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UK govt savaged in parliament over Brexit ‘no deal’ for music

Industry professionals and members of parliament tore into the British government this afternoon (10 June) over failings in the Brexit deal that will lead to barriers to touring when live music restarts.

As detailed in the latest IQ Magazine, many UK firms have been forced to relocate to the continent to get around post-Brexit restrictions on the movement of goods, with experts warning that starting European tours in the UK is no longer possible under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – while UK artists are concerned about the lack of provision for visa-free travel under the TCA, and that promised bilateral deals with individual EU nations have failed to appear.

Much of the blame for the lack of progress was directed towards Brexit negotiator-turned-government minister David Frost, who no-showed today’s event, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee oral evidence session featuring contributions from Marshall Arts’ Craig Stanley, the head of the LIVE Touring group, and Noel McClean from performing arts union Bectu.

Stanley opened with a statement he had been asked to read by Elton John, which is reproduced in full here. In it, Sir Elton says the music industry is facing a “looming catastrophe” which the government “seems unable or unwilling to fix”. “The situation is already critical and touring musicians, crews and support staff are already losing their livelihood,” he adds.

“The government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care”

McClean said Lord Frost’s no-show had to be viewed “in the round, with everything else that has been promised and has not happened over the course of the months since the TCA was agreed. Various ministers have promised that they’re working very hard, the prime minister has said that he’s working flat out to fix this issue… We’ve had these repeated promises that they are working on it and we will see the results very, very soon. [So Frost’s non-appearance] just adds to the reasonable feeling our members have that the government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care.”

Committee chair Julian Knight observed that while the TCA avoided a no-deal UK exit from the EU, the industries represented in the session had effectively “enjoyed a no-deal Brexit – there’s been a deal, but the service sector, and the movement of people, has been left out of that deal.”

Stanley described how the issues presented by the TCA go far beyond the artist, affecting a supply chain of thousands of people. “So often the question is framed as ‘how will this affect musicians?’” he said, “but I’m equally concerned about all the behind-the-scenes stuff. For every musician on stage, there are ten, 20, 50, even 100 people who have got him or her there.”

On the artist side, “There is a whole brain drain of emerging talent going away from the industry which will not have the ability to grow and nurture,” he added. “People said that the Beatles had to go to Hamburg to become a band, and that’s still true today.”

“There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours”

Stanley said that despite the government’s insistence, there is “no evidence” it is actively pursuing bilateral agreements outside the TCA. “Two of my colleagues actually attended the Spanish consulate this morning to talk about the issues particularly with Spain. The gentleman they saw there acknowledged there had been some conversation, but not in any detail,” he explained. “So we’re very sad that after five months there’s been no progress made on a bilateral basis to do with work arrangements or cabotage.”

Asked by Alex Davies-Jones MP if there are any solutions to either of the issues that are entirely the UK government’s gift to give, Stanley said concert hauliers could be given an ‘easement’ on their current limit of three stops in Europe of the kind currently enjoyed by car transporters, who are able to deliver cars to multiple dealerships.“We believe that it’s entirely the secretary of state [Frost’s] gift to do that,” he explained. “And we cannot understand why he has not.”

“The solution to the problem is to go back and get a cultural exemption for the movement of trucks, otherwise touring will stop,” Stanley added. “I wouldn’t want Lord Frost to be remembered as the person who killed international touring for live music, but that is what he is facing at the moment. There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours.”

The full evidence session can be watched back on demand at Parliamentlive.tv.

 


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Report: UK’s inaction over insurance blamed for ‘lost summer’

The UK government’s “refusal” to back insurance for events at risk of cancellation due to Covid-19 restrictions is “directly” responsible for the festival sector’s second consecutive ‘lost summer’, a report has found.

The report is a result of a January inquiry into the future of UK music festivals, conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee.

The findings come after culture secretary Oliver Dowden stated that the government would not provide commercial insurance until 21 June at the earliest, when all restrictions are due to be lifted. However, MPs say that at that point, it would “simply be too late” for summer festivals.

Now, MPs express caution on whether the government’s roadmap will enable festivals to go ahead at all this summer, raising doubts about the scope of the government’s Events Research Programme and uncertainty over the spread of new Covid-19 variants.

“Music festivals have been treated as the poor relation by the government,” says DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight. “Despite the huge economic and cultural contribution they make, few have benefited from the Culture Recovery Fund, and without our efforts the sector would have been left out of the pilot events programme on the safe return of audiences.

“It has been made very clear to us that the vast majority of music festivals do not have the financial resilience to cover the costs of another year of late-notice cancellations. If the commercial insurance market won’t step in, ministers must, and urgently: events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year.

“Events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year”

“We repeat our call for the government to announce an insurance scheme to cover festival organisers if events need to be cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions continuing beyond 21 June. There’s still time to get the music playing, but no more room for excuses.”

The UK live industry, along with the DCMS Select Committee, has repeatedly called for a contingency fund for live events, as more and more marquee festivals have cancelled.

Glastonbury, Download, Bluedot, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Bluedot, Boomtown and Shambala are among the UK festivals that have already called it quits, citing a lack of security for large events.

Commenting on the DCMS Select Committee report, a spokesperson from LIVE, the representative body for the UK live music industry, says: “The DCMS Select Committee is right when it says that the government is letting UK festivals down by refusing to deal with the absence of commercial insurance. After months of fruitless discussions with the DCMS and Treasury, the sector is exasperated at the government’s unwillingness to step in to help prevent the collapse of the festival sector for a further 12 months.

“Without some form of insurance the risk of going ahead will simply be too great for many festivals this year and, whatever happens with the reopening timetable, the vast majority of events could pull the plug in the coming weeks.”

Compensation schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m),  Norway (€34m), Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

But while the UK government has underwritten the cancellation costs of all forthcoming Events Research Programme pilot shows – to a maximum of £300,000 per event – officials have been reticent to agree to a scheme more broadly.


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MPs, UK industry make fresh call for govt-backed insurance

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has written to the chancellor of the exchequer to ask for a government-backed insurance scheme for concerts and festivals, or risk “a summer without festivals”.

In the letter to Rishi Sunak, the cross-party group of members of parliament warn that festival organisers and investors are unable to risk the repeating losses they sustained in 2020 unless events can be insured against cancellation. According to the committee, the commercial insurance market is not expected to offer Covid-19 cancellation cover until at least 2022.

To save the festival summer, the MPs, backed by 40 industry associations including industry umbrella groups LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) and UK Music, are urging government to extend existing underwriting schemes, such as the £500 million fund set up for the film and television sector, to “other creative industries”, including live music, to give festival operators the ability to get on with organising their events.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS Committee, comments: “The government is telling us that life should be getting back to normal by the summer, but unless it can provide a safety net it will be a summer without festivals. The industry says that without government-backed insurance, many festivals and live music events just won’t happen because organisers can’t risk getting their fingers burnt for a second year.

“The committee has heard from festival organisers that this is a matter of urgency. Insurance must be the first step in unlocking the huge contribution that festivals make to our economy, protecting not only the supply chains but the musicians who rely on them for work.

“Without a government-backed insurance scheme it will be impossible to get festivals back this summer”

“The government already offers a level of cover to the film and television industries; now is the time to extend support to other creative industries or risk losing some of our best loved and world-renowned festivals.”

Tim Thornhill, director of entertainment and port at Tysers Insurance Brokers, is similarly supportive. He says: “It has been estimated that over 40% of the insurer losses at Lloyd’s of London relating to coronavirus were as a result of event cancellation claims, which far outweighs the proportion of premium.

“Now is the time for the Treasury and other departments to proactively engage with insurance brokers and the live sector itself to come up with a solution.”

“We wholeheartedly support the DCMS Committee’s letter to the prime minster and chancellor calling on them to support UK festivals before it is too late,” says Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE. “Our festivals are the envy of the world, contributing £1.76 billion to the economy and supporting 85,000 jobs every year.

“Without a government-backed insurance scheme it will be impossible to get festivals back this summer, as the months of planning and preparation it takes to create these culturally significant events means that decisions need be made now. We are grateful for the DCMS Committee for understanding the urgency of this issue, for listening to the sector and supporting our calls for further support.

Government-backed insurance funds for events are already in place in Austria and Germany, with the Netherlands also considering whether to adopt a similar scheme.

 


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UK’s new job scheme: Live still faces ‘grim future’

The UK’s live industry has reacted to the government’s new Jobs Support Scheme and Winter Economy Plan, unveiled earlier today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The emergency scheme will see the government and firms top up workers’ wages, covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months, after the furlough scheme ends on 31 October. This means employers will have to pay 55% of an employee’s pay and the government will cover 22%.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan, the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% for the hospitality sector will remain in place until 31 March 2021, rather than 13 January.

The announcements have garnered lukewarm reactions from some of the industry’s key figures – many of which have emphasised that the new scheme will only go part way to sustaining the sector.

“We welcome this economy-wide intervention from the chancellor. However, it still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in events, arts and cultural parts of the economy with a grim future,” says Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight.

“The truth is, three times as many people in these sectors are currently on furlough than the national average, which suggests that the Job Support Scheme may not be able to stop unprecedented redundancies and many organisations from facing extinction.”

“It still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in cultural parts of the economy with a grim future”

Earlier today, the chair of the DCMS Committee today made recommendations to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, calling for immediate and robust action by the government to prevent culture sector from collapse.

Elsewhere, Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he’s grateful and relieved that the News Jobs Support Scheme is throwing a “much-needed lifeline to hundreds of thousands of workers in the night-time economy,” but stresses that more support will be needed.

“We are seeking more clarity about what this announcement means for the majority of businesses in the night-time economy who do not know when, or if, they will be able to reopen their doors. These businesses cannot be allowed to collapse as the diversity and creativity of the UK’s night-time economy will die with them.

“We are also very concerned that the extension of business support loans will result in more painful debt for those already overburdened financially, many of whom are languishing in up to three-quarters of commercial rent debt with no certainty on when this will be due.

“More support will be needed. The majority of our sector is still unable to even open and trade. Night-time economy businesses have been unfairly targeted by the new 10 pm curfew, which we believe has no scientific basis and will prevent businesses from rebuilding the necessary revenue to stay afloat. The government must rethink this curfew and consider further sector-specific support for our industry if it wants to save Britain’s most loved cultural institutions.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries”

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, says: “The measures announced today do not address the need for the UK government to support different sectors of our society which are subject to different restrictions because of its own actions to control the virus. This is a very specific challenge to the live music industry, which is not permitted to trade by government restrictions but has not seen any sector support directly offered in this financial intervention.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries in order to access the government support which is entirely conditional on doing that,” he adds.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), has also weighed in, saying: “While the extension to the VAT cut is welcome, these measures are not even a band-aid for a sector that remains severely wounded.

“Festivals support 85,000 jobs in the UK and our most recent member surveys suggest redundancies of at least 50.5% across the sector, some of which have unfortunately already taken place.

“With the sector still not generating any income at all this year, many employers will simply not be in a position to pay 55% of their employees’ salaries to access the support offered by the government’s new job support scheme.

“This remains a broad-brush approach, and we urgently need targeted support.

“We are awaiting the outcome of Cultural Recovery Fund applications on 5th October and this will determine if the independent festival sector will in fact receive the support that it urgently requires.”

News of the Jobs Support Scheme follows the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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UK live industry backs urgent call to action

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee is urging the UK government to take robust and immediate action to save the culture sector from collapse.

The committee is calling on DCMS to implement a number of recommendations that would enable venues and stadiums to plan for a full return to live when it is safe to do so.

Key organisations from the UK’s live music industry such as the Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Music Venue Trust (MVT) and the National Arenas Association (NAA) have supported the call-to-action.

“We welcome the DCMS select committee again calling on the government for a conditional date for reopening, greater clarity of guidance and further funding for our industry,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the CPA.

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs. We support over 210,000 jobs and previous promises of support are yet to materialise. Without real funding for our employees, freelancers and supporting businesses our industry simply won’t survive.”

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs”

Lucy Noble, chairperson of NAA says: “80% of our staff across our 23 arenas have been furloughed and as the scheme is coming to an end we are being forced into some decisions that we never wanted to make. While we cannot operate at full capacity, most of our shows cannot go ahead and an extension of support for our staff would be enormously welcomed.”

Mark Davyd from MVT says: “This is a vital report from the DCMS select committee that comes at a crunch point for the UK’s grassroots artists, staff and venues. We strongly urge the government to act in its recommendations”

The committee has warned that a sector which contributed £32.3 billion to the UK economy in 2018, is facing mass redundancies without an extension to the job retention scheme for the arts and leisure sectors.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a plan aimed at minimising further unemployment later today. The new measures are expected to replace the furlough scheme, which is set to expire next month.

Earlier this week, the UK government announced a new 10 pm curfew as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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UK industry responds to DCMS live music report

Yesterday, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee published the results of its inquiry into the British live music business, which calls for wide-ranging investment in emerging artists, support for grassroots venues and an end to ‘discrimination’ against grime, among other recommendations.

Below is a round-up of the industry reactions so far…

 


Michael Dugher, CEO, UK Music
“This is a landmark report into live music by Damian Collins and members of the DCMS Select Committee. They have really listened to the live music industry, which contributes around £1bn a year to the UK economy, and their report is a real wake-up call for everyone who wants to safeguard live music

“Grassroots music venues across the country face massive challenges with 35 per cent of them closing in the past decade, according to the Music Venue Trust.  

“It’s great that cross-party MPs have recognised the warnings that we at UK Music have issued over the impact of soaring business rates bills on venues. This committee has now joined MPs from all parties who have called on the chancellor to end the present system which discriminates against music venues, including by not allowing them to get the the same rates rebate as pubs and clubs. It is time the government listened and threw a lifeline to venues who are struggling to survive.

“Viagogo has been ripping off music fans for far too long and we are delighted this report recognises that.  It’s high time Viagogo became Via-NoNo when it comes to ticket sales. But Google is complicit in this because it effectively facilitates rip-off merchants like Viagogo by ranking them at the top when people search for tickets online. Google must also take responsibility to make sure fans get a fair deal.  

“We particularly welcome the recommendation that a new taskforce is needed to help and support emerging talent. We urgently need help to nurture the music industry’s talent pipeline if we are to continue producing world-leading superstars like Adele and Ed Sheeran. With the decline of music in education in particular, there is a real danger that having the chance of a successful career in music means that you have to have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’. We are, in effect drawing water from a well that’s getting smaller and smaller. 

“One of our first campaigns after UK Music was set up in 2008 was to call for Form 696 to be axed. We welcomed the move by mayor Sadiq Khan to end a practice that effectively discriminates unfairly against genres like grime. We must root our discrimination wherever we find it and we support the Committee’s call for cross-departmental action by government to develop guidance for all the relevant authorities to ensure that urban music acts do not face discrimination. 

“We are pleased that the report recommends and supports the establishment of regional Music Boards.  This has been a key part of UK Music’s work over the past 18 months to help support music, boost the nighttime economy and spread opportunities more widely. We have already set up successful Music Boards in London, Liverpool and Sheffield, and hopefully soon in Greater Manchester, too, which bring people together and get things done”. 

“We urge government and local authorities to do something to protect the future of live music.”

“We urge government and local authorities to do something to protect the future of live music”

Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance
“FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the committee’s wide-reaching report, and especially their condemnation of Viagogo.

“What we now need is action.

“If a restaurant poses a risk to public health, we expect inspectors to close it immediately on grounds of consumer protection.

“Unfortunately, such powers of enforcement are seemingly absent when it comes to online ticket touting. So despite the huge consumer harm caused by Viagogo’s practices, and despite the best efforts of the Competition & Markets Authority and other regulators, the site has continued to operate in clear disregard of the law.

“This needs to change. Viagogo is already facing legal proceedings for contempt of court. While that case is pending, there is surely a compelling argument for the website to be temporarily blocked and for platforms like Google to cut off its advertising.”

“FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the committee’s wide-reaching report, and especially their condemnation of Viagogo”

DHP Family
“We welcome the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report into live music; the conclusions echo what we have been witnessing and experiencing in small live music venues across the country, with London venues facing the greatest risks from rising costs. The UK has been developing new talent that has conquered the world since the 60s, but we put at risk our ability to find and develop future talent if we don’t find ways to keep our music venues open.

“The current situation is perilous: just today there are press reports that the Social in Soho is facing closure – just one in a long line of seminal music venues fighting for its future. We face landlords who are pricing live music venues out of London, massive rises in business rates and at times unhelpful licensing authorities – all backed up by the conclusions in the report. We urge government and local authorities to do something to protect the future of live music.”

“We put at risk our ability to find and develop future talent if we don’t find ways to keep our music venues open”

Paul Reed, CEO, Association of Independent Festivals
“We are pleased that the DCMS Select Committee has heeded warnings from AIF and recognised dangerous conflicts of interest and stifling market dominance as a result of the vertical integration of giant corporate conglomerates in the live industry, and the effect this has on competitors and consumers alike.

“We hope to see the recommendation of a full market study from the Competition and Markets Authority acted upon swiftly.”

“We are pleased that the committee has … recognised dangerous conflicts of interest and stifling market dominance as a result of vertical integration”

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director, Music Venue Trust
“The DCMS report recommendations provide a clear path for key stakeholders, the government, the cultural sector and the music industry to act together with Music Venue Trust to deliver a comprehensive and sustainable solution to this crisis.

“We will be reaching out, once again, to our colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, UK Music, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Arts Council of Northern Ireland to begin the process of working with them to deliver these recommendations. Thank you to everyone who supported and helped us to get to this point.”

“The DCMS report recommendations provide a clear path … to deliver a comprehensive and sustainable solution to this crisis”

Viagogo
“We are disappointed that the DCMS have singled us out particularly, when hundreds of thousands of British citizens use our service to buy and sell tickets to their favourite live events every day and never experience any problems. We provide an invaluable service to UK consumers by giving them access to events in the UK and all over the world.

“For those transactions that fall into the 1% annually where customers do have an issue, the overwhelming majority of cases are due to the unfair and potentially illegal restrictions the event organisers pose simply because customers have chosen to purchase tickets from a competitor of theirs. We have been complying and will absolutely continue to work constructively with the CMA to make further amends where necessary, all the while putting all of the buyers and sellers who use the platform first.”

“We are disappointed that the DCMS have singled us out particularly”

Wayne Grierson, regional manager, northern EMEA, StubHub
“We welcome the committee’s report into the live music industry and are pleased that it recognises the importance of live music to the UK economy.

“Our own data shows the extent to which people travel not only within the UK to attend live events, but also internationally. On StubHub, we saw the number of people travelling to the UK to attend music and sports events grow by 48% in 2018. This has a huge impact on tourism and travel industries, as well as the music industry itself.

“Marketplaces like StubHub where fans can buy and sell tickets help to enable this by offering a consistent consumer experience globally. They are a valuable tool for those unable to get a ticket through the initial and, as we have seen in other markets, often limited distribution from primary sellers. Our data also shows that on average 38% of tickets are bought in the last week before a concert, with 10% of tickets bought on the day. Many people decide to attend an event at short notice, which helps decrease the number of empty seats at live events and increases the income taken by venues small and large.

“StubHub is proud of its strong consumer protections and continued commitment to working with policymakers and implementing fan-first policies.”

“StubHub is proud of its strong consumer protections and continued commitment to working with policymakers”

Deborah Annetts, chief executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians
‘We welcome this timely report into live music from the DCMS Committee, which echoes our concerns and the concerns of the entire industry in relation to the vulnerability of music venues, the EBacc [English Baccalaureate] and its impact on the talent pipeline and the threat of Brexit on the music industry. The ISM submitted evidence last year to the committee and it is great to see our concerns have been referenced.

As it stands, the EBacc policy is failing on its own terms – despite the government’s EBacc uptake target of 75% (rising to 90% by 2025), the rate of take up has plateaued at 38% since 2014. And this is at a great cost to music education in schools, as this report and research from the University of Sussex (which the report makes reference to), BBC, Education Policy Institute and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education’s State of the Nation report shows. If the EBacc is not to be abolished, despite the evidence against it, then the addition of a sixth pillar for arts subjects would go some way in ensuring all students benefit from a creative education, as the report recommends.

We need an education system that addresses the forthcoming challenges of Brexit and the fourth industrial revolution. We call on the Secretary of State, Damian Hinds to take a fresh look at the EBacc and conduct an urgent review. We also welcome calls to ensure improved processes are in place within Music Education Hubs to monitor performance.

Recommendation 10 in the State of the Nation report calls for the metrics for measuring the work delivered in response to the National Plan for Music Education to be revised to go beyond ‘levels of activity’ reported through the current narrow set of metrics.

“We also welcome the report’s support for the introduction of an EU-wide touring visa. As our report Musicians and Brexit showed, an end to freedom of movement will have a major negative impact on the music industry, with a third of musicians relying on work in the EU27 for at least half their income. If freedom of movement is to end, the Government must ensure that free movement rights are maintained for musicians, or introduce a two-year multi-entry visa for British musicians working in the EU27.’

 

This article will be updated with more reactions from industry figures as we receive them.

 


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UK lawmakers call for more investment in young talent

An influential British parliamentary committee has urged the music industry to devote more of its resources to developing emerging talent, warning of the threat posed to the UK’s talent pipeline from chronic under-investment.

In its live music report, which summarises the findings of a live music inquiry first announced in January 2018, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee – best known for its fight against unlawful ticket resale – calls for the industry to do more to support up-and-coming artists, whose ability to create music is “essential for the long-term health of the industry”.

“Structural problems within the music industry limit artists’ ability to earn a sustainable income, and that in turn risks excluding sections of society from a career in music,” reads the report, released today (19 March), which contains evidence from CAA, the AIF, StubHub, Viagogo, Ticketmaster, DHP Family, the BPI, Music Venue Trust (MVT) and some 60 others.

“The industry needs to ensure a greater proportion of its revenues [are] channelled into supporting artists at the early stages of their careers.”

In a section quoting Gomez’s Tom Gray, who told the committee, “There is now a lot more money in the business than there ever was, but somehow that is not finding its way back down to the bottom,” the report also recommends the British government join forces with umbrella organisation UK Music to establish a taskforce that would explore how the industry could be encouraged to act.

“Structural problems within the music industry limit artists’ ability to earn a sustainable income”

“We recommend that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and UK Music convene a taskforce this year comprised of [sic] musicians’ representatives and corporate stakeholders,” it reads, “to explore how the industry may be supported and incentivised to invest more effectively in supporting grassroots talent.”

In addition to the lack of support for emerging talent, the DCMS inquiry identified the following as problem areas where action is needed “to safeguard the future of the UK’s live music industry”:

On urban music, the report uncovered evidence of “persisting prejudice against urban music and grime artists”, with the Roundhouse’s Jane Beese telling the committee that – despite positive changes, such as abolition in 2017 of London’s hated Form 696 – a climate of “institutionalised racism” persists in councils’ attitudes towards grime.

“The issues are still there,” said DJ Target, while ShaoDow revealed a venue cancelled on him after learning he was a hip-hop artist, saying: “We cannot do that here – we will lose our licence.”

“The UK government has failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures”

“We welcome the abolition of the Metropolitan Police’s form 696 following concerns that it unfairly targeted certain artists and audiences, but it is concerning to hear that prejudices against urban acts persist,” said the DCMS in its response. “The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office should work together to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on how to collaborate on managing risks to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted.”

The reluctance of venues to take a chance on urban music is exacerbated by the fact many of them are struggling to survive, with the report describing how “unsubsidised small- and medium-scale venues face particular problems attributed to rising rents and business rates and stagnating incomes”.

The UK government, found the committee, has “failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures happening on a scale unprecedented in other cultural sectors, a development that presents a significant and urgent challenge to the music industry. Evidence suggests that the UK’s position at the forefront of the music industry could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft.”

The report also recommended extending relief on business rates (the tax levied on all non-residential property in the UK) to music venues – a proposal supported by UK Music and MVT, along with a growing stable of MPs from both main political parties.

“The UK’s position could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft”

A third of venues that responded to the recent UK Live Music Census reported having been negatively affected by increases in business rates, which came into force on 1 April 2017. In London, research commissioned by the Greater London Authority showed that 21 grassroots venues face closure as a result of the revaluation, with a further 18 expected to experience significant financial challenges. These 39 venues generate up to £21.5 million for London’s economy.

“The government should immediately review the impact of recent business rates changes on the live music sector and introduce new or extend existing relief schemes, such as those for pubs or small retail properties, to lessen the burden of business rates on music venues in order to protect grassroots venues and independent festivals,” says the committee. “Further support should be given by the government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances, to other forms of music production.”

Support for grassroots venues, and the live industry more widely, should come from local ‘Music Boards’, states the report. These boards would comprise representatives from the music industry, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders “to advocate for the live music sector and promote its interests in planning and policy decisions”.

The committee’s recommendations also include a request that Arts Council England (ACE), which has received criticism for allocating just 0.06% of its total funding to popular music venues, “redress the balance” in the way it funds popular (as opposed to classical) music.

“Further support should be given by the government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances”

According to the report, “the difference between public support for live music in the UK and other European countries is stark. In some mainland European countries ‘venues receive subsidies that average 42% of operating costs, or as high as 70% in France.’ The German government recently invested €8.2 million to upgrade equipment in grassroots music venues and in the Netherlands, 51 grassroots venues receive government funding.”

This means, cautioned ShaoDow and 100 Club’s Jeff Horton, that artists might prioritise playing the continent’s better-equipped venues, especially after Brexit.

Addressing ACE’s lack of support for contemporary music venues, the report says: “It is unsurprising that the live music sector has a history of under-engagement with government and funding bodies, given the staffing constraints many venues face and the low rates of support for grassroots venues in Arts Council England’s flagship funding programme. Nonetheless, we recognise that the current imbalance in funding is not sustainable and welcome ACE’s commitment to engage with music venues and learn from its experiences with other sectors.

“We ask that in its next ten-year strategy, the Arts Council makes explicit how it plans to redress the balance in funding for grassroots venues and contemporary music, with a view to securing the infrastructure and leadership that will enable them to maximise business opportunities.”

On ticketing, meanwhile, the committee took the “highly unusual step” of advising the British public not to use Viagogo, which it says is still not in compliance with a court order served last November.

“We ask that in its next ten-year strategy, Arts Council makes explicit how it plans to redress the balance in funding”

“The UK is witnessing a boom in live music, with increasing numbers attending concerts and festivals, giving a boost for the economy, [and] home-grown talent like Ed Sheeran taking that success across the world,” says Damian Collins MP, chair of the DCMS Committee.

“Yet for all its vibrancy, away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges. Bad experiences with ticket resale platforms are damaging trust in the industry, smaller music venues are closing at an unprecedented rate and the future of the talent pipeline is at risk.

“We’re calling on the government to review the effectiveness of the law intended to prevent consumers being ripped off when buying tickets for live concerts. The government shouldn’t rely on the work of voluntary groups to take on the giants in the ticket resale market, but make sure there is effective action to end exploitation, and greater transparency and redress for ticket-buyers when things go wrong.

“When it comes to live performance, it’s shocking to hear that grime artists are continuing to face prejudice, which risks hampering the success of one of our most successful musical exports.

“Urgent action is needed if the live music industry is to continue to make a significant contribution to both the economy and cultural life of the country. We also look to the music industry to make sure that enough of the big money generated at the top finds its way down to grassroots level to support emerging talent. It happens with sport, why not music?”

“Away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges”

Welcoming the findings, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher says: “This is a landmark report into live music by Damian Collins and members of the DCMS select committee. They have really listened to the live music industry, which contributes around £1bn a year to the UK economy, and their report is a real wake-up call for everyone who wants to safeguard live music.”

Dugher says the organisation “particularly welcome[s] the recommendation that a new taskforce is needed to help and support emerging talent. We urgently need help to nurture the music industry’s talent pipeline if we are to continue producing world-leading superstars like Adele [pictured] and Ed Sheeran.

“With the decline of music in education in particular, there is a real danger that having the chance of a successful career in music means that you have to have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’.  We are, in effect drawing water from a well that’s getting smaller and smaller.”

Adam Webb, from anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance, comments: “FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the Committee’s wide-reaching report, and especially their condemnation of Viagogo.

“What we now need is action. If a restaurant poses a risk to public health, we expect inspectors to close it immediately on grounds of consumer protection. Unfortunately, such powers of enforcement are seemingly absent when it comes to online ticket touting. So despite the huge consumer harm caused by Viagogo’s practices, and despite the best efforts of the Competition and Markets Authority and other regulators, the site has continued to operate in clear disregard of the law. This needs to change.

“This report is a real wake-up call for everyone who wants to safeguard live music”

“Viagogo is already facing legal proceedings for contempt of court. While that case is pending, there is surely a compelling argument for the website to be temporarily blocked and for platforms like Google to cut off its advertising.”

Promoter and venue owner DHP Family, which gave evidence to the inquiry, also welcomed the findings. A statement from the company – whose London venue the Garage is threatened with closure – says: “We welcome the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report into live music; the conclusions echo what we have been witnessing and experiencing in small live music venues across the country, with London venues facing the greatest risks from rising costs.

“The UK has been developing new talent that has conquered the world since the 60s, but we put at risk our ability to find and develop future talent if we don’t find ways to keep our music venues open. The current situation is perilous: just today there are press reports that the Social in Soho is facing closure – just one in a long line of seminal music venues fighting for its future. We face landlords who are pricing live music venues out of London, massive rises in business rates and, at times, unhelpful licensing authorities – all backed up by the conclusions in the report.

“We urge government and local authorities to do something to protect the future of live music.”

 

For a full list of industry reactions to the report, click here.

 


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“A gross discourtesy”: Another Viagogo parliamentary no-show

Controversial secondary ticketing platform Viagogo is to again snub a UK parliament committee, over concerns it would not be protected by parliamentary privilege and could jeopardise its legal defence against the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Writing this morning to Damian Collins MP, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, Viagogo’s Prabhat Shah said the company was unable to obtain assurances its attendance would not “jeopardise our position with respect to the ongoing legal proceedings which the CMA has initiated against us“:

Prabhat Shah letter to Damian Collins MP

Viagogo, headquartered in Geneva, previously said it would send Cristopher Miller, its head of business development, to tomorrow’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee oral evidence session, part of the parliamentary committee’s ongoing inquiry into the benefits of, and threats to, live music. Viagogo controversially snubbed a previous hearing, last March, leading committee member Nigel Huddleston MP to decry its “lack of respect to parliament and, by extension, the British public”.

Also giving evidence at the session – due to kick off at 2.30pm today (5 September) – is Stuart Galbraith, CEO of promoter Kilimanjaro Live, which Viagogo declared yesterday it is suing for invaliding thousands of resold tickets for Ed Sheeran’s 2018 UK arena tour.

“It is hard not to view this eleventh-hour withdrawal cynically”

Responding to the second no-show, Collins says: “We do not accept Viagogo’s arguments for failing to appear today. Mr Miller has no valid reason not to attend and answer our questions on secondary ticketing. The session does not fall within the scope of the house’s sub judice [part of ongoing legal proceedings and therefore prohibited from discussion elsewhere] resolution, and the CMA has no objection to the session taking place. As is usual, we would take great care not to discuss issues to do with the future court case.

“Consumers deserve answers to the huge volume of concerns about secondary ticketing abuse. It is hard not to view this eleventh-hour withdrawal cynically. Viagogo’s non-attendance is a gross discourtesy, the more so given the company’s failure to attend last year.

“If Mr Miller fails to appear his place will be set out and the questions put, involving much public embarrassment and the disappointment of consumers and users who expect answers.”

 


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UK parliament announces new live music biz inquiry

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, is to launch a fresh inquiry into the UK live music business, focusing particularly on secondary ticketing and the declining number of small music venues.

The new investigation replaces the committee’s previous inquiry into ‘ticket abuse’, which was cut short by the snap general election of June 2017, and will once again invite secondary ticketing companies – including previous prominent no-show Viagogo – to contribute evidence.

“This inquiry will be an opportunity for the committee to revisit the important issue of secondary ticket selling,” explains DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins MP (pictured). “We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences with this issue and what they think can be done to tackle it.

“We’ll also investigate what problems many small music venues face, as they struggle to keep their doors open despite the unwavering enthusiasm from the British public for live music.

“The committee also welcomes the government’s announcement [on 18 January] that the agent-of-change principle will form part of the National Planning Policy Framework for housing. As part of this new inquiry, we’ll be exploring other ways in which the government can support upcoming artists and grassroots venues that form such a crucial part of the music scene in the UK.”

“We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences”

Per DCMS, written evidence is invited in the following areas:

Evidence can be submitted via this link on the committee’s website until 17.00 on 28 February 2018.

 


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