Live groups blast government’s energy relief plan
Live music organisations have reacted with disappointment to details of the UK government’s new Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS).
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled the scaled-back initiative, which will replace the existing Energy Bill Relief Scheme from 1 April and will run for 12 months, earlier this week.
Sky News reports the EBDS will cost taxpayers £12.5 billion less and will reduce rather than cap energy cost. Businesses will only able to benefit from the scheme when bills reach £302 and £107 per MWh for electricity and gas, respectively.
Previously, wholesale prices were fixed for all non-domestic energy customers at £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas for six months between 1 October and 31 March 2023.
“The government has been clear that such levels of support were time-limited and intended as a bridge to allow businesses to adapt,” says a statement from HM Treasury. “The latest data shows wholesale gas prices have now fallen to levels just before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and have almost halved since the current scheme was announced.
“The new scheme therefore strikes a balance between supporting businesses over the next 12 months and limiting taxpayer’s exposure to volatile energy markets.”
“The average energy bill for live music venues has gone up by nearly 300% which is leading to permanent venue closures as owners struggle to cover costs”
However, Jon Collins, CEO of trade body LIVE, says the latest measures have increased the level of uncertainty for venue operators.
“The average energy bill for live music venues has gone up by nearly 300% which is leading to permanent venue closures as owners struggle to cover costs,” he says. “This decision further jeopardises these well-loved establishments – restricting access to live music, inhibiting venues’ ability to turn a profit, and damaging town and city centres at a time when we desperately need growth.”
Mark Davyd, CEO of grassroots venues organisation Music Venue Trust, describes the latest measures as “bizarre” and is calling for further clarification from the chancellor.
“The challenges caused by energy bills to grassroots music venues is understood by Jeremy Hunt and the government to be so bad that he has been compelled to write to Ofgem asking that they take action and do something about it,” says Davyd. “That’s good – something does need to be done, because the charges and conditions being forced upon the sector are absurd. The average increase in the sector is 278%. Demands are being made for excessive deposits, suppliers don’t actually want to supply and frankly, there is no market. There is simply an expensive monopoly with extraordinary prices and conditions.
“However, apparently the same evidence that has caused Jeremy Hunt to send the letter to Ofgem laying out these issues was considered insufficient that it would cause him to include Grassroots Music Venues within the specific support he subsequently announced. Venues, alongside the whole of hospitality, have been dumped into a general category of support that is so insufficient that it must inevitably result in permanent closures of venues.
“We are therefore forced to conclude that whilst Jeremy Hunt fully accepts that these energy bills will close music venues, he is not prepared to do anything concrete about it… except send letters”
“We are therefore forced to conclude that whilst Jeremy Hunt fully accepts that these energy bills will close music venues, he is not prepared to do anything concrete about it… except send letters.”
He continues: “The package of supported industries includes libraries and museums, who have neither comparatively high energy bills nor a non-functioning energy market and the basis on which he seems to have made the decisions on what would and would not be included in a package of support from 1 April are, at best, highly unusual.
“Mr Hunt has told Ofgem he would like to see the results of the investigation he has asked for in time for the budget. We would strongly urge them to complete that work with sufficient expediency that the chancellor can revisit the support in that budget and recognise that grassroots music venues should have been included within the exceptional support he has offered to libraries and museums.”
Elsewhere, Night-Time Industries Association chief Michael Kill says the announcement highlights that the government is “out of touch” with businesses.
“The scaling back of the energy relief scheme by government at the end of April will without doubt mean thousands of businesses and jobs will be lost in the coming months,” he adds.
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Best of 2022: Phil Bowdery’s golden term
Ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months. Here, Gordon Masson learns about Live Nation legend Phil Bowdery’s remarkable 50-year career in the industry…
Education is a mantra in Phil Bowdery’s life. “I’ve said to my children many times, ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say,’ because I was out of school by the age of 15, playing in a band,” he confesses. Still, as one of the doyens of the live music sector, his early departure from school hasn’t served him too badly.
Starting life on the road as the drummer for a band called Choc Ice, Bowdery’s early experiences saw him rubbing shoulders with some of the great and the good of the music business. “Our guitarist was Gordon Gaynor, who I still catch up with now and again,” he says. “But our claim to fame was we had a little bit of a break and made a record with Pye, which was the label in those days.”
Gaynor tells IQ, “I met Phil through Ray Stiles, who was bassist for the band Mud. So Phil joined us on drums, gigging most weeks, and when we stayed out the night I’d share a room with Phil, which was a laugh. When we went to Germany for the first time, we lived on pizza for a month, playing three [one-] hour sets a night – great fun!”
“We used to meet Stevie [Wonder] and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together”
Bowdery continues, “We became the backing band for Mac and Katie Kissoon. Katie is now one of Eric Clapton’s backing vocalists, but she and her brother had quite a big hit at the time, and we ended up on the road with The Supremes and also Stevie Wonder, which were both Arthur Howes tours.”
Gaynor comments, “We used to meet Stevie and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together. I remember to this day, Phil and I sitting in Stevie’s dressing room as he played us tracks from his first synth album, Music of My Mind; it blew us both away. I have some really fond memories with Phil.”
Indeed, another claim to fame was Bowdery’s part in one of Wonder’s biggest hits. He recalls, “One day at soundcheck, he had this huge boombox that he was using to record stuff, and he asked me to play a rhythm while he recorded. So, in theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life, which is pretty nice because I now promote Stevie Wonder in Europe.”
“In theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life”
When the wheels came off…
The heady heights of life as a support act were short-lived, however, and Bowdery put aside the drumsticks barely a year after hitting the road. “Things in the band were beginning to fall apart, and suddenly the van wasn’t working, and that was sort of the final straw,” he recalls.
“I was 16 at the time, but I still wanted to be involved in music, so I became the non-driving roadie for Mud, who were from my hometown. I got paid £12 a week. When I was old enough to drive, Mud started to have hits, and as the band got bigger and the crew got bigger, that enabled me to become their production manager, then the tour manager, and then I became part of the management team.
“With Mud we were doing clubs and things – there was a chain in Manchester that owned three venues where we’d open up the first club, we’d be middle of the bill on the second, and top of the bill on the third one. So you ended up doing three shows per night in three different venues, which made it worthwhile. When I think about it, we’d break our heads to play a show – I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig.”
“I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig”
When Mud’s fame began to wane, Bowdery saw the potential to earn some extra cash for the act. “We purchased the sound system,” he explains. “I did the deal with Dave Martin, from Martin Audio, himself. And on the back of that, we started a rental company, which I was running as well.”
The shrewd piece of business opened unexpected doors. “The sound company did work with Renaissance, and when their manager, John Scher, decided not to fly in their regular guy from the States, I became their sound engineer,” explains Bowdery.
And his enthusiasm obviously impressed. “I quickly became the band’s tour manager and toured America with them.”
That introduction to America lit a fire. Following Renaissance, Bowdery found himself on back-to-back tours with Charles Aznavour across the States, and, thanks again to the sound rental operation, he also began his long association with Leo Sayer.
“I quickly became the [Renaissance]’s tour manager and toured America with them”
“I came to Barry Clayman via the sound company, as we were working with some of the acts that MAM were promoting,” says Bowdery. “Barry and I just hit it off from day one – I still speak to him on a daily basis, often multiple times.
“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour. I think the first tour was 1979. Leo and I got on like a house on fire, so it got to the point where he asked me to work for him full-time, so I left the sound company and Mud and worked for Leo straight through to ‘85, when he came off the road.”
In the meantime, Barry Clayman made the decision to depart MAM having sold the business to Chrysalis. “I’d always recognised Phil’s potential, so a few years after the Chrysalis deal, I decided to start my own company – Barry Clayman Concerts [BCC] – and I asked Phil to come with me,” Clayman tells IQ.
“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour”
Bowdery recalls, “A year or so into BCC, we got Michael Jackson and did our first tour with him in ‘88. That really helped establish the company as a serious player.”
Indeed, Clayman reveals, “We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket bought in person at a box office or a ticket outlet. Phil ran all of those shows. In fact, at one date when Jackson failed to appear, it was Phil who went on stage to calm the crowd and explain the date would be rescheduled.”
Bowdery says, “I introduced computers to BCC. Michael Jackson’s tour manager, John Draper, had the first Mac I’d ever seen – this bright-green machine, and it just changed everything. Instead of sitting with a piece of paper, a calculator, a pencil and a rubber, doing costings, we started putting them into sheets with formulas.
“We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket”
“I’ll never forget Barry asking what would happen if we put the ticket price up by 50 pence: he couldn’t believe that we could make all the calculations so quickly… I’ve still got all the old figures. I sometimes like to go back and have a look and just see how I did things.”
Leaving on a jet plane
Having Clayman as a mentor, Bowdery took on more and more responsibility, but his first fully promoted tour turned out to be a bittersweet memory.
“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997. Even though it was a Barry Clayman tour, the credit line was ‘Phil Bowdery for Barry Clayman Concerts,’ which I really appreciated,” he states. Sadly, it would be the final time Denver would visit Europe.
“We played golf a couple of times, and he was talking about this new plane that he’d just bought as a kit and how he was looking forward to seeing it when he got back home. And that was the plane he died in, literally four or five weeks after we finished the tour.”
“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997”
Immersing himself in the international side of BCC’s operations, Bowdery started to rub shoulders with many peers who have since become colleagues at Live Nation.
“It allowed me to learn the European side by starting to use different promoters around Europe. So, through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones – for whom I sort of acted as his agent from about 1987 – I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson.
“That’s how I crafted my European knowledge, by getting to know all those guys – and most of them are now part of the Live Nation family, so it definitely helped that we had pre-existing relationships from when we were all independent.”
Johansson, who these days is Live Nation’s chairman of international music, recalls, “We met for the first time in Holland: Phil was there with The Rubettes for a TV show, and I was there with ABBA for the same programme. Ever since we have worked together with almost every artist in the world!”
“Through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones, I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson”
Further south in Europe, Rob Trommelen at Mojo Concerts acknowledges Bowdery’s no-bounds enthusiasm in helping the artists he works with. Explaining that he knows Bowdery from his days as tour manager with Mud, Trommelen tells IQ, “I always enjoy Phil’s stories about his adventures [in the Netherlands] during the trips they made to a variety of clubs and local discotheques – he knows the names of many villages in the middle of nowhere. One day, he even showed me a video in which he joined Mud’s backing dancers!”
Of course, Bob Sillerman’s corporate kleptomania changed the live music business forever, and in 1999 when SFX turned its attention to BCC, Bowdery found himself as one of the principals in the new expansive operation – a position he built upon as Sillerman cashed out to Clear Channel Communications just four months after the BCC acquisition.
“When the company evolved, a position for a European touring chief became apparent,” says Clayman. “Phil was out of contract, but I suggested they speak to him and he became the new number one. I had great confidence in him because I always knew he had what it takes. He was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base – it’s me who asks him the questions these days.”
“[Phil] was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base”
With Bowdery given the title of executive VP, touring, Europe, when Live Nation spun off from Clear Channel in 2005, his role further expanded when he was promoted to executive president of touring, international, working closely with local partners to set up offices in Australasia, Asia and China, as well as Live Nation’s international touring activities.
Clayman adds, “I take huge satisfaction [in seeing] how successful he has been. On top of being a great music man, he’s a good guy, and he’s great with his staff.”
Because there are a full 24 hours in a day, workaholic Bowdery’s role in recent years has extended outside of his Live Nation remit. For more than six years, he has been chairman of the UK’s Concert Promoters Association, while more recently he has been heavily involved in the creation of LIVE, the UK trade body that represented the live entertainment sector so well during the pandemic restrictions.
Explaining how he first became involved in trade associations, Bowdery says, “Barry Clayman was one of the founding members of the CPA, along with Harvey Goldsmith, Paul Crockford, Danny Betesh, Stuart Littlewood and Carole Smith, who just celebrated her 30th year as CPA secretary. If Barry could not make a meeting, I’d go in his place.
“On top of being a great music man, [Phil] is a good guy, and he’s great with his staff”
“Back then, it was all about a PRS fight: they wanted to increase promoter rates from 2% to 6%, but thanks to the CPA, we managed to contain it at 3%.”
Indeed, the CPA recently emerged from another negotiation with PRS that saw rates rise to 4.2% of gross sales. “It’s tough, especially in the current environment,” admits Bowdery, who nevertheless piloted the CPA’s campaign to stymie PRS attempts to increase the tariff to 8%.
“With VAT going back to 20% from April, along with the PRS’s 4.2%, we’ll have 25% coming off the gross before we even start,” he warns. “That’s why we’re challenged, in the UK, to try to match offers that promoters make, particularly in America where there’s no tax in some instances. But it could be worse if it wasn’t for the fact that the CPA has given us a voice.”
Tres Thomas, senior vice president of operations and the global director of touring for Live Nation, commends Bowdery for his leadership skills, both within the company and at the CPA.
“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything”
“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything,” says Thomas. “When I first met him, I was working with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Deep Purple, and Phil was the guy who started with production and settled the show afterwards – we’d argue over nickels and dimes and catering bills and all those things, but he was always a gentleman and always respectful.
“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn.”
Thomas adds, “Phil has done a wonderful job of mentoring the next generation – Sophia Burn, Ellen Proudlove, Gary McIsaac… He realises that the business will not be ours in ten years, so he’s making sure the next generation is prepared to take over.”
The importance of trade associations and support organisations has, of course, been underlined during the past couple of years, as the global pandemic shuttered touring activity around the world, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without gainful employment.
“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn”
Revealing how his normal day-to-day routine simply stopped, Bowdery tells IQ, “I had Clannad playing the London Palladium on the 17 March , on their final tour. At the meet-and-greet in Birmingham, three days before, they all had gloves on. That was the first sign I’d seen of any response to the virus. But then I got a call from UTA telling me that someone who was at the gig got Covid. It was all so new to us that we started scrambling to put in safeguards.
“Then, when I was at a meeting at Heathrow on March 16, I got a phone call, and I was told ‘The office is closing. And by the way, the Palladium is closed. That’s it. No show tomorrow.’ And from that moment, my study at home became my office.”
While the industry initially started rescheduling gigs by a matter of weeks, it became apparent to Bowdery that Covid could be around for much longer, and he realised, along with a number of peers, that live music was dangerously under-represented in terms of government lobbying.
“The theatre business got pretty loud pretty quickly. But nobody was talking for us: there were a lot of people jumping up and down, but nothing was happening for us, so there was an urgent desire to at least try to be heard and put our situation front and centre as much as we could.”
“The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better”
Bowdery, alongside Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith and ILMC’s Greg Parmley, set about creating the LIVE trade association and putting together a strategy to lobby government ministers about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of professionals that depend on live entertainment for their income.
“I think we achieved an awful lot,” says Bowdery, underplaying the complexity of the task. “I really believe the reduction in VAT was down to us. I believe that the government’s creation of the relief fund was down to us. And there was an awful lot achieved by doing the test events – Melvin Benn’s test events at first, then everybody else elsewhere doing test events to prove that our industry is adaptable, and if people wanted to go to events, then we were more than capable of finding a way of getting them there safely.”
Understandably proud of those achievements, Bowdery says, “The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better – it gives us that umbrella organisation we’ve always been missing. In saying that, it’s important that we have all the different organisations feeding into LIVE because that will help to keep the balance: particularly with the Production Services Association, which is the production side; with Mark Davyd and the Music Venue Trust; and also the concert halls and the National Arenas Association because that gives you representation from the grassroots to the biggest venues, again keeping the balance with everyone.”
“We all owe [Phil] a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business”
Bowdery’s efforts have not gone unrecognised. “The work he has done with the LIVE group over the last two years has been stellar – a steadying hand during a very rough voyage,” notes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London-based operations. “We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business, never looking for any glory for himself.”
DF Concerts chief Geoff Ellis says, “Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has internationally, so it’s been a pleasure to serve on the CPA board with him.
“His work through the pandemic with the CPA and LIVE has helped immeasurably. When I was meeting with all the political parties in Scotland to talk about the insurance problem, Phil took the time to meet with the cabinet secretary responsible for culture to make sure the Scottish government understood the problems of our industry.”
Bowdery himself tips his hat toward the unprecedented collaboration between industry rivals throughout the pandemic, noting that their willingness to work together for the greater good bodes well as the business recovers. “When something like a pandemic happens it just makes you realise how much the strength of coming together makes a difference,” he says. “Information is power, and sharing information with each other has worked really well.”
“Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has”
Many of the people that IQ spoke to for this article note Bowdery’s extraordinary communication skills, pointing out his ability to solve problems with ease, as well as the unique relationship he maintains with artists.
Bowdery believes those attributes were picked up through his desire to be in the live music business. “I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic,” he says. “But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road: that taught me life. I had to think on my feet, and when you do that you are communicating.”
Hinting at where he honed his legendary negotiation proficiency, Bowdery recalls a game he’d play with musicians in hotels where the goal was to taste all the whisky behind the bar without paying for a drop. “That was all down to communication and building a relationship with the barman. There was no harm done, but it was all about the ‘gift of the gab’.”
He adds, “I’ve always made sure when I go to a club or theatre or wherever that the person who works on the door genuinely knows that they are as important to me as the guy in the office who is paying the band. Let’s face it, if the door isn’t open, nobody gets in. So I try to ingratiate myself with people and I’m not above communicating with everyone. Everyone is equal.”
Being the long-term manager for Michael Ball, and the agent and tour director for Tom Jones, his approach to dealing with artists is equally simple. “You need to have empathy,” he says. “Without artists, we don’t have jobs. We facilitate them to play to an audience: there is no industry without them.”
“I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic. But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road”
Examining some of the technological breakthroughs he has witnessed during his distinguished career, Bowdery underlines the power of the Internet as a game changer. “It’s changed completely the whole marketing aspect of what we do,” he observes. “There was a time when it was only the younger artists that benefitted, but now it’s everyone.
“It really hit home with One Direction. Then agent Paul Fitzgerald and managers Richard [Griffiths] and Harry [Magee] tasked us to do the tour without using any print. And we sold out the entire European stadium tour on social media.” Reluctant to identify particular gigs as career highlights, Bowdery nevertheless namechecks certain acts. “Tom Jones, who I love, of course,” he states, while he admits he would have loved to have worked with The Beatles and Elvis Presley, especially as he has heard so many legendary anecdotes from Tom Jones about his Vegas days with Elvis.
He also lauds Live Nation chief Michael Rapino for his role in changing the live music business. “I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with him when he worked in the London office,” Bowdery says. “That’s stood me in good character since because if I need to speak to him – and it’s not something I do that much – he’s always ready to talk. But I think so much of the global growth for the live music business is down to Michael Rapino. His vision is incredible, and he knows what works.”
“If everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever”
With 85-year-old mentor, Barry Clayman, still going strong as a promoter, Bowdery, likewise, isn’t entertaining any ideas of stepping away. Indeed, if everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever.
“Obviously, the huge success of Coldplay throughout Europe is just enormous, and Harry Styles has two sold-out Wembley stadiums plus Manchester plus Glasgow,” he notes. We’re actually getting into holding stadium dates for 2024,” he reveals. “It’s obvious that the need and desire of everyone to get back to business – and for fans to catch up on two years without live shows – is alive and well.
“I have Genesis, Crowded House, Sting and Westlife going out as the last artists I’ve had to reschedule. Wembley Stadium with Westlife, for example, should have been in 2020 and is now going to happen in ‘22 – we’ve nearly caught up.”
However, as with many in the industry, Bowdery remains concerned over the pandemic’s impact on the live music supply chain. “Talking to major staging contractors, trucking companies, production services, is worrying,” he reports. “It’s all very well me booking a tour, but if the sound isn’t available or if the stage can’t get there, then the artist won’t be able to perform.”
“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then standing there watching it”
But he’s hopeful that the satisfaction he derives from organising gigs is also felt by others along the length of the supply chain. “There are so many people in our industry that have changed vocation, not out of desire but out of necessity, so we are going to suffer shortages, and that’s why everyone’s working so hard at the moment to try to make sure that they are aligned with their suppliers. But it’s not easy.
“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then put the deal together, got it on sale, built it; and then standing there watching it. It’s still a rush, and I think lots of people who are involved in working on live music experience the same feelings, so I’m confident that we’ll get some of the people back from the likes of Amazon or whoever they switched their skills toward during the pandemic.”
He adds, “I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best acts in the world, from Streisand to Coldplay to Bruce Springsteen to BTS to Tom Jones. But it’s not one particular artist that I associate that feeling of joy – it’s every single show, be it at a club or a stadium, Dave Gahan at Shepherd’s Bush Empire or BTS or Springsteen at Wembley Stadium – the same effort has gone in, in theory, to actually put that together. Getting that satisfaction is what I love.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 110 of IQ Magazine.
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Budget prompts call for UK live music commission
The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) is calling on the government to set up a live music commission after criticising the “missed opportunities” of today’s budget presented by chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
The organisation welcomes Hunt’s announcement, delivered as part of his Autumn Statement, that business rates relief will be extended from 50% to 75% from 1 April 2023 and urges the chancellor and PM to bring forward a full review of the issue for grassroots venues “at the earliest opportunity”.
However there was further frustration for the industry, as pleas to reduce VAT on ticketing were ignored once more.
“A live music commission can provide the government with the tools it needs to be able to recognise the incredible asset the UK has in its grassroots music venues”
“Multiple opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector are being consistently missed,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “Our grassroots music venue sector creates 29,000 jobs, delivering over 170,000 performances to more than 20 million people. It is a vital sector with real opportunities to deliver growth, but that is not recognised and acted upon in this Autumn Statement.
“In light of these missed opportunities, Music Venue Trust calls for the government to set up a live music commission. This body can be charged with considering the significant opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector, with the aim of informing future government policy so that these opportunities are not consistently missed.
“A live music commission can provide the government with the tools it needs to be able to recognise the incredible asset the UK has in its grassroots music venues and ensure that future policy protects, secures and improves them.”
“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink”
Jon Collins, CEO of trade body LIVE, acknowledges the government’s desire to bring stability to the UK economy, but says the budget offers “little help” to secure the future of the UK’s live industry.
“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink, as much-loved venues close their doors, tours are cancelled and artists drop out of the industry,” he says.
“The pandemic hangover combined with the increased cost of living has led to 54% of people stating they are less disposed to attending live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector. Today, we renew our call for a reintroduction of a lower VAT rate on ticket sales to inject cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses, bring us in line with many other European countries, and secure the future of live music for all.”
“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future”
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which has more than 1,400 members, including nightclubs, bars, casinos, festivals, and supply chain businesses ,also criticises the budget for a perceived lack of clarity and suggests the measures outlined do not gone far enough.
“This government is guilty of neglecting thousands of businesses and millions of employees and freelancers across the night time economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity, and will without doubt see a huge swathe of SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and independent businesses disappear in the coming months,” says NTIA chief Michael Kill.
“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future, and will remember the fourth failed attempt to deliver a budget to safeguard businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis. There is no consideration for the human impact, this will have a devastating effect on not only business owners, but the individuals and families who have committed their lives and livelihoods to this sector.”
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Solo Agency names Jonathan Lomax as managing director
Solo Music Agency has appointed Jonathan Lomax as managing director to work with owners Caroline and John Giddings across the agency and the Isle of Wight festival, in the UK.
Lomax joins Solo after a 20-year career running communications agencies in London. For two years through the Covid pandemic, Jonathan ran the political lobbying and communications work for the live music industry body LIVE. He led a team working with a wide range of industry leaders to help them navigate the ever-shifting sands of policy during the pandemic, and fought to ensure the financial plight of the industry was on the radar of media and government.
In addition, he has also advised and overseen communications activity for international arena development businesses on their plans for new large-scale venues in the UK.
Lomax says: “It was one of the privileges of my career to support the live music industry during the pandemic, when I met the most interesting and committed people. Despite everyone telling me that I was mad, I was determined to work in the industry permanently and I am thrilled that John and Caroline have taken me into the Solo family.
“I find myself feeling incredibly lucky to be working with such legends of the industry”
“Yet again I find myself feeling incredibly lucky to be working with such legends of the industry as we push forward both the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo. I’m very excited and start the job knowing that, at the very least, there will never be a dull day at work.”
Caroline Giddings adds: “At Solo we’re always looking to bring in new ideas and fresh thinking and we’re excited about someone helping us run the company who has extensive experience in other fields. Like many people in the industry, we got to know Jonathan during the dark days of the pandemic and we’re excited to be working together as a team in happier times as we look to turbocharge both the agency and the Isle of Wight Festival.”
John Giddings comments: “Things never stay the same in this business, you either change or die. I’m really pleased that Jonathan is going to be working with the team on Solo’s next phase and I’m looking forward to many more successful days ahead.”
The lineup for Isle of Wight festival 2023 was recently revealed, with acts including Pulp, George Ezra, Chemical Brothers, Sugarbabes, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Anne-Marie, Gabrielle and Blondie.
Shortlist announced for UK’s LIVE Awards
The shortlist of nominees has been unveiled for the inaugural LIVE Awards, which will take place at The Brewery in London on Tuesday 13 December.
Introduced by trade body LIVE, the new annual event is expected to attract 350 guests and will celebrate outstanding individuals and companies across the UK’s live music sector, as well as serving as an end of year celebration for the business.
Categories were open to all across the industry, with hundreds of entries received, while a special LIVETime Achievement Award will be presented to an individual that has played a principal role in driving forward and improving the UK’s live music business, decided by the LIVE executive board.
“We have been delighted with the depth and breadth of the nominations”
“We have been delighted with the depth and breadth of the nominations sent in for this, the first LIVE Awards,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “They reflect the fact that, despite all the challenges we face, our sector truly is world-class.
“We now hand the tricky decision of selecting our winners over to our panel of judges. While they deliberate, we can get on with putting together a memorable evening. With free drinks all night, a five-star dinner, after party, and proceeds supporting the ongoing work of LIVE, there are plenty of reasons to be there.”
The 2022 nominees are as follows:
The LIVE Green Award
A Greener Festival
Reading & Leeds Festival x Music Declares Emergency
The LIVE Workforce Award
Aberdeen Performing Arts (RISE UP)
AEG Europe People & Culture Team
Association of Black Event Professionals
Sound City Liverpool
Venue of the Year
Resorts World Arena
Rock City Nottingham
Royal Albert Hall
The London Palladium
The O2 Arena
Are you Listening? Festival
Barn On The Farm Festival
Beardy Folk Festival
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Norwich Arts Centre
Windmill Brixton, London
Major Booking Agency 2022
Primary Talent International
Booking Agency 2022
Earth Music Agency
One Fiinix Live
National Promoter 2022
FKP Scorpio UK
Music Plus Sport
Regional Promoter 2022
Bird on the Wire
Ticketing Service 2022
Major Festival of the Year
BST Hyde Park
Reading & Leeds Festivals
Festival of the Year
End of The Road Festival
The Great Escape
Production Supplier 2022
Full Fat Events
Label Worx Limited
Brand Partnership 2022
Bacardi @ Live Nation
Gigseekr @ Liverpool Sound City
Luno @ Koko
National Lottery Revive Live @ Music Venue Trust
Southern Comfort @ The Collab Agency
Visit Arkansas @ Black Deer Festival
Mini-budget ‘delivers little’ for UK live sector
UK live music trade bodies have expressed disappointment over chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget.
Measures outlined by Kwarteng in the House of Commons today in a bid to boost growth included a 1p cut to the basic rate of income tax from April 2023, along with the abolition of the 45p tax rate for top earners over £150,000, while a planned rise on corporation tax from 19% to 25% has been scrapped and a 1.25% rise in National Insurance to be reversed.
But LIVE CEO Jon Collins, who wrote an open letter to the chancellor earlier this week calling for a reduction in VAT and business rates, says the announcement does little to help the live sector.
“Today’s announcement delivers little for the UK’s world leading live music industry”
“While we are pleased to see the government taking steps to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, today’s announcement delivers little for the UK’s world leading live music industry,” he says. “Jobs are already on a knife edge, and we agree with the chancellor that there are too many barriers in sectors like ours where the UK leads the world. Combined with the impact of reduced public spending power and rising costs across the supply chain, businesses that are already struggling to turn a profit will face bankruptcy and closure.
“Only the emergency measures that we have suggested to government will prevent this – injecting cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses through a reduction in VAT on ticket sales, as well as major reform of business rates.”
Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed adds his voice to the chorus of disapproval.
“Today’s announcement from the chancellor means very little for our £1.76bn UK festival industry,” he says. “We’ve faced unprecedented challenges on increased costs, supply chain and low consumer confidence, with audiences facing a social emergency. This shows no sign of relenting as we look to 2023.
“What we need is an urgent reduction of VAT on tickets to 5%, and an assurance that festival businesses will be classed as vulnerable and eligible for support with the energy crisis beyond March 2023.”
Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill also shares his frustration at the mini-budget, which he says has left the night time economy in the cold.
“I would urge the chancellor and government to reconsider these measures, given the limited impacts of the current tax cuts on the immediate crisis for many businesses across the sector”
“We are extremely disappointed with the chancellor’s announcement this morning,” he says. “It will be seen as a missed opportunity to support businesses that have been hardest hit during this crisis, causing considerable anxiety, anger and frustration across the sector as once again they feel that many will have been left out in the cold.”
Earlier this week, the government revealed its Energy Bill Relief Scheme, which will see energy bills for UK businesses cut by around half of their expected level this winter. The news followed the revelation that some UK live music venues are seeing their energy bills increase by an average of 300% –in some cases as much as 740% – adding tens of thousands of pounds to their running costs.
Under the scheme, wholesale prices are expected to be fixed for all non-domestic energy customers at £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas for six months between 1 October and 31 March 2023. Kwarteng says the subsidising of both domestic and business energy bills will cost £60 billion for the next six months.
But Kill stresses that the intervention is “unlikely to be enough to ensure businesses have the financial headroom to survive the winter”.
“I would urge the chancellor and government to reconsider these measures, given the limited impacts of the current tax cuts on the immediate crisis for many businesses across the sector, the extremely vulnerable position the night time economy and hospitality sectors remain in, and re-evaluate the inclusion of general business rates relief and the reduction of VAT within these measures,” he says.
Our industry is facing unprecedented challenges
To the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng MP,
Following two hugely disrupted years of closures, cancellations and government restrictions, live music is once again bringing joy to communities across the UK.
This summer saw one of the biggest weekends of live music in the country’s history with an estimated one million fans flocking to world-famous festivals, classical concerts and grassroots gigs over the space of 48 hours.
The UK is world-leading when it comes to live music, its creation and delivery. But our industry is facing unprecedented challenges.
Sky-rocketing operating costs combined with energy bill increases of up to 1,700% and pressure on disposable income are closing the doors on live music spaces at an alarming rate. Gigs, festivals and tours are being postponed while, according to the Music Venue Trust, at least 300 grassroots venues risk permanent closure.
The energy crisis is just the latest in a range of impacts on our vibrant sector
These domestic pressures come at a time when live music touring is proving both costly and complex, which is especially harmful to artists who are at the start of their careers. In 2019, UK music exports were valued at £2.9bn with UK artists headlining four of the top ten grossing tours. Unfortunately, the costs and complexity of touring post-Brexit put this at risk.
And this does not just affect our venues and events. Every lost gig, festival or venue jeopardises a highly specialised supply chain, puts skilled jobs at risk and leaves our talented artists without opportunities to profit from their creativity. We cannot afford to lose our live music sector, which generates an estimated £4.5 billion every year for the UK economy and whose talented artists and crews are the envy of the world.
While today’s energy announcement goes some way to alleviate that risk, as soon as this support is removed, we will again face the threat of widespread closure. The energy crisis is just the latest in a range of impacts on our vibrant sector.
We need your help.
With our industry still hurting from the aftereffects of Covid and rising costs across the supply chain, we continue to make the case that our sector needs additional support from government – if we are to keep all concert halls, arenas, festivals, and grassroots music venues open, we need movement on VAT and business rates.
If we are to keep all venues open, we need movement on VAT and business rates
An emergency reintroduction of the 5% VAT rate on live music ticket sales would keep people employed, venues and festivals open, and money flowing back into local economies as fans flock to gigs.
Based on 2021 figures, the reintroduction of 5% VAT on tickets sales would cost just £150 million in the first year. Funds used by industry to expand the event roster and mitigate cost pressures on ticket prices. This additional activity would generate a further £12om spend at venues – safeguarding thousands of jobs, keeping hundreds of venues open, generating incremental tax revenues and getting millions of pounds flowing into local economies. It would also build on other sectoral interventions such as Theatre Tax Relief and Orchestra Tax Relief, which are helping the sector bounce back post-pandemic.
Running this intervention for just three short years would mitigate some of the huge overhanging pressures the industry faces post-Brexit and Covid, while making live music events more accessible at a time when the country needs it most.
It’s over to you to ensure the UK’s live music sector has a vibrant future, helping us all to reap the cultural, economic, and social value music brings to the country – and to the world at large.
Energy crisis ‘existential challenge’ for live biz
UK live music trade bodies have warned the sector faces an “existential challenge” from the energy crisis after prime minister Liz Truss announced a temporary price cap for businesses.
The new PM unveiled an estimated £150 billion package today, which will see energy bills capped at £2,500 for households for next two years while the government gets the energy market “back on track”.
An equivalent price cap guarantee will be offered to all businesses, charities and public sector organisations for six months, after which a review will take place. Hospitality and other vulnerable sectors will be guaranteed additional support after the six-month period.
“We welcome the government’s energy announcement today and the measures outlined by the prime minister, but we urgently need more detail on how the government plans to support struggling businesses facing energy costs increasing by as much as 1,700%,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “To support the live music industry, we also call on the government to introduce targeted action by reducing VAT on ticket sales to 5% and reforming business rates.”
“The triple threat of a cost-of-living crisis, the post-pandemic hangover, and skyrocketing energy prices could spell the end of the UK’s live music scene as we know it”
A recent industry survey revealed that music businesses across the country are currently facing enormous energy cost increases, forcing many to consider closing their doors and leading Collins to warn last week that the “triple threat of a cost-of-living crisis, the post-pandemic hangover, and skyrocketing energy prices could spell the end of the UK’s live music scene as we know it”.
“Millions of people have just enjoyed a spectacular summer of live music, but this is now under threat,” he said. “We face cuts to programming, venue closures and an unbearable strain on an already fragile industry. Government must act to protect this world-leading and uniquely British endeavour before it is too late.”
Responding to today’s intervention, Music Venue Trust venue support manager Clara Cullen stresses that a longer-term solution is required.
“The policy announced today only goes some way in alleviating the challenge”
“The financial impact of the energy price rises on the grassroots music venue sector presents an existential challenge,” she says. “For a sector with a total gross turnover of £399 million, the current rise equates to an additional £90m in costs.
“The policy announced today only goes some way in alleviating the challenge, in the very short-term, by creating an energy price cap for businesses that will be in place for an initial six months. The government has committed to reviewing this policy in conjunction with the hospitality sector. Music Venue Trust will contribute to this review to ensure the perspective of grassroots music venues is included in this decision-making process.
“As the policy announced today is only a temporary short-term measure, Music Venue Trust urges the government to take further action to ensure a long-term solution for energy provision for grassroots music venues providing an energy supply which is affordable, reliable and sustainable. We need this action to take place as soon as possible to protect, secure and improve our grassroots music venues.”
“This half measure package is tantamount to support experienced during the pandemic, but lacks considerable detail to alleviate current business concerns”
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, believes the support package falls short of requirements.
“We are extremely disappointed at the announcement by the prime minister today,” he says. “This half measure package is tantamount to support experienced during the pandemic, but lacks considerable detail to alleviate current business concerns.”
“We have no time for drip fed support, or to await the impact assessment of incremental measures, this needs to be a concise and immediately accessible package, which is proportionate and scalable.
“As the first major announcement of the prime minister and chancellor’s tenure, the government has failed businesses today, and with mounting debt across the sector we will see many have no choice but to consider the future, placing thousands of jobs at risk in the coming weeks, without additional support.”
Last month, IQ heard from a number of European arenas who also say that skyrocketing energy costs are emerging as the sector’s biggest challenge since the Covid-19 pandemic. ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist said the prices for electricity and gas at the company’s venues have quadrupled since the beginning of the year, with the UK being hit the hardest.
Stuart Galbraith on UK’s huge live music summer
Kilimanjaro Live chief Stuart Galbraith has given his verdict on the UK’s huge summer of live music in a new interview with IQ.
DEAG-owned Kili is coming off a spectacular summer in which it sold 1.5 million tickets for shows including stadium dates with Ed Sheeran and Stereophonics, alongside its annual Kew the Music and Live at Chelsea outdoor concert series and a raft of other tours.
More than one million people in the UK attended concerts in a single weekend in late June, while the past few weeks have been similarly jam-packed. But Galbraith does not expect the level of touring seen in 2022 to become the norm once the huge backlog of rescheduled gigs from 2020/21 clears up.
“Next summer will be busy, but I don’t think it will be as busy as this year has been”
“I think it has to be an outlier,” he tells IQ. “There is so much product that has been rescheduled and I think we will see things settle down as we head into the autumn and then into spring next year, because if you think of the volume [of shows] we have as a medium-sized company and then start to think of the volume that the bigger promoters have carried forward, it’s just too much.
“Next summer will be busy both indoors and outdoors, but I don’t think it will be as busy as this year has been, which is no bad thing. The market needs to readjust, particularly as we come out of Covid and face new challenges for customers’ money such as heating bills, inflation and recession.
“Looking at what we have going forwards, we’re comfortable having fewer shows than we’ve had in the last 12 months, but we’re also comfortable that they are all selling well. This autumn for instance, we’ve got Andrea Bocelli [arena shows originally planned for 2020]. We’ve got a comeback tour with Blue. We’ve got now more dates with Hans Zimmer next spring at arena level and then a whole myriad of tours at theatre level and they’re all doing well. The market’s getting back to normal.”
In September 2020, Kili established Singular Artists with veteran concert promoters Fin O’Leary, Brian Hand and Simon Merriman to organise concerts in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“Running through the spring has been tough but as we head into the autumn and the end of the summer, we’re seeing ticket sales becoming stronger,” says Galbraith. “We’ve got a brand new outdoor concert series with them at Collins Barracks [Dublin] at the end of August and we’re feeling very optimistic about that. We’ve got shows in there with Simply Red, Alt-J, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Fleet Foxes, and we’ve also just had an on sale in arenas in Ireland with The Vamps that has opened up brilliantly.”
“For other festivals in the marketplace, I’m hearing it’s feast or famine”
Kili also has the return of Scotland’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival to look forward to from 28-30 July, with a line-up featuring Nile Rodgers + Chic, Van Morrison Emili Sandé, The Fratellis, Passenger and Shed Seven, among others. The festival, which has taken place at the Belladrum Estate near Inverness since 2004, was acquired by DEAG via Kili in 2018.
Last year, DEAG also acquired a majority stake in UK Live, the independent Buckinghamshire-based promoter behind festivals such as Let’s Rock, PennFest and Sunset Sessions. While Galbraith is pleased with the performances of his own events, the picture for the wider sector is more mixed.
“For other festivals in the marketplace, I’m hearing it’s feast or famine – they’re either doing really well or they’re struggling terribly,” he says. “I think it comes down to when the tickets were sold and how strong the brand is, so it’s quite a mixed bag.”
And having debuted “indie and alternative sounds” festival Neck of the Woods in Norwich in May, Galbraith says Kili is always on the lookout for fresh opportunities in the market.
“We’re continuing to expand; we have got several projects that we’re looking at and it’s carrying on our policy of expansion that we had both heading into pandemic and through the pandemic,” he says. “We’ll carry on looking in the marketplace for new friends that we can bring into the group.”
“Cultural VAT lobbying is huge for LIVE”
Galbraith also discusses the formation of the UK’s first live music trade body LIVE last year, which he played a key role in establishing alongside Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery. The organisation appointed hospitality industry expert Jon Collins as its new chief executive officer in the spring.
“LIVE came out of necessity,” he suggests. “There was common crisis, as it were. And one of the key steps forward was putting together a funding model that has given it three years of guaranteed income and enabled us to put in place Jon Collins as its first ever permanent CEO, and give him secretariat support.
“Going forward, I think LIVE has got huge amounts of work to do. Certainly, one of the key asks at the moment is to recognise the huge benefit of a reduced level of VAT on arts and culture. Many societies and countries across the world have reduced cultural rates of value added tax. And what we saw during the pandemic was the massive impact that had on getting that sector going again and also its ability to basically generate new business, so cultural VAT lobbying is huge for LIVE.
“I think there’s a massive piece of work on environmentalism and greening our business sector in readiness for regulations that will be coming down the line to comply with our international commitments as a member of the world community. There are many other things – whether it be supply chain issues, visas and touring in Europe, or employee wellbeing – and I think LIVE will go from strength-to-strength in leading and being the voice in all of those sectors of discussion and conversation going forward.”
Galbraith reflects on how attitudes within the live business have changed since March 2020.
“What’s interesting is during the two years of pandemic, there was certainly a mood switch across so many organisations – and it was very much that we were all in it together,” he says. “There was a massive element of cooperation and sharing of information because we all had one common goal and that was survival.
“It’s not unexpected that competitiveness has since come back in, but I do think that we’ve learned a great deal about each other and there’s a great deal more willingness to pick the phone up and say, ‘This is an issue, how are you dealing with it?’ So I do think that we’ve come up as a more robust sector, but equally, as was expected, we’ve gone back to making sure that we’re doing the best for our employees, artists and shareholders, etc.”
“There is no discrimination of Covid over any other communicable disease”
And following the Covid-enforced shutdown of two years ago and the Omicron spike last winter, Galbraith suggests the business is much better equipped to deal with any further bumps in the road.
“We’ve obviously all learned a great deal during the pandemic,” he says. “I think we’re much better and I think the public are much better equipped to deal with something that would be classed as a resurgence. We’re wary of the months of December, January, February and, in the way that we recognise there’s a seasonal flu season, perhaps we’ve now just got to get ready to be aware that there may be a seasonal Covid season.
“But there is no discrimination of Covid over any other communicable disease. So if you’ve got flu, you stay at home because a) you feel bad and b) you want to be responsible to the other people in and around your office or auditorium, and I think the same is going to be true of Covid.
“I think the only time we’re going to see any major change is if there’s a significant shift in government policy of learning to live with Covid and it gets to the point where they’re having to protect NHS again. But God forbid we never get to that point now with the endemic level of vaccinations throughout the population.”
UK live organisations react to PM’s resignation
The UK’s live music industry is facing up to a further period of uncertainty following the resignation of prime minister Boris Johnson.
Johnson, who succeeded Theresa May in 2019, is stepping down as Conservative leader after a controversial three-year reign, but has stated his intention to remain as PM until the autumn, when his successor is decided in a leadership contest.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” he said.
His announcement, made outside Downing Street this morning, came on the heels of an extraordinary few days in British politics, which saw mass resignations by more than 50 government members in protest at the PM’s leadership – a crisis triggered by revelations that Johnson was aware of allegations against MP Chris Pincher prior to appointing him as deputy chief whip earlier this year.
Members of UK trade body LIVE have given their reaction to the news, with Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed outlining its ramifications for the live sector.
“The resignation of the PM and subsequent disruption further complicates and slows down the policy making process,” he tells IQ. “It effectively puts the government in a holding pattern until a leadership contest is concluded, when we need intervention on VAT and further support during this recovery phase, in which festivals are facing a range of very difficult trading conditions.”
“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history”
Dave Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association (PSA), describes Johnson’s exit as “inevitable”.
“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history,” says Keighley, speaking to IQ. “It was, in my mind, inevitable that Boris Johnson was left with no alternative but to resign. I for one, thought he should have resigned when he was issued with a fine for breaking lockdown rules. In the end it is always the lies and deceit that cripple politicians and their careers.
“Boris has been the victim of his own arrogance, selfishness and stubbornness. Let’s hope the party and government can find a replacement as soon as possible.”
The move has also created speculation regarding the culture secretary position, currently held by Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries.
The Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd told Music Week that Dorries, who became the seventh politician in less than five years to hold the post when succeeding Oliver Dowden in 2021, was the first culture secretary to decline a meeting with the organisation since it was founded in 2014.
Media, digital and infrastructure minister Julia Lopez and tech and digital economy minister Chris Philp, meanwhile, both joined the government exodus earlier this week.
“Significant cost pressures and the cost-of-living squeeze mean trading remains challenging,” he said. “It is of vital importance therefore, that the government takes steps to support those across the live music ecosystem. In particular, introducing a cultural rate of VAT on ticket sales which would secure the sector’s recovery, boost the UK economy and deliver many more weekends like the one that lies ahead.”