing builds upon planning considerations published last year on the Purple Guide website, which covered eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures including medical and welfare arrangements, crowd considerations and specific mitigation measures.


As well as providing direction until the conclusions of the ERP, the briefing note has been developed to:

The document has again been produced in conjunction with leading practitioners from the festival industry including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF); the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO); the Events Industry Forum (EIF), and Attitude Is Everything.

“[This guidance] is an important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) also provided input on the development of the guidance, which has been co-authored by Emma Parkinson (Coventry University) and Jennifer Mackley (Mackley Projects and Events Ltd).

“This interim guidance briefing provides strategic direction to festival organisers and includes practical mitigation measures to help them continue to plan for this summer and beyond,” says Paul Reed, CEO of AIF.

“I’d like to thank Emma Parkinson and Jennifer Mackley in particular for their work, and colleagues from across the festival sector and within DCMS and PHE for their contributions to this important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”.

Steve Heap, general secretary of AFO, added: “Having lost almost all of the industry’s 2020 events, festival organisers are very keen to stage whatever is safely possible over the remainder of this year’s season. To do that, clear guidance is needed. The publication of this document, free to all on the Purple Guide website, provides that guidance, written by experienced festival managers with the leadership of AIF.”

Jim Winship, secretary of the EIF, added: “Festivals form an important part of the outdoor event economy and also contribute significantly to social wellbeing. They also take many forms and this guidance should help to enable at least some festivals to go ahead this summer.”

The guidance is live on The Purple Guide site here.

Additionally, the group is hosting a webinar with various contributors outlining the briefing note and taking questions. Details will be announced shortly on the AIF website here.

 


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UK festivals benefit from substantial CRF grants

Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair and Cheltenham Jazz Festival have been awarded substantial grants in round two of the UK government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund (CRF2).

The 2,700 recipients of the CRF2 were announced last Friday by culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who said Glastonbury’s £900,000 grant would help the festival stage two smaller events this year, including the recently announced Live at Worthy Farm, and would help sustain it until 2022.

Boomtown was awarded £991,000, which the organisers say will secure the future of the festival, and Cheltenham Jazz Festival was awarded £290,000.

Other festivals to benefit in the latest round of the CRF are Sea Change Festival (£126,000), Standon Calling (£418,465), Y Not Festival (£120,000), Towersey Festival £104,000), Bestival and Camp Bestival founder Rob da Banks’ Sunday Best Recordings Ltd (£92,000), Noisily Festival (£78,000), Strawberries and Creem (£75,000) and Nozstock (£32,000).

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), confirmed that 70% of the members who applied for a grant in CRF2 have been offered funding, which amounts to over £5.5m with an average grant of almost £126,000.

“We thank the Treasury, DCMS and Arts Council England for this lifeline, and for investing in some of this summer’s independent festivals, enabling them to survive and continue planning in the short term,” says Paul Reed, CEO at AIF.

Thanks to the funding we’ve received from the government’s #CultureRecoveryFund we’re all set to build on our digital…

Posted by Cheltenham Festivals on Friday, April 2, 2021

 

“AIF worked tirelessly to ensure that festivals were eligible for the fund in the first place, and to support and service members at every step – sharing information, engaging funding specialists, organising online sessions and working around the clock to support applications.

“This latest government support is invaluable. However, as with the first round, it is important to note that this money did not reach the entire sector, that it will only support some festivals until the end of June and that hurdles remain before festivals are able to plan with confidence – not least the absence of a government intervention on insurance. It is also critically important that the Events Research Programme explores challenges and mitigations around all types of events including festivals.”

Among the grassroots venues to receive grants from the CRF2 are Hull’s The New Adelphi Club (£30,000), The Louisiana in Bristol (£63,000), Cambridge Junction (£248,083), Brudenell Social Club (£213,853) in Leeds and London’s Troubadour (£272,828).

https://twitter.com/BoomtownFair/status/1377886248363249671

Music Venue Trust (MVT) strategic director, Beverley Whitrick, says: “MVT has worked hard to support eligible grassroots music venues in their applications to this fund and we are delighted that members of the Music Venues Alliance (MVA) have now been awarded almost £16million in support.

“This represents an 80% success rate for MVA members, many of whom had never applied for public funding prior to this pandemic. This money is aimed at securing venues until the end of June 2021.”

Music Venue Trust represents over 900 venues across the UK.

Other successful applicants of the CRF2 include event industry suppliers and service providers such as A&J Big Tops Limited (£545,000), AB Lighting (£79,000) and Symphotech (£60,000).

The CRF was increased by £300m earlier this year as part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s March budget.

For the full list of recipients, visit the Arts Council England website.

 


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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance

UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.

Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norwaythe NetherlandsGermanyAustria and Belgium.

The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.

The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.

“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”

Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.

“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”

AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.

“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”

Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.

Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.

“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”

“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”

Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”

Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.

“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”

“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”

The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”

Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”

“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”

Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.

“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”

“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”

Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?

“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”

Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”

“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”

Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.

“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”

Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”

“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”

Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”

Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”

“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”

John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”

Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.

“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”

Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”

Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.

 


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Unsung Heroes 2020: Paul Reed

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Paul Reed of the AIF, who follows Sonorama Ribera’s Javier Ajenjo.

As chief executive of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Paul Reed has been an invaluable resource for the association’s 75 member events as they battle for survival until mass gatherings can once again become a reality.

Reed has been running AIF single-handedly since April, but his drive and determination have seen him take on a multitude of tasks, winning him plaudits from numerous festivals and their organisers.

Reed’s work last year included:

Reed has been running AIF single-handedly since April

 


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UK festival industry warns of ‘wipeout’ at DCMS inquiry

Key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry today gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector, which has been ‘decimated’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The inquiry heard from Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project and nighttime economy advisor for Greater Manchester; Anna Wade, communications and strategy director, Boomtown Fair; Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers (AOF); Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive, UK Music and Paul Reed, chief executive, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

The witnesses gave evidence on a number of challenges facing the sector and conveyed the urgent need for further government support to avoid a ‘total wipeout’ of the festival ecosystem.

Among the participants’ key demands was an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.

“If organisers don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security, there’ll be major cancellations within weeks”

Indicative date for full return to live
Participants unanimously agreed that one of the most pressing requirements from the government is an indicative date for festivals to return to full scale and without social distancing, which would allow organisers to either proceed with their events or cancel.

AIF’s Reed said: “Right now is when organisers have to make key decisions. If they don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security for summer events, then there’ll be major cancellations within weeks.”

UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We have a vaccine on the way. It’s being rolled out and there’s a timetable for that. The public target for ministers has been two million vaccines every week and if we know our testing capacity and the testing situation is going to be at a certain point by a certain time, we should be able to have some sort of roadmap for live. If you’ve got that sort of data and information, there should be a way to calculate or make some sort of political determination or judgement for an indicative date for a return.”

Boomtown’s Wade said: “There’s a challenging road in front of us but not impossible. We need the government to understand our timeline because we can’t roll something out quickly – it’s a very very complex operation to put on festivals. Normality might resume but that doesn’t necessarily give us a green light.”

“Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else”

Government-backed insurance scheme
Citing insurance schemes rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin expressed concerns that the UK would be at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t prevail with our own scheme: “I think the real danger here is that if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe or close to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could have a sort of a talent transfer. We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians and people who should be working in and supporting the UK festival scene are looking to the continent thinking ‘actually if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we are going to be’.”

AIF’s Reed reiterated the need for a government-backed insurance scheme, adding that none of AIF’s member festivals will be able to go ahead in 2021 without it: “Without government intervention, festivals will simply cancel early and on mass. It’s still too early to tell in a binary sense whether the season is on or off, but for the larger festivals, [the decision of whether or not to cancel] will come by the end of this month and for some of the smaller ones it’s March but they are all reaching a point at which they will need to commit that upfront capital and make a determination on the event for this year.”

Addressing the government’s claims that an insurance plan should be the final hurdle for event organisers, Boomtown’s Wade said: “Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else. Then we can commit to things and start getting a bit more confidence back in the industry.”

“If festivals don’t take place in 2021, the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear”

Consequences of a cancelled 2021 festival season
Boomtown’s Wade said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”

AIF’s Reed said the loss for the taxpayer will be ‘significant’ in the 2021 festival season is cancelled: “If you look at the overall contribution of festivals to the UK economy, you’re looking at £1.7 bn GVA and 85,000 jobs. The live music industry in general, I believe, generates about £1.6 bn in VAT receipts and a significant portion of that will be generated by festivals.”

Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project reinforced that point, adding: “The UK has got one of the biggest festival markets, globally, and we’re proud that music is one of our biggest exports. If festivals don’t take place in 2021, I think the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear.”

“If events like [Boomtown Fair] can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect”

The wider economic impact of a disappearing festival sector
Lord said: “Let’s not forget everything that happens on the outside of the perimeter. When Parklife takes place on that one weekend it brings £16 million into the local economy. Every single year we have the Parklife Foundation, which raises on average about 100–120,000 pounds for local community causes. So there’s a bigger picture here and we need to look at the whole ecology. The supply chain will be wiped out if we have another year like 2020.”

Boomtown’s Wade said: “If events like ours can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect because we then can’t invest in local services people and skills. Festivals are like mini-cities so the supply chains, infrastructure and the services that we use are vast and countless.”

“Testing and pilots are two of the pillars. The other pillar would be industry mitigations”

Testing and safety precautions
AIF’s Reed said: “It’s difficult at this stage to see testing as the only solution to facilitate festivals. I think testing and pilots are two of the pillars, alongside vaccine development and rollout and of course treatment. But the other pillar would be industry mitigations, which is why we have a festivals working group which is cross-industry and that is working with the DCMS and Public Health England, to look at specific guidance and planning assumptions. [Those aspects] will contribute to a proposition for how festivals can safely return and instil that confidence in customers.”

UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We don’t want to come back before it’s safe. It’s why we’re engaging in testing to make sure that we can find ways to make sure that no infections are brought into events spaces. And it’s one of the reasons we’re asking for an indicative date from the government because having government be clear on a date when we believe it’s safe to be able to hold events without social distancing and at scale will help with the public confidence.”

Customer confidence
Steve Heap, general secretary, AOF, said: “The customer confidence, I think, is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Our ticket sales are virtually at zero. There are one or two festivals are managing okay to sell, but the customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for the tickets because they’re just not sure the event will go ahead until we get to such a point that we can say they will.”

To coincide with today’s hearing, UK Music today published a new report, titled Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to restart the live music industry when it is safe.

 


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