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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.

LIVE CEO Jon Collins recently spoke to IQ about how the government could help the live music industry navigate its well-documented post-pandemic challenges.

“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.”


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PPL donates £75k to Stagehand Covid-19 fund

The Stagehand Covid-19 relief fund has been bolstered by a £75,000 donation from PPL, the UK’s music licensing company for performers and recording rights holders.

The fund was founded by the Production Services Association (PSA) in September 2020 to support touring crews and event production workers during the live industry’s ongoing unemployment crisis.

According to Stagehand, the fund has been able to provide some of the 20% of people (more than 1,500 workers) who have fallen through the gaps in governmental support with grants of up to £500 for food and housing bills.

PPL’s second donation to the fund will enable Stagehand to open the fifth round of applications for crew in need.

“PPL and live event production workers are at opposite ends of the music business,” says Mike Lowe, Stagehand Chair of Trustees.

“It is so heartening that PPL regard the entire business as one ecosystem”

“It is so heartening that PPL regard the entire business as one ecosystem and at a time when our sector is on its knees, offers help. PPL was the first major organisation to make a significant donation, helping to raise awareness of the plight, as well as kick-starting the campaign and inspiring other contributions.

“PPL’s most recent donation will continue to help live events crew through these extremely difficult times, and it is a very appreciated endorsement for the work that Stagehand is doing.

Peter Leathem, PPL CEO, says: “The pandemic has been an incredibly tough time for many, but it has also shown our industry at its best. Stagehand, as well as other hardship funds from the likes of the Music Managers Forum, Help Musicians, the Musicians’ Union, AIM and the BPI, has brought the music community together to help those facing financial difficulties. PPL is proud to continue to support these funds. We hope this latest contribution to Stagehand will help crew and production workers while the live industry plans its return.”

Stagehand has launched a number of fundraising initiatives including the ILoveLive prize draw, which raised more than £300k from the auction of unique live music memorabilia, and Prints for Music, which saw celebrated photographers donate iconic music photography to raise money.

Donate to the Stagehand Covid-19 relief fund here.


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EU cabotage rules threaten post-Covid-19 touring

Major touring productions will no longer be able to draw on the expertise of British-based hauliers under the terms of the current Brexit deal, industry experts have warned.

As IQ reported on new year’s eve, the day before the deal came into effect, the days of tours of starting in the UK and continuing on to an effectively unlimited number of dates in continental Europe have come to an end – with ‘cabotage’ rules in the new EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement limiting UK trucks over 3.5 tonnes to just three stops in the EU’s internal market.

“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease,” confirms promoter Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts, who is the chair of the LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) Touring group. “The biggest impact of the cabotage regulations is that non-EU-based haulage companies will only be allowed to have a load going into the EU and then two further movements before having to turn back to their place of registration. So, as it stands, to undertake EU tours it will be necessary to have EU-registered hauliers.”

“The only way that these concert hauliers can actually continue to provide this service is by setting up European operations,” echoes Richard Burnett, CEO of the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA). “So that means a European business, and a European operation centre that costs a lot of money.

“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease”

“Bearing in mind we’ve had the worst year, from a concert perspective, because of the Covid impact, so these hauliers haven’t got any money. They’re struggling enormously. And these are the trusted hauliers that have done this for years and years – the guys that have been around for the best part of 20, 30, 40 years. So this is a massive, massive issue.”

Under the principle of reciprocity, even if UK hauliers which can afford to do so do open an EU office, the same rules apply in the other direction – with those newly EU-registered trucks having the same issue should they be needed back in the UK, explains Stanley.

With the UK occupying a central position in the “vast majority” of international tours, restrictive cabotage regulations risk the “erosion of our position” as a leader in live music production, says Andy Lenthall, GM of the Production Services Association (PSA).

“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement,” he explains. “There’s no going back to the old ways – because the ‘new way’ still exists [among the EU’s remaining 27 members] – but we do need some urgency on this, and the route to a solution.”

Complicating the issue is the fact that, because most hauliers are based in the UK, the majority of drivers are British, or at least UK-based. This means, at present, there simply aren’t enough drivers on the continent to service the major concert tours alone, says Stanley.

“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement”

For those who can’t afford to acquire fleet of EU-registered trucks, the only other solution would be for hauliers to return to the UK after having completed their maximum number of drops, says Burnett. “Could you imagine a concert tour packing up and coming back to the UK, and then going back out? It would be ridiculous,” he adds.

In spite of the ongoing uncertainty, both Stanley and Lenthall are confident the issue can be resolved, ideally before touring restarts post-Covid-19, with the former saying the British government has been supportive +and understanding of the issues so far.

“Clarity is the key,” says Stanley. “Where we’ve enjoyed unfettered access to the EU – that will end. But what we do need to do is ensure we get some kind of cultural exemption.”

LIVE (of which the PSA is a member) and the RHA are both lobbying the British government to intervene to protect the industry by ensuring large-scale tours will be able to continue to start in the UK.

Stanley is also calling on promoters and other professionals on the continent to make their elected representatives aware of the problem in order to also push for a solution from the EU side. “The only people who can help us with this are our colleagues in the EU,” Stanley continues. “Their support is what’s needed – we need them to realise it’s a problem, as ultimately it’s going to be down to the ministers of transport in, for example, of Germany or France, to help get this sorted.”

The new cabotage rules, alongside the impact of the reintroduction of ATA Carnets, will be discussed during the panel Trucking Hell! Is it really that bad? at this year’s ILMC Production Meeting on Tuesday 2 March.


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Iconic music photography donated to Stagehand fund

Celebrated photographers including Rankin, Tony McGee and Jill Furmanovsky have donated iconic music shots to raise money for Stagehand’s Covid-19 Crew Relief Fund.

Over 100 iconic prints of globally treasured artists such as David Bowie, Grace Jones and The Rolling Stones, are now on sale for £95 each for a limited time of four weeks, with 100% of proceeds going to the hardship fund.

Stagehand was launched over two decades ago by live production trade association PSA and claims to be the only UK charity specifically dedicated to providing hardship funding for crew who have fallen on tough times.

“The livelihoods of people working in live music productions has been decimated by the effects of Covid-19,” says Mike Lowe, chair of Stagehand’s board of trustees. “Every day we hear from people who are struggling and Stagehand is raising funds to help those in most need, with the simple aim of helping to keep roofs over heads and food on tables.”

“None of these photographs would have been possible without the artists and those who support them”

The launch of Prints For Music for Stagehand was organised by leading photographer Ed Robinson who says: “Like so many others, the struggles of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected me deeply on a personal level as well as professionally. I have reached out to the people I know in the music and photographic industries with the simple idea to try to help those who are not getting the support they need to survive this crisis.

“For many photographers who have been privileged enough to have been given access to photograph these artists, it has only been made possible by the efforts of their production teams. None of these photographs would have been possible without the artists and those who support them. This initiative is our way of giving back in their time of need. It will help preserve their livelihoods and enable the shows to go on in the future.”



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Prints For Music also features artists including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Bob Marley, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Marina Diamandis, The Streets, Florence and the Machine, Liam Gallagher, Jonny Greenwood, Beth Ditto, Tina Turner, Brett Anderson, Alice Cooper, Sting, Stormzy and Kate Nash. The sale is open on Prints For Music until 21 December 2020.

The Stagehand fund opened for applications last month (15 October) and initially awarded grants of £500 to help with “keeping a roof over heads and food on the table”.

The charity is working on a number of fundraising initiatives for crew who have been financially impacted by Covid-19 including a virtual tip jar and an upcoming memorabilia raffle.


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170,000 UK live music jobs lost by end of 2020

More than 26,000 permanent jobs will be lost in the live music industry before the end of the year if government support is withdrawn, new research published today (21 October) reveals.

In addition, 144,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) roles, including self-employed and freelance workers, will have effectively ceased to exist by the end of 2020, the new report, UK live music: At a cliff edge, shows.

Revenue into the industry has been almost zero since March, with a fall of 81% in 2020 compared to 2019 – four times the national UK average, where reductions across industries run at around 20%.

At a cliff edge – conducted by Chris Carey and Tim Chambers for Media Insight Consulting on behalf of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), an umbrella group representing the UK live music industry – also reveals the positive contribution made by the Culture Recovery Fund, which has offered a lifeline to a range of businesses, but whose impact is tempered by 80% of employees still being reliant on the furlough scheme, which ends this month.

The report’s findings include:

“This research shows clearly that the entire ecosystem is being decimated”

Following the lockdown in March, and the ongoing government restrictions on venues and events, many of those working within the live music sector have received no income at all. The new tier-two and three restrictions put further limitations on the sector reopening, while the sector is currently excluded from the government’s extended Job Support Scheme.

With recent indications from the prime minister that severe restrictions could be in place for a further six months, meaning a full year with next-to-no live music or revenues, the associations represented by Live – including the Entertainment Agents’ Association, Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Music Managers Forum (MMF), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA) and Music Venue Trust (MVT) – are calling on the government to ensure the live business can benefit from new support measures.

Phil Bowdery, CPA chair, comments: “We were one of the first sectors to close and we will be one of the last to reopen. We are currently caught in a catch 22, where we are unable to operate due to government restrictions but are excluded from the extended Job Support Scheme as the furlough comes to an end. If businesses can’t access that support soon, then the majority of our specialist, highly trained workforce will be gone.”

“Those who have often found themselves overlooked and left behind throughout the last six months are the freelancers and self-employed – the people up and do the country that we rely on to bring us the live experiences we love,” adds PSA general manager Andy Lenthall. “Things are becoming increasingly desperate for a great many people in the industry and government needs to recognise that these crucial individuals need support.”

““Things are becoming increasingly desperate for a great many people in the industry”

Economist Chris Carey, who co-authored the report, says: “From the artists on stage, to the venues and the many specialist roles and occupations that make live music happen, this research shows clearly that the entire ecosystem is being decimated.”

The report includes sector-specific data on artists, managers, promoters, booking agents, venues, festivals, ticketing companies and technical suppliers, as well as case studies from some of those affected and comment from industry leaders.

“The Culture Recovery Fund is a help, especially to grassroots music venues,” continues Carey. “However, larger companies are going to be hit harder, and without ongoing government investment in protecting this industry, the UK will lose its place as a cultural leader in live entertainment.

“Moreover, the skills we lose in this time will significantly hinder the sector’s ability to recover and return to driving economic growth and supplying UK jobs.”

Download the report here.


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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The Associates: PSA, Svensk Live, SMA

Covid-19 has impacted every business sector around the world, but with live entertainment likely to be one of the last industries to return, given social distancing regulations, the associations that represent its millions of employees have never been more important.

As restrictions in many countries enter yet another month, for issue 91 IQ found out more about some of our association partners and discovered just what they are doing to help their members navigate and survive.

Following the last instalment with the National Arenas Association, Plasa and Prodiss, this time we check in with the Production Services Association, Svensk Live and French trade union SMA.

Production Services Association (UK)
The Production Services Association (PSA) is the UK trade body for companies and individuals that provide and operate live event technology, representing their interests with anyone that indirectly affects their business.

In February, when it paused counting, the PSA had about 2,300 paid members with annual fees ranging from £100 (€112) to £500 (€560).

The association’s members started to feel the effects of the pandemic long before the UK government began to introduce support measures. Companies went into survival mode very quickly, and PSA did its level best to add to industry calls for support. When the cavalry arrived, it was a case of pointing people in the direction of help, and taking feedback back to government on where improved measures were needed.

With everyone thrust into an alien world of loans, grants, job retention schemes and benefits, real-world feedback from people who were plugged into the various systems gave the PSA resources to share and the organisation has been busy collecting evidence to back up sector calls for continued support. During the pandemic, lobbying has been a key part of PSA’s work and because of its membership of UK Music, doors that others may have had to knock on were already open.

The PSA’s members started to feel the effects of the pandemic long before the UK government began to introduce support measures

Svensk Live (Sweden)
Svensk Live is a non-profit organisation with about 250 members, which include the likes of festivals, clubs, concert promoters, non-profit grassroots venues, amusement parks and booking agencies (provided they organise gigs in Sweden). Fees are based on annual revenue, with the largest organisations paying up to €5,000.

During the pandemic, Svensk Live has been focusing on securing state support, a timeframe for planning, and an official recommendation from government to persuade ticket buyers to retain their tickets for postponed events.

Outside of the pandemic measures, Svensk Live is engaged in a major project called Dare to Care, which centres around consent in sexual relations, and last year won a prize for the best crime prevention project in Sweden. Svensk Live CEO Joppe Pihlgren is happy to share details of this initiative with other live music organisations.

During the pandemic, Svensk Live has been focusing on securing state support and a timeframe for planning

SMA (France)
The Union of Contemporary Music (SMA, Syndicat des musiques actuelles) is an organisation consisting of 450 members, including venues, festivals, concert producers, phonographic editors, radio stations, federations, schools and training centres. These independent companies share a common goal of promoting diversity, in particular by supporting the expression of artists and advocating equal access to culture.

The role of the SMA is to inform and advise its membership on legal, social and tax matters. It also represents them in numerous professional bodies and defends the interests of the music sector with public authorities and politicians.

The annual fee for access to the services provided by the SMA depends on budget and ranges from €65 to nearly €1,500 for the largest companies.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the SMA has been supporting its members through different actions, including gathering and communicating information about governmental assistance; providing daily updates on how to manage business activities; making legal experts available for consultations; encouraging cross-sector communication to identify common issues; and actively lobbying local authorities and politicians in an effort to ensure that no company disappears because of the crisis.


View the full Associates list in the digital edition of IQ 91. To keep on top of the latest live music industry news, features and insights, subscribe to IQ now.

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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

UK production pros launch Covid-19 working group

Professionals from across the UK concert touring sector have joined forces to launch the PSA Tour Production Group (PSA TPG), a new association that aims to provide a unified industry response to the impact of Covid-19 on live music events.

The group is a new arm of the Production Services Association (PSA), the trade body for the live event production industry, and includes tour managers, production managers, safety professionals, venue and festival managers, travel and logistics specialists, promoters and suppliers. Past and present clients of the PSA TPG team include artists such as Adele, Madonna, Pink, U2, Ed Sheeran and Spice Girls and events including Isle of Wight Festival, Lollapalooza and British Summer Time Hyde Park (pictured).

The formation of the group centres on getting touring professionals back to work safely, and supporting the sector’s survival, “in a pre-vaccine Covid-19 era”, according to the PSA, when tour-specific safety guidelines working around local threat levels will become the norm.

To that end, PSA TPG today (30 July) released a Working Procedures Guidance document which outlines how touring productions – defined as one-off shows, festivals and live events of any size that require moving personnel and equipment to a new destination – can better align with suppliers, venues and promoters to assist risk management relating to transmission of the coronavirus.

“Based around a hierarchy of control (including elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administration and PPE) and a responsive threat scale, the guidance details different levels of design, schedule and control measures appropriate to conditions,” explains the group. “These measures include social distancing, health declarations and monitoring, hygiene and cleaning, and mitigation.”

there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living

The document is designed to add to existing guidance “by outlining practical measures that will inform tour-specific risk assessments and method statements”, the association adds. Production industry professionals are encouraged to provide feedback on the guidance via the PSA website.

Take That production manager Chris Vaughan says: “We have brought together the leading experts in live music concert touring to agree on how tours should be run whilst the threat of Covid-19 remains with us.

“Production and tour managers are responsible for the operational, logistical, financial, creative and technical delivery of concerts around the world and, as such, we are proposing a series of guidelines that can be practically and realistically implemented.”

Sam Smith’s production manager, Wob Roberts, adds: “Covid-19 is an unwelcome addition to the rider, yet there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living. More than a document, this is intended to be a responsive set of protocols that efficiently move with a changing environment.”

“From an industry whose timeless motto is ‘the show must go on’, the pandemic has been a devastating blow, both economically and for the mental wellbeing of the huge number of people who work behind the scenes,” comments Mark Ward, production director of BST Hyde Park. “These new documents offer many of the answers those people are searching for.”


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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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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Production crews ask govt to Aid Live 35 years on from Live Aid

Production crews are asking the government to Aid Live, in a week that marks the 35th anniversary of the star-studded Live Aid benefit concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The 1985 Live Aid concerts, organised by Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Harvey Goldsmith, saw acts including Queen, David Bowie, U2, the Who, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Black Sabbath and Bob Dylan perform to around 160,000 fans in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985.

The concerts were watched by a further two billion people on television worldwide and raised over $127 million for victims of the Ethiopian famine.

“Thank you Bob, Midge and Harvey for showing the world 35 years ago that music has the power to bring positive change when it is most needed,” reads a statement.

“And a massive thank you to all the skilled and dedicated crew and supply companies who gave of themselves to transform a wildly ambitious idea into the greatest live event of all time.”

“Without the government’s immediate intervention, events of this magnitude will become a thing of the past”

The Aid Live statement warns that without “immediate intervention” from the government, “events of this magnitude will become a thing of the past”, adding that authorities have been “ignoring the plight of crew and suppliers” in the wake of Covid-19.

“It’s their turn. Aid Live.”

In the UK, the Production Services Association recently expressed concern that the UK government’s 1.57 billion rescue package for arts and culture “might not quite make it far enough down the supply chain”.

“We’re seriously, honestly, truly happy for those that will receive the funding,” reads a PSA statement. “There’s no show without a venue but there’s not much of a show without the kit and the technical knowhow.

“We’ve joined together to let those holding the funds remember that there’s a supply chain, from the band manager to the local crew […] Would it be asking too much if we were simply asking for a chance to apply?”

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

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Debut IPM Says! panel highlights live’s resilience

The inaugural virtual ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) panel, IPM Says!, took place last week, with eight live event production professionals coming together to discuss positive ways of moving forward from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

IPM’s Carl A H Martin chaired the panel, entitled It Ain’t All Doom and Gloom, which reflected on the resilience of the industry, the creativity of those within it and the road to recovery.

ITB agent Steve Zapp stressed that different markets were moving at different speeds, with “very little” currently possible in the UK. However, whereas the earlier weeks of the crisis had been characterised by cancellations and postponements, conversation has now turned to recovery.

Andy Lenthall from trade association Production Services Association (PSA) said while members were currently doing little in live events, the organisation has been busy helping them to navigate this “temporary normal” and “helping people to help themselves”.

“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work,” said Lenthall, who stated he was looking forward to the release of UK government guidance on how to get back to work safely.

For Sarah Hemsley-Cole, company director of Cardiff-based SC Productions, work has not fully come to a halt, with the company getting involved in various products, including helping to set up a makeshift field hospital at the Principality Stadium.

“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work”

Vatiswa Gilivane, business development manager at the 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, said her team has also found alternative ways of working, with events still prohibited in South Africa.

“We had to change the way we think,” said Gilivane. “We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content.”

Máté Horváth from Hungary’s DDW Music said things are opening up in the country for open-air shows, with some venues now also beginning to open up in different ways, acting as beer gardens, for example, in order to generate some revenue.

The ban on large-scale events in Hungary expires on 15 August, said Horváth , “so there could be some major festivals going ahead after this date, with a line-up of domestic acts”.

In general, shows are being moved to 2021, added Horvath, and although this may be a less optimistic scenario, “it is much more secure” and likely to be better for the industry in the long run.

Alberto Artese from Italian industry organisation Assomusica said that live shows will be permitted again in Italy in the next week “but there will be many rules”. From 15 June, 1,000 fans will be allowed at open-air shows and 200 people – including staff and artists – at indoor shows.

“We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content”

The viability of capacity limits and social distancing measures was a talking point for panellists, with many stressing the importance of proper collaboration between the industry and national governments.

ASM Global’s Paul Sergeant OBE spoke of the newly formed Live Entertainment Industry Forum in Australia, which acts as a conduit between the live industry and the government, developing a way to safely reopen events.

Neighbouring New Zealand is lifting all restrictions on live events this week, focusing on contact tracing to prevent outbreaks of the virus, rather than relying on social distancing measures. “We’d like to think Australia might follow suit in the not too distant future,” said Sergeant.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK has similarly asked for industry input on how to reopen safely, said Lenthall.

“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment.”

Lenthall stressed that social distancing cannot be a financially viable solution for live events. “Globally, we will see a different approach that doesn’t include distancing.”

“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment”

Zapp agreed that alternative forms of live shows, such as drive-ins, behind-closed-doors concerts and pay-per-view virtual events, while “great as a one-off” have a “lesser impact” over time.

For Zapp, one of the most encouraging things throughout the crisis has been the “incredibly low” number of refund requests, which indicates that fans are keen to get back to events and has helped to avoid “massive problems” with cash flow.

Chrissy Uerlings of Germany’s CU Production Gmbh summed up much of what had been said, pointing out that problem solving and coming up with creative solutions had become key, something that the live industry has always excelled at.

“We have to be smart and it was clear that, for many of us as freelancers, we had to do this on our own.

“If you let loose, then you have two hands free – and that makes you creative.”

IPM Says! will be back next month, with full details available on the IPM LinkedIn page and the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) Facebook page in due course.


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