By removing barriers, we can usher in real change
With Glastonbury having a fallow year, next month the BBC is organising instead its Biggest Weekend, bringing together the biggest names in music for a series of live concerts in every corner of the UK. This promises to be yet another fantastic showcase of live music here in Britain.
Our reputation as a live music powerhouse – from our vibrant small venues through to our world-class theatres, arenas, stadiums and festivals – is reinforced by the economic data. According to UK Music’s 2017 Measuring Music report, live music contributes over £1 billion to the British economy.
Aside from the economic contribution live music makes, we know that it brings enjoyment to millions of people. That’s why at UK Music we’ve been so vocal in supporting venues on issues like agent of change. And that’s why we are equally passionate about the work of Attitude is Everything, who have campaigned so tirelessly over the past 18 years to ensure live music events are as accessible as possible to deaf and disabled audiences.
As Suzanne Bull MBE, Attitude is Everything’s fantastic CEO, so aptly puts it, music should be “without barriers”. It should be all-inclusive. Everyone should have the same experience as everyone else. Hear, hear.
In 2017, UK Music’s Live Music Group formally endorsed Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice as the industry standard for live music accessibility.
More than 130 venues and festivals, are now signatories to this fantastic initiative – from Glastonbury, Latitude and the O2, through to the likes of Manchester’s Band on the Wall and the Albany in Deptford. They are part of a process that encourages constant improvement in the services offered to disabled customers.
There are cultural, moral and legal imperatives for these actions, as well as significant commercial persuasions. The smartest minds in our live business have long realised that by welcoming disabled customers and encouraging their participation, it allows them to tap into a spectacularly large audience demographic.
Those who have embraced these improvements are rewarded with repeat business. Notably, every venue that signs up to the charter sees – without fail – a dramatic increase in ticket sales to disabled fans.
A snapshot of this demand is provided in Attitude is Everything’s State of Access Report, where a survey of 349 disabled fans reveals the respondents attended an average of 9 gigs each per year, and collectively spent £250,000 on tickets and at-venue purchases such as merchandise, food and drinks.
When you consider millions of deaf and disabled people attend live music events in the UK, then the penny starts to drop – it is really important to provide this audience with the customer service that they, along with their friends and family, demand.
The smartest minds in our live business have long realised that by welcoming disabled customers, it allows them to tap into a spectacularly large audience demographic
Which is why ensuring accessible booking is such an important issue. You can make a venue or festival as accessible as you like – but if buying a ticket becomes an insurmountable barrier to disabled customers, then event organisers will risk falling short at the first hurdle.
I am delighted to say that there is a hell of a lot of innovative work going on in this area, and music businesses – big and small – are making significant headway. Despite some ongoing challenges, it was notable from Attitude is Everything’s research that a large number of respondents thought that access booking has improved.
The message I’m hearing from Suzanne is that what we need is more comprehensive action – we need standardisation of processes, and we need to move faster.
That’s why UK Music is proud to support publication of the State of Access Report and help facilitate the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition, a coming together of the UK’s biggest ticket companies, promoters and venues in an bid to address five key issues – from establishing a universal proof-of-disability system and proving accurate online information, to delivering the choice and flexibility when booking tickets that non-disabled fans enjoy as a matter of course.
By combining the knowledge and experience of this group with the drive and zeal of Suzanne and her team, I am sure we will make great progress.
Having brought this 35-strong coalition together, there are plans to host a first meeting at UK Music and for a progress report at the Ticketing Professionals Conference in March 2019. So, the clock is ticking.
It’s crucial that this is much more than a talking shop and becomes pivotal in pushing ahead with a shared plan to usher in real change.
So, I urge everyone across the industry to join UK Music and Attitude is Everything in seeking to provide deaf and disabled people the best possible access booking experience.
Britain is the best place in the world for live music – but no one should ever be denied the right to experience a live music event. We should not rest until we can ensure equal access for everyone.
UK industry backs Ticketing Without Barriers
A new industry taskforce backed by leading promoters, ticketing companies, venue operators and associations, the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition, today launches in the UK with the mission of improving the ticket-buying experience for disabled and deaf audiences.
The coalition will launch at the Roundhouse in London in tandem with the publication of music charity Attitude is Everything’s fourth State of Access Report, which reveals more than 80% of deaf or disabled concertgoers have experienced problems when booking tickets. According to the charity, 70% of the 349 fans surveyed felt they had been discriminated against – and while 37% said accessible booking had improved over the past four years, one in ten had considered legal action.
Based on the results of the report, Attitude is Everything has identified five focus areas where it says event promoters can improve the experience for disabled customers:
A simple and universal system for evidencing access requirements
Fans need a single proof-of-disability system that is uniformly recognised and accepted across the UK, and a single evidence policy adopted by the whole music industry
Accurate and disability aware information and customer service
Fans need all venues and events to provide quality access information online, including uniform terminology for access booking and disability awareness and inclusive communication training for all frontline sales staff
Choice and flexibility when booking tickets
Fans need to be able to book key access provisions online. Access booking systems should integrate online, email and telephone processes, and be flexible enough to incorporate whole party booking
To be able to trust that access requirements will be met
Fans need access bookings to be managed in-house where possible, to be dealt with by dedicated staff contactable by phone and email and for accessible bookings to go live as soon as tickets go on sale
Equal access to everything
Fans need to be able to book access for presales, VIP and meet-and-greet tickets, and with entertainment gift cards, as well as the ability to resell accessible seating. Access booking lines need to use freephone numbers. PA tickets need to be bookable by any deaf or disabled person who requires one. Fans need pre-registration systems to better manage anticipated sell-out sales
In order to deliver these changes, the charity has announced the formation of Ticketing Without Barriers, which comprises more than 35 trade bodies, ticket agencies, promoters and venues. The new pan-industry group will meet imminently at UK Music to establish a programme of delivery, before updating on progress at the Ticketing Professionals Conference in March 2019.
“It feels that everyone’s on the same page, up for the challenge and committed to working towards a positive result”
A full list of members, which includes Live Nation, Ticketmaster, AEG, Broadwick Live, NEC Group, See Tickets, National Arenas Association, Eventim UK and Kilimanjaro Live, can be viewed here.
Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything and disability sector champion for music, says: “With our fourth State of Access Report we wanted to return to probably the single-most important issue that impacts all deaf and disabled music fans: the process of booking tickets. Although there has been much progress in making the ticketing process accessible and inclusive, and certain venues and companies are definitely getting this right for their deaf and disabled customers, we felt that only a comprehensive and truly unified approach would be able to drive through the real and lasting changes that we need.
“In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive. Disabled customers should be able to buy a ticket online, they should be encouraged to attend shows with their friends and not have to jump through undignified hoops when things go wrong. As a disabled music fan myself, I’d urge ticket sellers, venues and festivals to understand that all disabled people must enjoy the same experiences as any other fan. The wider music business has the power to fix this, and I’ve been delighted at the response from all who’ve agreed to join the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition.
“It feels that everyone’s on the same page, up for the challenge and committed to working towards a positive result on this. We now look forward to getting to work, and delivering some results.”
Sarah Newton, UK minister for disabled people, health and work, adds: “Going to a gig or festival is an experience that everyone should be able to enjoy. It’s therefore incredibly important that disabled people have the right access when booking tickets for live music events, which is why I’m really pleased to see leading businesses from across the music industry coming together to improve accessibility.
“We know that disabled people and their households have a combined spending power of £249 billion a year, proving that being inclusive isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”
The last State of Access report can be read here.
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