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Unsung Heroes 2020: Paul Reed

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

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

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

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

Reed’s work last year included:

Reed has been running AIF single-handedly since April

 


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DCMS criticises “failure” of UK govt to support live

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has stated that the government’s support package for cultural industries came “too late for many”, and has called for further urgent sector-specific measures.

In the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors’ report, the committee states that the government’s recent £1.57 billion support package for the arts, while welcome, “will not be enough to stop mass redundancies and the permanent closure of our cultural infrastructure”.

In addition to the support package, which came after an intense day of lobbying from the UK live industry, the committee calls for an extension to the government’s furlough scheme – currently set to expire at the end of October – until mass gatherings are permitted; continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies; clear “if conditional” timelines for when events will be able to reopen, with a date for stage five of the government’s plan to reopen events set by 1 August at the latest; and “technological solutions”, such as app-based testing and tracking systems, to allow audiences to return without social distancing.

The committee also recommends the creation of a long-term pandemic reinsurance scheme, ensuring cultural industries are covered by “adequate insurance” in the future, as well as “long-term structural support” to rebuild audience figures, including sector-specific tax reliefs and a value-added tax (VAT) cut for the sector for the next three years. The British government has currently cut VAT on event tickets to 5% until the end of the year.

As for the previously announced funding, the committee demands the government “publish eligibility criteria and application guidance as soon as possible”, as well as “ensur[ing] that the funding reaches recipients no later than October 2020”.

“To reduce uncertainty, the government must publish eligibility criteria  as soon as possible”

The DCMS committee is calling for “sector-specific versions” of the current job retention and self-employed income support schemes to be implemented by October 2020 “at the latest” and kept open until income returns to “sustainable levels”. The committee notes that existing support schemes, such as the self-employed income support scheme and coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, do not cover many working in the live industry.

The report also points out that a large number of festivals, outdoor events and city centre venues have also been unable to access grants earmarked for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, as the scheme requires businesses to occupy properties with a certain rateable value.

Using data gathered from across the live industry, the committe highlights the threats posed to the UK’s venues and festivals, with over 90% of grassroot music venues in Britain currently face permanent closure, as estimated by the Music Venue Trust (MVT), and the 23 UK arenas making up the National Arenas Association set to lose almost £235m in ticket sales over a six-month period.

As for the festival sector, the report state that: “The seasonality of the industry means that cancellations over spring and summer mean a complete loss of income for the year ahead, which could have devastating consequences for the SMEs and self-employed workers in the live events supply chain.”

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has previously stated that 92% of its member festivals are facing permanent collapse.

“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation,” comments DCMS committee chair Julian Knight.

“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation”

“The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them. Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation.

“We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. We urge the government to act on our recommendations, to recognise the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”

Representatives from across the UK live industry have welcomed the DCMS recommendations. UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl has called the document a “watershed report in the fight for survival for many companies and individuals working across the music industry.”

“We fully support the conclusions of today’s important report and want to send out thanks to the committee for recognising the value in our industry,” comments Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association and executive president of Live Nation.

“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry, conditional timelines for reopening without social distancing and long-term structural support are going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure that the entire sector can be supported through this time.”

“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry is going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK”

Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, commends the recognition of the “urgency of short-term measures to prevent the catastrophic loss of vital infrastructure”, as well as more long-term measures aimed at “restor[ing] the sector to health and to future proof it against threats”.

From a production point of view, Andy Lenthall, general manager of the Production Services Association (PSA) says it is “hugely heartening” that the DCMS has recognised the “vital part” suppliers and technicians play in the cultural ecosystem.

AIF CEO Paul Reed similarly welcomes the findings of the report “which specifically acknowledges that the UK’s thriving festival and live events sector has been particularly badly hit by this crisis”.

“We’re particularly pleased to see that our recommendations for long-term relief, including extensions of existing employment support schemes and an extended VAT cut, have been taken onboard,” says Reed.

“We look forward to working further with DCMS to ensure that the festival sector, which generates £1.75bn for the UK economy and supports 85,000 jobs, can survive and continue to thrive into 2021 and beyond.”

The report is available to read in full here.

Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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UK to face “festival wasteland” without gov support

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has warned that 92% of its 65 members could collapse under refund requests if the government does not take “meaningful action” to support them.

AIF festivals alone generate an estimated £386 million for the UK economy each year, with the wider British music business contributing £5.2 billion to the economy in 2018.

However, it is predicted that at least 90% of all UK festivals will not take place this summer, meaning the sector could be facing potential refunds of up £800m in total.

Glastonbury Festival was the first major UK event to call time on 2020, with AIF members Bluedot, Boomtown, Black Deer, Bloodstock, Cornbury, 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent among those to cancel.

Major live music conglomerates Live Nation and AEG have also made a number UK festival cancellations in recent weeks, with Live Nation-owned promoter Festival Republic most recently calling off its twin festivals Reading and Leeds.

Almost all (98.5%) of AIF’s 65 member festivals are not covered for coronavirus-related cancellations, with events reporting an average of £375,000 in non-recoupable costs for 2020.

A recent AIF survey has revealed that over half of those making up the independent festival sector in the UK could be facing redundancy from September 2020 onwards if no extra support is given.

“This is not a temporary shutdown of business – it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out”

The AIF, as part of the wider UK Live Music Group, is lobbying the government to ask for clear guidance on when large-scale events will be permitted again, as well as detailed information on what social distancing measures would be expected to ensure public safety.

The organisation has also asked for value-added tax (VAT) breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months; a continuation of all existing employment schemes; and acknowledgement of the distinction between retail and seasonal business in ongoing business support schemes.

“The government has not taken meaningful action to protect our sector,” says AIF CEO Paul Reed. “This is not a temporary shutdown of business – it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out. If support is not offered throughout the autumn, then the sector will face widespread job losses that will seriously inhibit its ability to deliver events in 2021.”

Reed adds that many independent festivals have “fallen between the cracks” of current support measures, with no AIF members gaining access to the government’s business interruption loans scheme.

“Next year’s festival season will hopefully offer much needed relief after a very difficult time for the country. But, for now, these independent businesses need to survive. Otherwise, every year from now could be a fallow year for independent festivals, for the emerging artists they provide a platform for, and the local economies across the UK that they generate income for.”

IQ’s next IQ Focus virtual panel, Festival Forum: Here Comes 21, features Rachael Greenfield, director of AIF member festival Bloodstock Open Air, along with Anders Wahren (Roskilde Festival), Jim King (AEG Presents), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), and Mathieu Jaton (Montreux Jazz Festival).


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European festivals in limbo as crisis continues

As Britain’s large summer events continue to fall away (with Goldenvoice UK’s All Points East and Live Nation’s Lovebox and Parklife the latest to cancel due to coronavirus concerns), members of several European festival associations are taking a different approach – biding their time while urging governments to provide greater clarity about the months ahead.

“The cancellation of Glastonbury was a surprise to a lot of people [in continental Europe] and, media-wise, a big pressure on everybody,” says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen and Summer Days Festival, and general secretary of Yourope, the European Festival Association.

Last week, two of the association’s members, Roskilde Festival (Denmark) and Open’er Festival (Poland), spearheaded the #FestivalsStandUnited campaign, which saw some of Europe’s biggest music festivals state that they intend to go ahead with their events this summer, and that in doing so they will “be a crucial part of the survival of this industry”.

More than 60 festivals – including events taking place in early June – put their names to an open letter entitled ‘Festivals Stand United Across Europe’, which was also signed by Yourope.

Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says it’s widely expected the lockdown in Britain will go on beyond the current three-week period, with many festivals assuming 12 weeks of no public gatherings – a period that extends well into June (without even taking into account a two-week build).

“It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown”

Reed says the views of AIF’s 65-strong membership are as diverse as the festivals themselves: “We have some members with events in August contemplating what they should do, but on the other hand we have festivals in July thinking they’re going to go ahead,” he explains, noting that there are “myriad considerations” around deciding to cancel or postpone.

Also weighing up his options is Patrick de Groote, artistic director of Belgian world music festival Sfinks Mixed (23–26 July) and secretary of the Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (FWMW), who tells IQ: “We’re hearing that all April festivals [in Belgium] will be cancelled; in May, some yes, some no… We’re still waiting to be told, and everybody is preparing so we can be ready when we have more information.”

De Groote says one Dutch FWMW member has already made the decision to cancel, after concluding it could not be ready in time for June. “It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown,” he says.

According to Reed, there are advantages in being ordered to cancel by authorities, as opposed to organisers pulling the plug themselves, particularly around artist fees (although he adds, encouragingly, that “most festivals are already working positively with agents” on that front).

“A lot of things are on hold right now,” adds de Groote, “including artist contracts. It’s hard to sign something when you don’t know if you’re going to be able to honour the contract.”

“Festivals can’t just pull the plug without knowing the situation in three months”

An additional issue for world music festivals like Sfinks, he continues, is that different parts of the world are at different stages with regards to coronavirus. “At Sfinks, we always have a lot of African and South American bands, and their countries are much earlier in this pandemic than Europe and North America,” he explains. “This year, we’ve booked [Malian duo] Amadou and Mariam and [US act] the Blind Boys of Alabama – the Blind Boys should be OK, but where will Mali be in a few months’ time?”

Huber says Yourope’s members are “all [still] working on our festivals”, and need “a few more weeks to monitor the situation” before deciding whether to go ahead as planned.

“We need a certain clarity about the policy of our governments and about any restrictions,” he adds. “Festivals can’t just decide to pull the plug without knowing what the situation will be in three months.”

Whatever the outcome of summer 2020, Reed emphasises than both fans and festivals must remain positive about the future. “It’s difficult to think about the recovery when people are in survival mode, but’s important to remember we will come out of this,” he concludes. “And when we do, people will need live music more than ever.”

 


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UK sell-outs down as slow festival season looms

Festival bosses have identified economic uncertainty, homogenisation and difficulty booking talent as the likely factors behind Britain’s slow festival season, as the UK festival business braces for a quieter-than-normal summer.

At a time of year when most summer events expect to be approaching capacity, of the major May–June festivals only Glastonbury Festival and Manchester’s Parklife have sold out – with tickets still available for heavy hitters like All Points East (24 May–2 June), Field Day (7–8 June), Isle of Wight Festival (13–16 June) and Download (14–16 June).

A number of events are also appearing on discount sites such as Groupon, while several festivals are currently advertising two-for-one ticket offers on social platforms.

While the majority of festival professionals quizzed by IQ say their 2019 ticket sales are softer than previous years, opinions are divided as to why, and the broader implications for the UK’s mature festival market.

“We’re OK – we’re probably going to end up 10 to 15% on last year, which is where we wanted to be,” says Oliver Jones, who – alongside his wife, Kate Webster – runs Yorkshire’s Deer Shed Festival (11,500-cap.), which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. “But there are plenty of events on our radar who aren’t doing so well.”

Jones says the festivals “that are selling out, and will continue to, are independent, and the owners really care about the experience. Look at Green Man, for example – they put hospitality right at the top of the things their festival should offer, and look after people.”

“There does seem to be a general slowdown on ticket sales”

Another festival boss laments that too many events share a booker, with the result that festival line-ups are becoming increasingly samey. “You can make a Venn diagram,” they say, “with a handful of bands. One festival will have Elbow and Doves and Franz Ferdinand, another will have Doves and Franz Ferdinand but no Elbow, and so on… Too many festivals now are just homogenised.”

Gill Tee, co-founder with Debs Shelling of Kent’s Black Deer Festival, says the Americana event, now in its second year, is “going great guns”: “Fortunately for us we are currently on track, and do not seem to be too affected by the challenges other festivals are experiencing this year.”

“With [her] supplier head on”, as co-founder and director of Entertee Hire, Tee says “there does seem to be a general slowdown on ticket sales. I have heard many opinions as to the reasons why, but in reality nobody really knows. There have been years in the past that have shown a general slowdown on the appetite for attending festivals, which has then lifted the year after.”

Conversely, for Paul Reed, CEO of the 65-strong Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), while some members are “a bit slower than usual”, the 2019 season is largely “a mixed bag, as always”.

“I’m not seeing any dramatic changes, but there might be a cloud of Brexit uncertainty affecting people’s buying habits,” Reed explains. “And, as always, festivals are at the mercy of who’s out and touring – ultimately, line-ups are dictated by who’s available.”

Tee largely attributes 2019’s slowdown to “the amount of choice [in festivals] people now have, and they probably just buy later because they can.”

“It’s mad to spend all your budget on one or two bands, when no act is liked by everyone”

Meanwhile, Reed notes that, with artist fees still spiralling, many of AIF’s members have given up on the headliner “arms race” altogether, with several events having “stepped out of playing that game completely”.

That’s true of Deer Shed, adds Jones, who says he’s “not prepared to play that game with headliners anymore”. Topping the family friendly festival’s line-up for its tenth year are Ezra Furman, Anna Calvi and Australian indie-rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, with money that would have gone on booking a single huge musical headliner instead invested in hospitality, facilities and comedians such as Reginald D. Hunter, Milton Jones and Nina Conti.

Outside the big corporate events, the UK festivals that succeed in future – even in slow years – are the focused, niche events with a strong identity and loyal fanbase, suggests one industry insider.

“Look at 5,000-or-so-capacity festivals like [experimental rock event] ArcTanGent or [Herefordshire music and arts festival] Nozstock,” they say. “Nozstock in particular is doing really well now. I think the penny has dropped that it’s not all about the headliners, and if you go to these kind of events you feel valued and you’re going to have a unique experience.”

“It’s mad to spend all your budget on one or two bands, when no act is liked by everyone,” they conclude. “So you’ve got to adapt. Of course, you can have a great festival if you’re prepared to lose a million pounds – but most of us don’t have that luxury.”

 


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After a decade, AIF goes it alone

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) will break away from its parent company, the Association of Independent Music (AIM), to operate as a separate company as of April this year.

AIF was set up in 2008 as a division of AIM by Rob da Bank (Bestival), Ben Turner (Graphite Media) and former AIM chief exec Alison Wenham, and has since grown from 12 to 65 member festivals with a collective audience of over 600,000.

The newly independent association will be led by current general manager Paul Reed, who has been appointed chief executive.

He will be supported by AIF chair Jim Mawdsley, vice-chair Goc O’Callaghan (ArcTanGent) and a board of directors that includes execs from Broadwick Live, Kilimanjaro Live, Standon Calling, Liverpool Sound City, Bestival and more.

“It feels like AIF has grown up and is ready to leave home”

Reed is also joined by new recruit Phoebe Rodwell, who moves from the Music Managers Forum to become AIF’s membership and project coordinator, a newly created role that will focus on membership development.

The company will also move into new premises at the Handbag Factory in Vauxhall, London.

“Following ten successful years, it feels like AIF has grown up and is ready to leave home,” comments Reed. “I’d like to thank all at AIM for supporting and nurturing AIF, enabling us to grow from a handful of promoters around a table to an invaluable support network for our 65 members.

“I’m incredibly excited about the future. We’re working on a number of initiatives and campaigns for this year and, with a new team in place, we’re in a strong position to move on to the next phase of our development.”

 


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