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Resurgent live music sector faces staff shortages

UK industry bodies including LIVE (Live music Industries Venues and Entertainment), the Concert Promoters Association, the Events Industry Forum and the UK Crowd Management Association have written to the prime minister regarding what they describe as crippling staff shortages across large parts of the UK economy.

The live entertainment and events associations are joined by trade bodies representing other sectors, including hospitality, food and drink and retail, in calling for government action to help remediate the situation, with the letter suggesting that EU workers could be allowed to return on a short-term basis to help fill the empty roles.

“While the overall picture is complex, one short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements for the large numbers of workers, particularly from the EU, who have returned to their homelands during the lockdowns. This has contributed greatly to the shortfalls,” reads the letter, which can be read here.

“Indeed, a study in 2020 by the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence estimated that 1.3 million migrants left the UK between July 2019 and September 2020. This figure was based on UK labour statistics, and represents over 4% of the UK workforce.

“Unfortunately, evidence suggests that those unemployed within the UK workforce seem unwilling to take on many of the jobs where there are vacancies in the industries we represent. To help resolve this we ask that all those who have worked in the UK over the last three years are given the freedom to return to work here with less restrictive immigration regulations on a short-term basis.

“One short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements”

“A relaxation of the rules does not need to be open ended but it needs to happen quickly if we are to support the recovery of the UK economy.”

The letter comes as entertainment and hospitality businesses in other countries also warn they are facing a staff shortage as they begin to reopen this summer.

In the Netherlands, live music association VNPF is warning that the industry will likely be short of staff when full-capacity shows restart later this year, with many professionals having left the industry over the past 16 months.

Both venues and festivals are short of people, VNPF director Berend Schans tells NU.nl, with the former sector having laid off an average of 20% of their staff last year and the latter probably even more. “Exact figures are lacking, but because that industry [festivals] has been hit even harder than venues, and they have received relatively less government support, I would say that the situation there is even more serious, especially in view of the lay-offs at Mojo Concerts and ID&T, for example.”

Similarly, France, the US and New Zealand are all facing post-pandemic labour shortages, particularly in the hospitality sector, and while the issue has been exacerbated by Brexit in the UK, experts have been warning of shortages for months.

“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff”

The UK Door Security Association (UKDSA) said back in march that venues and clubs could face trouble reopening as planned following an exodus of security staff during the pandemic.

In addition to EU workers who have gone home, many qualified door staff were forced to find work elsewhere when venues were closed in March 2020.

According to the Security Industry Authority (SIA), over a quarter of the UK’s total security workforce were non-UK nationals in 2018. The UKDSA estimates that over half of the vacancies in the sector may be left unfilled when business restarts gets back to normal later this summer.

“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff,” says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association. Concerning new elements in the SIA door supervisor licence which require more training for door staff, Kill adds: “While the training is welcomed, it is not timely given the current economic situation across most of the sector, and consideration needs to be given to it being pushed back to 2022.”

Read IQ’s feature on the challenges of recruiting and restaffing post-pandemic in the latest, 100th issue of the magazine.

 


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BookMyShow lays off 200 as restrictions continue

Indian ticketing giant BookMyShow has laid off another 200 employees as coronavirus restrictions continue to hurt demand for live entertainment and cinema.

BookMyShow, headquartered in Mumbai (Bombay), is India’s biggest online ticket seller, shifting as much as 50% of the movie-mad country’s cinema tickets and ticketing many of its major live music events. It also operates as a co-promoter for international concerts, such as U2’s historic Mumbai show in December 2019, one of the last before the pandemic hit.

New initiatives such as the launch of livestreaming solution BookMyShow Online in mid-2020 haven’t been enough to avoid further redundancies, following an initial round of 270 lay-offs last May, according to CEO Ashish Hemrajani, who announced the redundancies on Twitter.

Hemrajani tweets that BookMyShow has been forced to let go of “200 of the most incredibly talented and performance-driven individuals” who had been been “handpicked and curated over years”, and that announcing the lay-offs was the “right thing” to do to enable them to find new jobs quickly.

“I’m sure we will all come out of this stronger”

He has asked other companies who have openings for the staff to send him a message on Twitter or email we.r.hr@bookmyshow.com with information.

“I had two thoughts: one of managing optics, or two just doing the right thing,” Hemrajani explains. “And for me, finding each of them a new home, where a new journey can begin, was the easy choice. So if you have leads, please DM me and we will do the needful.

“They will contribute incredibly to the growth of your wonderful firms. I’m sure we will all come out stronger.”

At press time, India had around 60,000 daily cases of Covid-19. While heavy restrictions remain in many areas, some states, such as West Bengal and the Punjab, are again opening up, with restaurants, bars and cinemas allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

 


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ID&T slashes 40% of jobs

Netherlands-based electronic dance promoter ID&T today informed staff that 40% of jobs would be lost as the company goes through a drastic reorganisation.

The company, which is known for festivals such as Mysteryland, Defqon.1 Weekend Festival, Amsterdam Open Air and Welcome to the Future, says its core business has come to a “complete standstill” due to Covid-19.

Staff have been given the opportunity to submit ideas prior to the redundancy plan being finalised but many jobs will be lost.

“ID&T originated from a group of close friends with the same passion; bringing people together. This culture is still the foundation of the company almost 30 years later,” says Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.

“These are therefore very difficult and emotional times for ID&T and of course all our employees. The impact of this crisis on our industry is unprecedented.

“Despite the fact that we also make use of government regulations and have reached a settlement with three of our four insurers in the dispute about the applicability of the insurance earlier this year, the losses are taking on enormous proportions and there is no clear view on what will happen next.

“The losses are taking on enormous proportions and there is no clear view on what will happen next”

“Unfortunately, this means also for us that we can no longer avoid preparing for a worse scenario, in which it may still take a considerable time before we are fully operational again.”

In August, it was revealed that the promoter was to receive an advance insurance payout of €1.3 million to compensate for lost income due to the corona crisis.

The promoter claimed that as a result of the cancellation of a number of events of its subsidiaries, it has suffered damage consisting of costs already incurred or owed and loss of profit.

ID&T was forced to cancel this year’s editions of festivals including Awakenings, and the promoter’s longest-running electronic dance music festival Mysteryland, due to the pandemic.

At one point during the pandemic, the promoter pivoted to organising socially distanced camping holidays such as Tijdloos, which took place from 10 July to 17 August at the Emerstrand campsite in the Dutch province of Drenthe.

 


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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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Paradigm makes temporary lay-offs permanent

Paradigm Talent Agency is to permanently lay off 180 employees – around 70% of the workers who were let go temporarily in March – CEO Sam Gores has told the agency’s remaining staff.

“As you know, over the last six months, we have brought back as many of our temporarily laid off colleagues as we could; unfortunately, the profound effects of the coronavirus have continued to severely impact every aspect of our industry and our world for longer than we had even imagined six months ago,” writes Gores in an email to staff.

“Consequently, we had to examine every aspect of our business and make this difficult decision.”

“The effects of the coronavirus have continued to severely impact every aspect of our industry … for longer than we had imagined”

Hollywood-headquartered Paradigm – which also has offices in London (the former Coda), Toronto, Nashville, Chicago, New York, Austin, Texas, and elsewhere in California, was one of the first major music agencies to make staff reductions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – laying off an estimated 250 employees (initially reported as 100) in mid-March.

At the start of 2020, Paradigm had more than 700 employees.

UTA announced earlier this month that around 50 employees would lose their jobs permanently, as the shutdown in concert touring continues to negatively affect the global agency sector.

 


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Covid-19 lay-offs hit Dutch live market

Promoter Friendly Fire has become the latest Dutch concert business to make redundancies following a challenging summer, according to local media.

Amsterdam-based Friendly Fire, part of CTS Eventim’s Eventim Live grouping, organises festivals such as Best Kept Secret (25,000-cap.), Indian Summer (30,000-cap.) and Tuckerville (30,000-cap.) and promotes both local and international artists, including the 1975, Fontaines DC, alt-J and Pip Blom. The National, the Strokes and Massive Attack will headline the company’s flagship event, Best Kept Secret, next year; the festival, like all major events, was axed in 2020 because of Covid-19.

Of its 35 employees, Friendly Fire has been forced to let go of ten, reports public broadcaster VPRO.

The lay-offs at Friendly Fire follow redundancies at other Dutch live entertainment stalwarts

The lay-offs at Friendly Fire follow redundancies at other Dutch live entertainment stalwarts, including the country’s leading promoter, Live Nation-owned Mojo Concerts, which has laid off around a third of its staff, according to VPRO.

Other Dutch industry professionals to have lost their jobs in recent months include staff at arenas Ziggo Dome (14 of 34) and AFAS Live (10 of 25) and pro-AV company Ampco Flashlight Group.

The Dutch live music industry, united under umbrella group the Alliance of Event Builders, recently warned of a wave of bankruptcies of events businesses without further government support for the sector.

 


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Layoffs sweep MSG Entertainment

MSG Entertainment, which operates New York venues Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, has announced 350 layoffs, totalling a third of its corporate workforce.

Its sister company, MSG Sports, which owns basketball team, the New York Knicks, and ice hockey team, New York Rangers, is also cutting 50 jobs, or about 15% of its corporate staff.

“This was a difficult decision for both companies, as we know that our success rests on the strength of our people, who consistently set the industry standard for excellence and professionalism,” a rep for MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports told New York Post.

“This was a difficult decision for both companies, as we know that our success rests on the strength of our people”

“While we believe this is a necessary step to protect the long-term future of our businesses, we continue to actively pursue solutions that will allow us to safely reopen our doors, so we’re able to bring as many employees back as quickly as we can, once a return date for live events is established.”

According to the Post, employees affected by layoffs will receive a severance and benefit package, as well as outplacement support.

The news of the layoffs comes after MSG announced the cancellation of its annual musical holiday stage show, Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes presented at Radio City Music Hall, due to uncertainty associated with the pandemic.

The company also operates the MSG Sphere Las Vegas, which is expected to be complete in 2021, and its sister venue in London following a year later, pending approval.

 


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StubHub shutters offices in Asia, Latin America

Secondary ticketing giant StubHub is closing down its offices in parts of Asia and Latin America, further reducing its workforce worldwide, the Guardian has reported.

In an email seen by the newspaper, employees were told that the closures “mean that we have to bid farewell to our colleagues in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Hong kong, Taiwan and Korea”.

“This decision has not been made lightly, nor easily,” reads the email.

It is understood that fewer than 100 of StubHub’s 650-strong workforce are facing redundancy as a result of the closures. However, the company is also believed to be making further cuts to its staff based in Madrid, with team members being furloughed or working reduced hours.

“This decision has not been made lightly, nor easily”

A StubHub spokesperson tells IQ that it will continue to serve customers in Asia Pacific and Latin Amerca with the support of “core operational teams in Europe”.

The measures constitute another round of staff reductions for the secondary ticketer, which was acquired by Viagogo last year. StubHub furloughed around a third of its workforce earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and also saw the departure of its CEO, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy in May.

“While events will be among the last to return to normal following this pandemic, we’re confident in the industry’s ability to rebound,” says a StubHub spokesperson.

“For now, we continue to support our customers and partners and look forward to a time when we are able to return to the joy of live events and the special connections that come with them.”

 


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CAA to lay off 90 agents, execs

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) is preparing to lay off 90 agents and executives, as well as furloughing approximately 275 assistants, Variety has reported.

The staff cuts, effective this week, will be enacted across offices in London, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York.

According to sources close to the situation, the music and sports divisions are expected to be among the hardest hit.

“Effective this week, approximately 90 agents and executives from departments across the agency will be leaving,” says a CAA spokesperson.

“In addition, we are furloughing approximately 275 assistants and other staff. The company will continue to fully pay the health plan premiums for those being furloughed.

“This is a painful and unprecedented moment, and words are insufficient”

“This is a painful and unprecedented moment, and words are insufficient. Today, we simply say that we extend our sincere appreciation and deepest gratitude to our departing colleagues.”

CAA was among agencies and other live businesses to announce company-wide pay cuts in response to the coronavirus crisis, in the hope of “keep[ing] all employees financially whole through the end of our fiscal year, 30 September, 2020”.

The agency states it has honoured that commitment, including for those impacted by the announcement.

CAA had so far avoided reducing its workforce but now joins many across the live industry to do so, including fellow agencies WME and Paradigm, ticketers Eventbrite and TicketSwap and, most recently, AEG.

IQ has contacted CAA for further comment.

Photo: Minnaert/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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