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Inside the changing face of live music sponsorship

The pandemic has changed the game for live music sponsorship, according to prominent figures across the business.

With question marks arising over whether brand tie-ins have lost its allure or remain a premier choice for brand leaders, most signs appear to point towards the latter.

Bijal Parmar, head of consumer marketing for Virgin Media O2, indicated much of the appeal for sponsors was derived from music’s “immense power” of connectivity.

“It’s a common culture and a universal language that during the pandemic – and even post-pandemic – has been able to unite people,” she said. “It’s something that has kept people connected, so we’re able to use it to articulate our brand strategy and provide an experience for our customers… So it’s a memory that we’re creating, not just an event.”

Dukagjin ‘Dugi’ Lipa, founder of Republika Communications Agency and co-organiser of Kosovo’s Sunny Hill Festival, with his daughter, Dua Lipa, discussed the evolving relationship.

“Rather than just being that transactional stance between the artist and the brand, we see a lot of changes and different approaches from brand partners,” he said. “Now it’s more connected to brand values: do they see anything that can have longevity rather than just one kind of interaction between the artist and the brand?”

“We get a lot of brand offers, but it’s never about the money”

Dugi pointed out that although the global success of Dua Lipa’s second album Future Nostalgia had placed her in even higher demand with would-be sponsors, there were additional considerations to take into account.

“We get a lot of brand offers, but it’s never about the money,” he insisted. “It’s always about the long term partnership and the values. You become part of the brand and the brand becomes a part of you for that period of time.

“Even though you have a lot of offers, you have to be very, very careful what your next step is and who you are going to be affiliated with, etc. We are living in a new kind of world, where everything is online, everything is reachable, everything is accessible to you. So you have to be very careful who you work and why you do it.”

US-based ASM Global EVP of marketing Alex Merchan summed up the venue company’s approach.

“A key thing we find is really looking beyond just the transactional relationship,” he said. “What is in it for both parties? We’re looking for partners that we can find unique, creative things that add value to the fan experience, or to the facility itself.”

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd explained the organisation’s formation in 2014 marked a turning point for the grassroots sector’s relationship with brands. Davyd referenced the Revive Live showcase, launched in July 2021 with support from the UK National Lottery, which contributed £1 million to directly underwrite the touring and production costs of hundreds of live performances.

“Post-pandemic, it seems to me like a lot of the brands are becoming smarter and not overlaying quite so much,” he suggested. “Our deal with them doesn’t really involve us saying ‘the National Lottery’ very much at all. What they’re looking to do is own the space where an artist broke through, from being unknown to being a touring artist. They want to own that across a number of years.

“In five years’ time, they’re hoping that one of the 60 or 70 tours we’ve already put out will be by the next Adele or Dua Lipa – and they want that reputational branding, rather than a big ‘look what the National Lottery has done’ shout, and that feels quite different. I’ve done a lot of branding where quite often you weren’t really sure why the company was there, but you liked their money. But what we’re now seeing is a lot more of a focus on, ‘What is the authentic experience and how can our brand sit alongside that?'”

“The reaction from the audience is tangibly different than it was before Covid. And I think brands can see that and want to be part of it”

Davyd added that Covid-19 had acted as a “wake-up” call for people who had previously taken their local venue for granted.

“They had to drive or walk past it when it was closed for nearly two years and they really thought, ‘Wow, I could lose that,'” said Davyd. “In this pandemic, a lot of the audience reconnected with what they’ve missed. I’ve been to about 200 shows already and the reaction from the audience is tangibly different than it was before Covid. There’s a real atmosphere in the room of being so happy to be there. And I think brands can see that and want to be part of it.”

CAA UK’s Bradlee Banbury continued on a similar theme, saying many brands had been forced to rethink their relationship with live music due to pandemic.

“They had been lazily badging tours or festivals, but not really activating in a different way with music fans,” he said. “And when we went into the pandemic and there were no live events happening, I think everyone had to reinvent the wheel a little bit. There were some brands that already had strong connections with musicians established for years and they lent into it quite easily. But there were others that were just completely shocked by the whole experience.

“Post-pandemic, I think everyone will have a bit more of a strategy to spread the money a little bit further and make that connection with the actual fans, rather than just badging a tour [although] there’s a place for that as well.”

Banbury spoke highly of drink brands White Claw and Jagermeister’s link-ups with All Points East.

“They’ve got their own stages,” he said. “So you’ve got a lot of fans seeing a show, drinking Jagermeister or White Claw; they’re having a party and they’re really enjoying it. Those brands have brought something to the table.”

This discussion took place as part of the Sponsorship: Falling through the cracks? panel at ILMC 34 in London.

 


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Music Venue Trust confirms Twickets partnership

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) has confirmed a partnership with capped ticket resale marketplace Twickets.

Established in 2011, Twickets works with more than 300 live entertainment partners in the UK including venues, artists, promoters, festivals and ticketing companies.

“We are delighted to become a partner of MVT,” says Twickets founder Richard Davies. “This is a key development for us as it further embeds the business as the legitimate face of resale, working to bring fairness and transparency to event-goers everywhere.

“Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience”

“Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience, and we look forward to collaborating with all members of MVT to prevent blatant profiteering in the secondary ticket market, which not only harms fans but damages the industry as a whole.”

A charitable organisation, the MVT was founded in January 2014 to help protect, secure and improve music venues in the UK.

Mark Davyd, MVT founder and CEO, adds: “We are really pleased to welcome Twickets as one of MVT’s partners. Their mission to enable fans to resell tickets they can no longer use for the price they paid or less aligns well with MVT’s goals to keep tickets out of the hands of touts and in the hands of genuine grassroots gig going fans. Customers can buy from Twickets with the reassurance that they are supporting grassroots music venues across the UK.”

 


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UK live sector frustrated by mini-budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Latest UK support measures branded ‘inadequate’

New financial support announced for businesses by the UK government in response to the spread of the omicron variant has been criticised as inadequate by live music trade bodies.

The additional measures – including a £30 million top-up to the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) – were unveiled by chancellor Rishi Sunak today (21 December) as part of a £1 billion support package for hospitality and leisure. Grants of up to £6,000 are available per premise.

The news comes as new restrictions have been announced in Scotland, with more looking likely in Wales. However, music organisations say the extra funding, which adds to the £1.87bn previously made available through the CRF, falls short of requirements.

“We welcome the news that the government has started to deliver much-needed financial support, but with the live music sector teetering on the brink, the package falls short of the urgent cash injection businesses need to keep them afloat,” says a statement from LIVE.

“The amount of money pales in comparison to the mounting losses faced by the sector and the process will add layers of complexity at a time when businesses are already struggling with skeleton staff rotas and huge losses. We have been down this path earlier in the pandemic, with extensive form filling and application processes, by which point it will likely be too late.

“What we really need is an urgent boost that can help today by leaving money in businesses, such as an emergency reduction in VAT and deferral of loan repayments.”

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd says the amount of funding made available for live music organisations appeared “detached from the reality”.

Business has not just fallen, it has completely collapsed

“Regrettably, today’s announcement appears to be a woefully inadequate response to the reality of the position,” he says.  “Through a local authority distribution process, the treasury appears to be offering grassroots music venues up to £6,000, if they meet certain criteria. This sum is intended to mitigate losses for an as yet unknown period in which business has not just fallen, it has completely collapsed.

“The minimum length of that period, regardless of any restrictions or limitations to business yet to be announced, is six weeks – you can’t simply turn the live music industry on and off like a desk lamp, and tours and events are already cancelled. Not just today, or tomorrow, but for the next three months.

“Additionally, the Treasury has announced £30 million will be added to the Cultural Recovery Fund. Our initial response is that this funding seems bizarrely detached from reality. It is certainly completely inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem.”

The organisation reported last week that small venues had been hit by a catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head since the government’s announcement of Plan B measures earlier this month.

Davyd points out that, despite being “singled out” for restrictions since the onset of the Covid crisis, grassroots music venues were not even mentioned in the statement, which instead focused on “theatres, orchestras and museums’, which will be supported “through until March 2022”.

Losses in the grassroots music venue sector alone will run to £22 million by the end of January

“This is despite DCMS having all the evidence they need that losses in the grassroots music venue sector alone will run to £22 million by the end of January, let alone the end of March 2022,” adds Davyd.

“The damage is already done and there is no point pretending otherwise. At least £22 million in losses by the end of next month will hit already beleaguered and exhausted grassroots music venue operators. This level of new debt fundamentally undermines the entire ecosystem that is the bedrock of a £5 billion world leading music industry.”

He continues: “We are constantly being told that the Culture Recovery Fund will save the day. For this to be true, it needs to be adequately funded to match the challenges the government is trying to deal with. Today’s statement by the treasury is not the answer that is needed.

“The secretary of state for culture must meet with the sector, properly understand the scale of the damage being inflicted, and return to the treasury with a financial ask that reflects what is required.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, is similarly scathing in his response.

“Businesses are failing, people are losing their livelihoods and the industry is crippled,” he says. “Every pound of help is much needed. But this package is far too little and borders on the insulting.”

This lockdown of stealth is putting their already fragile businesses in real jeopardy

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum, and David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, stress that artists and industry professionals had been overlooked in the latest package.

“Artists currently find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place – encouraged by the government to carry on performing, while their audiences are advised to stay at home,” they said in a statement. “With months of uncertainty ahead, this lockdown by stealth is putting their already fragile businesses in real jeopardy. All compounded by the lack of a safety net and insurance schemes that the industry has universally derided as unfit for purpose.

“While the package announced today may help some venues and institutions, it is essential this is also made available to those appearing on the stage or working behind it. Without that concrete support, such as compensation for Covid-related cancellations and viable insurance solutions, we risk artists and tens of thousands of support workers becoming collateral damage to what feels like an unfurling catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, in Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced new restrictions from 26 December, including the cancellation of large-scale events such as Hogmanay celebrations.

Indoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people standing and 200 seated, while outdoor events will be restricted to 500-capacity, with 1m physical distancing at all events.

Sturgeon also announced that support for businesses affected by Covid-19 will be increased by a further £275 million.

Yesterday, Wales also announced that spectators would be banned from all indoor, outdoor, professional and community sports events in the country from Boxing Day. There has not yet been any announcement about the closure of indoor or outdoor music venues, although economy minister Vaughan Gething said new restrictions will need to be introduced.

 


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UK faces “devastating loss” over cancellations, no-shows

The UK live industry is contending with up to 50% audience no shows and widespread cancellations due to Omicron, a snap industry survey has shown.

The survey, conducted by LIVE, found that 70% of organisers were forced to cancel shows due to take place last week. Jessie Ware, Steps, Paul Weller, Coldplay and Lil Nas X are among the artists forced to cancel due to the virus.

Among the major artists that have this week cancelled remaining shows for 2021 are also The Charlatans (five dates), Supergrass (three), Stereophonics (two), Deacon Blue (two), Del Amitri (three), The Libertines (two) and Amy Macdonald (one).

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February– some as many as 10 each – and more expected to follow, according to LIVE’s survey.

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February

MØ and Brockhampton are among the artists that have already cancelled or postponed UK/EU tours scheduled for 2022 as a result of concerns around Omicron.

The trade association says that the widespread cancellations, alongside a high rate of audience dropouts, are leading to a “devastating” rise in lost income for the live music industry.

These losses are compounded by drastic falls in tickets sales, with expected ticket sales for 2022 live music falling by over a third in the last few weeks, the association adds.

Lucy Noble, National Arenas Association chair and artistic director at Royal Albert Hall, says ticket sales for the London venue have “fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”.

“Ticket sales have fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”

“We have already had a £20m loan from the government but we don’t want to accumulate any more debt,” she tells IQ.

Mark Davyd, CEO of The Music Venue Trust, warns that the position of the industry is taking “a dramatic turn for the worst”.

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months,” he tells IQ. “We are currently organising the sector to make applications for all available funding, but more than 50% of grassroots music venues across the UK do not meet the criteria to qualify for the funding currently available.

“The government needs to act on VAT, business rates, retail, hospitality & leisure grants and additional restrictions grants without delay. None of this is new; the government did an excellent job of preventing music venue closures in the last 23 months. We simply need that support reopened to deal with the latest phase of the pandemic.”

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months”

Commenting on the snap survey, a spokesperson from LIVE said: “These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it’s absolutely vital that the government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and a Christmas of Misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work.

“We also face a double-whammy as next year’s sales take a nosedive, meaning organisers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss.”

LIVE, on behalf of more than 3,100 businesses in the sector, is now calling for urgent financial support from government, including:

 


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UK grassroots sector facing fresh Covid crisis

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has warned the UK’s grassroots circuit is on the brink of collapse in the wake of fresh government restrictions.

The organisation reports that small venues have been hit by a catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head since last Wednesday’s announcement of Plan B measures to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, placing the entire sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures.

As a result, the MVT is calling on culture secretary Nadine Dorries to create a ring-fenced stabilisation fund to protect the sector, stressing that significant funding from the £1.7 billion Culture Recovery Fund remains unspent and unallocated.

“This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season,” says MVT strategic director Beverley Whitrick.

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs.”

It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020

The MVT says losses over the last week were close to £2 million, with 86% of venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event. The biggest causes of cancellations were a performer/member of the touring party testing positive for Covid (35.6%), private hire bookings cancelled by the organiser (31.3%) and poor sales performance (23.6%).

MVT CEO Mark Davyd likens the predicament to the early days of the pandemic.

“It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020, when confusing government messaging created a ‘stealth lockdown’ – venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it,” he says.

“We have been here before. This time the government already has all the tools in place that it needs to manage this impact and prevent permanent closures in the grassroots music venue sector. The Culture Recovery Fund can be swiftly adapted to mitigate this economic impact, the money is already there and waiting, we just need the secretary of state to act quickly.

“The government previously used business rate suspension and VAT cuts to support and sustain the sector. We don’t need to spend time considering the situation; the government already knows what can be done and can choose very quickly to do it.”

MPs yesterday voted to back the government’s “Plan B” measures to tackle Omicron by introducing vaccine certificates or negative lateral flow tests to enter venues. The move was criticised by Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill.

“We are disappointed that MPs have voted into law covid passports for nightclubs,” he says. “The NTIA have consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night time economy businesses and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively.

“It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus.”

IQ has compiled the latest live music restrictions affecting key international touring markets in Europe here, and the rest of the world here.

 


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Campaign to save Night & Day Cafe ramps up

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has revealed noise complaints have been made against more than 40 venues since lockdown lifted in July, as a campaign to protect Manchester’s Night & Day Cafe reaches 50,000 signatures.

The 220-cap venue, which celebrates its 30th birthday this Saturday, was served with a noise abatement notice on 18 November by Manchester City Council (MCC) licensing after being reported by a nearby resident.

A petition launched in support of Night & Day says the council is now threatening to close the venue, alleging it is a “noise nuisance”.

“We have met the resident a number of times to explain what we do and that nothing has changed operationally to how we operated pre-lockdown and the 28 years prior to that,” says the petition. “We ask for Manchester City Council licensing to remove our noise abatement notice and for the council to address the real issue here which is that housing with ill-considered planning and construction has been approved and built next to a pre-existing live music business.

“Over the past 15 years, flats have been built or existing buildings converted to flats around us with no real thought or consideration to the pre-existing business, building and what it does.

“We also ask not to be labelled us as a ‘nuisance’. We believe we are a real cultural asset to the city of Manchester, the North West and indirectly to the UK as a whole.”

It’s time the complaints process was changed

MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME there had been over 40 noise complaints against UK grassroots music venues since the sector reopened en masse in July.

“With the exception of one case, all relate to complaints that the venue had resumed its normal operation; no new hours, no change of music, no increase in volume,” said Davyd.

“This is one of a raft of absurd new complaints lodged by people who apparently think it’s OK to move near to venues during a pandemic and complain when they reopen. Every noise complaint costs the venue money to defend and defeat.

“It’s time the complaints process was changed so that obviously ludicrous complaints such as this, against a venue celebrating 30 years of business, can be immediately dismissed or the venue financially recompensed for being forced to prove that the cause of the ‘nuisance’ is the new resident’s decision to move next to it.”

Sacha Lord, night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester and co-founder of Manchester’s Parklife festival and The Warehouse Project, said he would do everything within the powers to save the Night & Day, which previously won a similar battle in 2014.

“If you choose to live next to a live music venue, don’t then complain about noise,” Lord said on Twitter. “Night & Day Cafe is a true iconic gem. I am in touch with them and will do everything I can to work with all parties, to save this venue.”

 


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Scots vaccine passport ‘costing biz £250k a week’

The botched rollout of Scotland’s vaccine passport app is costing venues £250,000 a week, according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

The Scottish Music Venues Alliance (SMVA) has reported a 39% dip in business per week, amounting to £249,471.23, since vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs on 1 October.

A vast majority of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app, says the events sector.

With the weekly turnover for SMVA members totalling just under £640,000, the drop represents a loss of more than £712,770 over the first two weeks of the month. Venues stand to lose almost £2 million from an eight-week downturn. MVT CEO Mark Davyd describes the figures as “terrible”.

“We told [the government] very clearly that if they went down a vaccine-only passport route, there would need to be financial compensation for the people who have to deliver it, and they didn’t do that,” Davyd tells IQ. “They waited to see what would happen. And what’s happened is £700,000 has already been lost, £250,000 a week is being lost and is going to carry on being lost while they still pursue this policy.”

Scottish venues reported high levels of customer frustration over the lack of information from government and the chaotic rollout of the app. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland systems were to blame for the troubled launch rather than the app itself.

Davyd says a BRIA [Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment] put out by the authorities after implementation contained no financial assumptions.

“It merely noted that only 62% of 18 to 29-year-olds were actually double vaccinated,” he says. “Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that 18 to 29-year-olds are a very large percentage of the audience that goes to grassroots music venues. And therefore 38% of them can no longer get into a grassroots music venue.”

This is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates

A third of ticket holders over the first two weeks did not attend, while 27% of customers were refused entry due to lack of evidence of full certification. Furthermore, 61% of punters would have been refused entry had venues strictly implemented the full terms of the restrictions, which became enforceable by law on Monday (15 October).

“To be very clear, this is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates,” says Davyd. “All it’s doing is driving customers out of a very specific part of the economy and putting them somewhere else where they [don’t require] a vaccine passport.

“Transmission isn’t taking place in grassroots music venues, they’re actually doing really, really good risk management. They’re doing great studies, they’re really working hard on safety. This was a thing that, if they wanted to do it, they needed to do it a much, much wider basis so they didn’t get market distortion. It’s the Scottish government’s job to sort that out now.”

On what happens next, Davyd says that the £6m earmarked by the Scottish government to help the domestic events sector recover from the pandemic remains untouched, with a meeting on how to distribute it planned for late this month.

“They now need to spend it to make sure the grassroots music venues are not closed by a policy that really needed a great deal more work before it was implemented,” he adds.

 


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Scottish parliament approves vaccine passports

The Scottish parliament yesterday (9 September) approved plans for vaccine passports, which will come into force from 1 October for those seeking entry to nightclubs and ‘analogous venues’, as well as large-scale events.

Scotland is one of the few countries in the world to implement a vaccine passport that doesn’t include test results – following in the footsteps of Israel which also restricts entry to those who have been fully vaccinated.

The new vaccine certification rules will mean that anyone over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to:

Exemptions will apply to under 18s (to be kept under review), participants in vaccine trials, people unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons and employees at venues within the scope of the scheme.

The Scottish government is yet to finalise a definition of ‘nightclubs and analogous venues’ prompting music industry bodies to criticise the lack of detail in the policy.

“[This policy] potentially disproportionately penalises young people, excluding one in four of them from the late-night economy”

Music Venue Trust CEO, Mark Davyd, says: “As it stands this Scottish government policy amounts to an attempt to exclude some people from going somewhere at some time, without proving adequate information on when, where, who or how.

“In doing so it potentially disproportionately penalises young people, excluding one in four of them from the late-night economy, and people from diverse backgrounds, excluding nearly 50% of them from the late-night economy.”

Davyd also complains that no financial support has been offered to deliver the policy, and none offered to mitigate the impacts it will have on business.

Affected venues will be required to download a free QR code verifier app to a smartphone or device and staff will be required to check a customer’s QR code to ensure the record of vaccination is genuine.

The cost of the app is free, but any additional staffing or infrastructure costs to deliver the scheme will be absorbed by the business.

“The Scottish government has targeted the late-night economy throughout this pandemic”

An overview on the government’s website suggests that the regulations should impose a legal obligation on the person responsible for operating the business or venue to ‘take all reasonable measures’ to restrict entry only to those fully vaccinated.

The Scottish government plans to publish guidance to set out what ‘reasonable measures’ would be proportionate in different settings with different capacities.

The Nighttime Industries Association (NTIA) – the membership of which includes many clubbing businesses that will be affected by the new requirement – says the vote has “put an already fragile nighttime economy on a dangerous path to devastation”.

“The Scottish government has targeted the late-night economy throughout this pandemic,” says Michael Kill, CEO, NTIA. “Our industry has gone to exceptional lengths to support the public health strategy in Scotland, and have been led to believe that consultation would be considered and enacted upon, but instead, we have been met with empty promises and hollow words.”

“Thousands of people in Scotland’s nighttime economy have lost jobs, businesses are overburdened with debt and many have not survived.”

“The call for evidence from the Scottish government has been ignored, and has left us no option but to challenge this, as an industry in the coming weeks, or we will suffer the catastrophic consequences of ill-thought out policy.”

Elsewhere in the UK, the British government has said it will press ahead with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues from the end of next month. It is rumoured that Wales is also considering launching a vaccine-only passport this autumn.

 


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UK industry anxiously awaits government announcement

The UK’s live entertainment community is holding its breath for the government’s long-awaited 14 June Covid briefing, after speculation started to emerge over a proposed delay in allowing venues and festivals to reopen without restrictions.

With 21 June stated as the day when the government wants all restrictions in England to end, the spread of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 (also known as the Delta variant) in certain cities and communities is reportedly prompting scientists and government advisors to push for a delay from anywhere between two to four weeks.

The threat of such a postponement is being met with frustration and anger in parts of the live events industry, with luminaries such as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber threatening legal action, while other businesses great and small worry if their return-to-work policies for staff have been activated too prematurely.

For others, any delay could prove far more damaging.

“It could be the final nail in the coffin for many grass roots venues,” exclaims Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd. “If they are prevented from reopening their doors, building landlords may cancel their lease and we will end up losing these venues for good.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association. “It’s critical that the government proceeds with its plans to end restrictions on 21 June. By its own admission through the Events Research Programme (ERP), large-scale events are inherently safe so long as the right precautions – in the form of testing – are in place.”

Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, composer Lloyd Webber, who owns seven West End theatres, is questioning the legality of the government retaining social distancing rules beyond 21 June, especially when the ERP’s test shows have proved that there is no greater risk of infection at concerts and other live events.

“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever”

“If the government’s own science has told them that buildings are safe, I’m advised that at that point things could get quite difficult,” says Lloyd Webber. “This is the very last thing that anybody wants to do, but there would [be] a legal case at that point because it’s their science – not ours.”

MVT founder Davyd is equally bemused. “Government has laid down the criteria over whether live music and other performances could return to normal. We’ve met that criteria and now it seems like they are still thinking about keeping live music venues closed when there’s absolutely zero evidence to show that they change the transmission of the virus.

“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever,” adds Davyd. “Keeping the Cheese & Grain [850-cap.] venue closed in Frome – where there is no Covid infection – is not going to help the infection rate up in Blackburn.”

The Night Time Industries Association has also said it will “challenge” the government if there is a delay to 21 June. “The decision to delay will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government aggressively, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening,” says CEO Michael Kill.

Rumours over a U-turn on the 21 June roadmap deadline began circulating last week when the Independent Sage group of scientists warned that the rise of the Delta variant in the UK could soar if England’s lockdown ends as planned.

“As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for 21 June, a point that should be made now, to modify current false hopes,” said Independent Sage.

“Public Health England figures released on June 3 suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.”

“There would be a legal case at that point because it’s their science, not ours”

Government advisors will also be analysing data that shows the Delta variant is rare in people who have been vaccinated, while hospitalisations throughout the UK are currently flat, rather than rising as the infection spreads.

However, adding more uncertainty over the deadline, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “It’s too early to say what the decision will be about step four of the road map, which is scheduled to be no earlier than June 21.

“Of course, I look at those data every day, we publish them every day, the case numbers matter but what really matters is how that translates into the number of people going to hospital, the number of people sadly dying. The vaccine breaks that link, the question is how much the link has yet been broken because the majority of people who ended up in hospital are not fully vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, those living in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas – where Covid is spreading fast – were today placed under new travel rules to combat spiralling Delta variant cases.

Residents are being advised to minimise travel in and out of the areas, while the army is being brought into the region to replicate the widespread vaccination drive that it helped to roll out in the neighbouring city of Bolton, under similar circumstances, in May.

IQ understands that the UK government is planning to make its final decision on the 21 June reopening as late as Sunday 13 June, or even the day of the announcement, Monday 14 June, meaning that the data gathered over the remainder of this week will be crucial.

In recent days the indication is that the average number of daily cases is now slowly rising in the UK. Figures for yesterday (8 June) reveal 6,048 new confirmed cases, but just 13 deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 28 days.

“Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither”

Nevertheless, a number of towns, cities and communities are experiencing sharp rises in case numbers due to the Delta variant, which is known to spread quicker than other variants, leading the Sage scientists and other experts to predict that the country may be on the verge of a third wave of infections.

But should the government bow to pressure, the timing of such a disappointing announcement will be scrutinised, given that on Sunday (13 June), 22,000 football fans will be in Wembley Stadium for England versus Croatia in the European Championships.

At press time, it was announced that the game would be the first sporting event at which so-called vaccine ‘passports’ will be used in the UK, with attendees required to show proof of full vaccination, with both doses having been received at least 14 days before the match. Those not fully vaccinated must show proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours.

The timing of the game is not lost upon Davyd. “We’ve basically asked the government that whatever position they take it should be a logical one,” he says. “Not allowing venues and festivals to reopen is not going to change the transmission rate.

“As far as I see it, they have two options: they can reopen everything; or they can announce that some things they have already allowed are increasing the infection rate and they should be closed down. But keeping other businesses from reopening – when they have not played any role in the infection rate rising – just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Equally as frustrated, CPA chief Bowdery underlines the plight of hundreds of thousands of people and business that rely on live events for their income. “Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither, helping to secure the future of the live music sector, which currently hangs in the balance,” adds Bowdery.

 


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