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Music and theatre sue UK govt for pilot show data

Live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, have commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report from its series of test events, the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP is the government’s research into Covid-19 mitigations in sport, entertainment and business conferences settings. The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events. Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on Tuesday 22 June to release the report in full.

Several UK festivals, including Kendal Calling, Truck and Let’s Rock, have cited the non-release of the ERP data as a reason for cancelling their 2021 events. “Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival,” reads a statement from Kendal Calling, which cancelled earlier this week.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live (which recently acquired Let’s Rock) and co-founder of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), the representative body for the live music industry, says: “The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward.”

“The govt’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead”

In the legal action, lodged today, the parties assert that the government has “flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour’ which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny”. They have asked the court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible.

“The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead,” comments theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber. “The situation is beyond urgent.”

As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the bodies argue that the British government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business. According to recent research from LIVE the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.

Peter Gabriel, speaking for WOMAD Festival, says: “Without immediate government intervention, the festival industry is on the brink of collapse. That doesn’t mean cash, it means providing the certainty to enable us to deliver festivals, guidance on safety, and an understanding of how their timing affects us in the real world.

“We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us”

“At the end of this week, WOMAD will be faced with one very difficult and heart-wrenching decision. Millions of pounds of investment and the livelihood of around five thousand people are at stake. Several pilot events have been successfully run over recent months. But, like other festival teams, we need to be told what that research means for WOMAD. We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us.”

While today’s suit focuses on forcing the government to release the findings of its pilot programme, the suit is also critical of the lack of guidance for the forthcoming step four – the final stage of reopening, provisionally scheduled for 19 July. Lack of clear guidance was a contributing factor to Kendal Calling cancelling earlier this week despite it taking place after the step 4 date.

Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “The chronic uncertainty and endless indecisiveness from government, and pilot events with no published results, have damaged audience confidence and further harmed a sector that has already been decimated by the pandemic. For as long as venues like the Royal Albert Hall, and hundreds more across the country, are prevented from effectively operating with no justification, we cannot play our part in supporting the critical ecosystem of freelancers, small businesses and suppliers who rely on us and who are so desperately in need of work.”

Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25 billion in gross value added each year, and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.

LIVE’s members are the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Promoters (AIP), British Association of Concert Halls (BACH), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), The Entertainment Agents’ Association (TEAA), Music Venue Trust (MVT), Music Managers Forum (MMF), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA) and Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).

 


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UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap

Indoor performances are expected to return to music venues across England towards the end of May, provided the country’s Covid-19 response is going as planned, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (22 February).

Johnson has set out a “cautious” four-step roadmap for the reopening of society, with at least five weeks between each step. The first step commences on 8 March when children will return to schools, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from no earlier than 29 March.

Step two, which will commence no earlier than 12 April, will see non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open without curfew.

Step three, expected to launch no earlier than 17 May, will see music venues, sports stadiums cinemas, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses welcome people indoors subject to social distancing and capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.

Indoor performances will be restricted to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor performances limited to the lower of either 4,000 people or 50% capacity, and seated outdoor performances, to either 10,000 people or 25% of capacity.

The final step, which will start no earlier than 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and large events to take place “above the limits of step three”.

The final step, estimated to start around 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions

Larger events in step four will be influenced by the results of a new research programme which is detailed in new supplementary guidance that states: ‘Over the spring the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes.

‘The pilots will start in April. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.’

However, the PM has stipulated that to move from one stage to the next, four conditions will need to be met: first, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully. Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.

Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And fourth, that the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.

While the UK live industry has welcomed some clarity from the prime minister, it has also expressed disappointment at being the last to reopen and is calling for extended financial support to sustain the sector throughout the next four months.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support”

A statement issued by recently-launched umbrella trade organisation LIVE says, “The Chancellor now has a choice to make as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible at least 21 June, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the Government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.”

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, says: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”

“Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support”

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, says: “While the prime minister’s statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter-intuitive for the industry’s long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.

“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year’s slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK’s economic recovery.”

“It is logical that the government will choose to address [our] specific status with sector-specific financial support”

Mark Dayvd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, says: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.

“We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.

“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support. We warmly welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”

“The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse”

David Keighley, chair, PSA, says: “Whilst we fully understand the risk-averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”

Paul Reed, CEO, AIF, says: “We welcome the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the house of commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification.

“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.

“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”

The NHS has so far vaccinated more than 17.5 million people across the UK and the PM hopes to have every adult vaccinated by the end of July.

 


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Pressure mounts on UK gov to back Covid insurance

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis has joined many across the UK’s live industry in appealing for a government-backed event cancellation fund to enable operators to plan for next year without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Eavis said the festival had struggled to get cancellation insurance from commercial underwriters to help cover losses if next summer’s event once again needs to be postponed or cancelled.

The appeal comes after her father Michael, with whom she organises the festival, warned back in June that they would “seriously go bankrupt” if they were not able to hold the festival again next year.

In the Times interview, Emily called for the government to launch an insurance fund of its own – similar to schemes that have launched in Germany and Austria – to provide a safety net so that organisers can still make plans in the hopes that it will be safe to hold festivals next summer.

“If the gov can share the risk by offering direct financial support, it gives everyone the opportunity to move forward”

“If the government can share the risk by offering direct financial support, then it gives everyone the opportunity to move forward with the planning in the hope that things will be safe to run in the summer, and in the knowledge that backing is available if we’re simply not in a position to go ahead,” she added.

Eavis is the latest in a long line of operators, MPs, insurers and lobbyists that are appealing to the government for event cancellation cover.

LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), the umbrella group representing the UK live music industry, has been in conversations with DCMS officials for several months regarding a reinsurance scheme and has submitted its own industry-wide proposal for a scheme.

The body has also backed a proposal from a new campaign group Let Live Thrive (LLT) which comprises MPs, Peers, major events organisers and insurers.

The lobbying group last week penned an open letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden warning that major live events across the UK will not go ahead in 2021 unless a government-backed insurance scheme is swiftly introduced.

It reads, “The planning, insurance buying and decision making is happening now. Though we can’t predict the social distancing requirements for 2021 at this stage, this won’t matter if contingency insurance remains unavailable; live events will simply not take place.”

LLT’s proposal is a solution similar to Pool Re, a government-backed reinsurance fund for terrorism insurance. Steven Howell from Media Insurance Brokers (MIB) told IQ recently that he believes this solution could work if premiums are raised in line with VAT.

“Most people are used to paying 20% VAT. On insurance, you pay 12% so even if you increase it to 15 and siphoned off that 3%, it would create a pot of money through insurance that is available to bail out in case of cancellation,” he said.

The calls from the UK industry come after the German government last week announced a €2.5 billion cancellation fund to allow event organisers to plan for the second half of 2021 without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.

Finance minister Olaf Scholz said the federal government would like to reimburse all costs “which were made in optimistic expectation and cannot be realised due to corona restrictions” for events in the second half of 2021.

“Otherwise the pandemic will be over at some point, but there will be no concerts. And so the whole machinery with the many self-employed soloists and musicians gets back on its feet,” he added.

Scholz says he is also working on a funding program to support cultural events that are financially impacted by capacity restrictions enforced due to coronavirus, as well as hybrid shows.

In October, the Austrian federal government announced a similar scheme to remove the risk for event organisers and allow them to carry on business as usual.

 


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UK industry welcomes u-turn on alcohol ban

Figures from across the UK’s live music business have welcomed a government U-turn on newly introduced restrictions that would have stopped venues selling alcohol without a full meal. The news comes after a week of intense lobbying from the sector, in particular by umbrella organisation LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

The British government last week announced a ban on selling alcohol without food for establishments in tier 2, one of the three new tier restriction levels being introduced this week. Tier 2 currently comprises around 60% of the population of England.

With alcohol sales typically making a majority of a venue’s income, and hundreds of venues unable to serve a full meal, the legislation was poised to shut down a large swathe of the sector. Today’s news gives many venues and promoters the ability to programme shows in December and January, albeit still in line with current guidelines on social distancing.



The exemption inserted into the legislation applies “where alcohol is being provided to a customer at a cinema, theatre, concert hall or sportsground and the alcohol is ordered by, and served to, a customer who has a ticket for an exhibition of a film, a performance or an event of training or competition at the venue, to consume in the area where the audience is seated to watch the exhibition, performance or event”.

Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association, says: “LIVE is delighted that the government has listened to our calls to allow alcohol to be sold at live music venues under the new tier 2 restrictions. This announcement is hugely important for our industry as stopping the sale of alcohol was going to mean that even if venues were technically able to open under tier 2, they wouldn’t have been able to financially.

“This decision represents a significant opportunity to all in the music industry to economically work on events”

“There’s still a long way to go for the live music industry to recover, and the new situation is extremely challenging for those in tier 3, but we’re grateful to all those involved, in the industry and in government, for securing this sensible step.”

Mark Dayvd, CEO at Music Venue Trust, says: “Music Venue Trust and LIVE worked hard with the government to make the case that the consumption of culture and the consumption of food should be treated equally. We are delighted that guidance has been issued that makes it clear that ticketed events at grassroots music venues can go ahead in tier 2 with alcohol on sale. It makes a direct difference to the number of shows that can be delivered and is a significant step forward in the campaign to Revive Live Music and Reopen Every Venue Safely.”

Nathan Clark, board member at the Association of Independent Promoters, adds: “This decision represents a significant opportunity to all in the music industry to economically work on events, and to also utilise any Culture Recovery Funding. It gives a potential lifeline opportunity to both grassroots venues and promoters that simply wouldn’t have been possible without this amendment. A huge step in the right direction for music.”

The new three-tier system will replace the national lockdown that expires on 2 December. Under tier 2 restrictions, concert halls are permitted to open with up to 1,000 people or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller, in addition to the existing regulation around maintaining social distancing.

Under tier 3 (which reportedly accounts for 41.5% of the population of England) all hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, including indoor entertainment venues. Areas in tier three include vast swathes or the north-east, north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber, the south-west and the East and West Midlands, as well parts of Kent and the south-east – meaning many music venues in the UK will remain closed.

 


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UK live industry welcomes first CRF results

Some of the UK’s most iconic music venues, renowned independent festivals, and key music organisations are among the first-round recipients of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, designed to support arts organisations survive the pandemic.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today revealed the 1,385 arts organisations that will benefit from a share of £257 million. In this first round of funding, organisations that applied for grants under one million were announced.

Applicants in the live industry set to receive some of the largest grants include: DHP Family, which operates a number of music venues across the UK including Nottingham’s Rock City, Bristol’s Thekla and London’s Oslo, which was awarded £908,000; Bush Hall in West London, granted £679,000; and SSD Music, the promoter behind Newcastle’s Virgin Money Unity Arena, which receives £700,000.

Some of the UK’s most iconic venues also received funding, including the 100 Club (350) in London, which was granted £491,000, and The Cavern Club (250) in Liverpool, which gained £525,000.

Among the festivals to receive grants are Y-Not Festival (£240,000); Deer Shed Festival (£238,500); Cropredy Festival (£200,000); End of the Road Festival (£250,000); Love Supreme Festival (£118,524) and Slam Dunk (£175,981).

“71% of AIF members who applied for a CRF grant in round one have been offered funding and it’s nothing short of a lifeline”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says: “The government is here for culture and we have worked around the clock to get this record investment out to the frontline. It will allow our wonderful theatres, museums, music venues and cultural organisations to survive this crisis and start putting on performances again – protecting jobs and creating new work for freelancers. This is just the start – with hundreds of millions pounds more on the way for cultural organisations of all sizes that still need our help.”

Music Venue Trust, which has been working closely with DCMS and Arts Council England, which dispersed the fund, says today’s news is a “huge step forward in the efforts to reopen every venue safely”.

“Saving our grassroots venue sector requires a massive jigsaw puzzle of efforts, from the smallest local fundraiser by a community desperate to keep its cherished local venue, to the enormous scope of the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, one of the largest such funds in the world,” says Mark Dayvd, CEO at MVT.

“This intervention today helps enormously, giving MVT, our sector, and our communities an achievable opportunity to complete the English section of the jigsaw. We keenly await results from funding applications in Wales, and of round two of this fund. Our work with the governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to seek further support for venues there.

“This grant allows us to look to the future, continuing to create artistic opportunities and work for our community”

MVT has pledged to work with the venues that were ineligible or unsuccessful for funding to meet its goal of reopening every venue safely – “an aim that, with this support from the government, we are confident is now achievable”.

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO, Paul Reed, says: “We warmly welcome this intervention from government and the results of the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund. 71% of AIF members who applied for a CRF grant in round one have been offered funding and it’s nothing short of a lifeline for those who have been successful. We thank DCMS and Arts Council England for this support, which amounts to almost £4.5m into the independent festival sector across our membership.

“This will have a hugely positive impact on the survival of these businesses. We are pleased that we were able to work positively with DCMS officials to ensure that festival organisers were eligible for the fund and they should be praised for their diligence in supporting the sector. We’re also aware that not all independent festivals had good news today and not all received funding. We’ll continue to support, represent and fight for our membership throughout this crisis.”

Association of Independent Music (AIM) CEO, Paul Pacifico, says: “It’s fantastic to see the first tranche of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund announced. While there is still a long way to go, this is a great start and we are grateful to see £257 million distributed to such a broad range of applicants, who are being supported across so many art forms and music genres, and in so many different parts of the country.

“50% of our funding will go directly to the self-employed musicians and technicians who have not been able to earn since March”

“We will continue to engage with our colleagues at DCMS and the Arts Council England to help wherever we can to optimise each round of funding as it becomes available, making sure it is invested broadly but also strategically so that our sector can bounce back as rapidly and holistically as possible.”

Nathan Clark, owner of Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, granted £220, 429, says: “We are delighted at the news and the huge immediate impact it will have. The support the Culture Recovery Fund will give, directly provides long term survival, security and resilience for the Brudenell. We recognise the opportunity and responsibility the package gives, which allows us to look to the future, continuing to create artistic opportunities, work for our community and to further expand our offering.”

Jon Keats, director at The Cavern Club, awarded £525,000, says: “We are delighted to have received positive news at a time of great uncertainty for our industry as a whole. This funding will help protect ninety jobs and to potentially recoup around 20% of our total losses over the period March 2020 – 21. Importantly, 50% of our funding will go directly to the self-employed musicians and technicians who have not been able to earn since March. We will bring substantial live music back into our venue as soon as we are allowed to and we are already looking to stream our musicians performances in the meantime.”

Other beneficiaries include Ministry Of Sound (£975,468); Islington Assembly Hall (£235,564); Clapham Grand (£300,000); Crosstown Concerts (£212,950); Manchester’s Gorilla (£255,500) and Deaf Institute (£148,000); Eat Your Own Ears (£99,066); Portsmouth Guildhall (£215,000) and Sound City (£75,000).

Camden’s Electric Ballroom (£206,974); Hebden Bridge Trades Club (£61,723); Exeter Cavern (£50,000), Leeds-based Futuresound Events (£219,368); Hackney Empire (£585,064); Hootananny Brixton (£250,000); Independent Label Market (£50,784); Inner City Music (£211,200); The George Tavern (£222,030) and Brighton Dome (£493,000) have also received grants.

Further grants are due to be announced soon, including those for larger organisations between £1 and £3 million.

 


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Live absent from UK gov’s latest support scheme

The UK’s live music industry has found little comfort in the government’s latest support scheme, revealed today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The chancellor announced that the six-month Jobs Support Scheme, which is due to launch on 1 November and replace the furlough scheme, will be expanded to support businesses whose premises are legally required to shut for some period over winter as part of local or national restrictions.

Eligible businesses will receive cash grants up to £3,000 per month depending on rateable value and employees will receive two-thirds of their salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, from the government.

Under the scheme, employers will not be required to contribute to wages and will be asked to cover NICS and pension contributions only.

However, the live music industry – the vast majority of which remains shuttered due to restrictions, ranging from the six-month 10 pm curfew, to capacity restrictions with social distancing, to festivals simply not allowed to go ahead – has found no solace in the news

“The new scheme risks overlooking businesses who can technically open their doors but cannot trade economically”

Phil Bowdery, chair of Concert Promoters Association, says: “It seems like the chancellor has overlooked the plight of the tens of thousands of people in the live music industry who are currently unable to work due to Covid-related government restrictions. By focussing his criteria so narrowly on buildings which are allowed to open, the new scheme risks overlooking businesses who can technically open their doors but cannot trade economically due to the restrictions on gatherings in clubs, concert halls and arenas.

“Revenue in the live music industry will be down a catastrophic 80% in 2019 and over 70% of the employees in the industry are currently utilising the furlough scheme. If the government fails to ensure that all sectors that can’t work can access the new scheme, there will be tens of thousands of additional job losses coming before the end of the year.”

Greg Parmley, chair of the UK Live Music Group says: “The UK’s live music business remains one of the most viable industries in the UK, but is still unable to operate. Our entire workforce remains in jeopardy while venues, events and festivals are forced to remain shuttered. The chancellor’s most recent announcement gives no comfort to the skilled and talented workforce who face a desperate and bitter winter.”

“This is in no way reflective of the costs that are being incurred by businesses in our sector”

Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he tentatively welcomes the extension but believes the government’s financial support has not gone far enough to safeguard the sector.

“We will need further clarity on the details of the scheme and which businesses are eligible, given thousands of night-time economy businesses have been unable to open or operate for seven months now due to government restrictions. Most businesses and workers in the sector remain in desperation and despair, with no sector-specific or government understanding of the underlying issues the industry is facing or the financial implications of closures.”

“The introduction of the £3,000 monthly grant for businesses under local lockdown is insufficient and, for many, too little too late. This is in no way reflective of the costs that are being incurred by businesses in our sector and will do nothing to alleviate the significant financial burdens they are under.”

“Festivals, concerts and clubs, along with their support crews, cannot survive another winter with no income and no government scheme”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of Music Managers Forum says: “The plight of the UK’s live music business has been the focus of two parliamentary debates this week. With furlough ending in a few weeks time, our entire industry has desperately sought reassurance from the government that they understand how critical this situation is becoming, and what our country stands to lose if thousands upon thousands of viable jobs are not sufficiently supported and safeguarded.

“The chancellor has already had to backpedal once this week in a discussion about retraining, and following today’s announcement we need urgent clarification as to whether anyone in our sector will benefit from expansion to the Job Support Scheme. If there is no Plan B, then the impact will be catastrophic on the artists, freelance workers and small businesses on who British music depends.”

“We need urgent clarification as to whether anyone in our sector will benefit from expansion to the Job Support Scheme”

Andy Lenthall, GM of the Production Services Associations, says: “Once again, the technicians and technical suppliers to live events have been ignored. Thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on live events, still unable to work due to government restrictions and suffering catastrophic drops in revenues as a result will receive no support from the chancellor’s recent adjustments in support. All the pain, none of the gain.”

Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers says: “The chancellor’s new scheme appears to have failed the viable live music industry that was the first to close down. What is, effectively a furlough scheme extension aimed at businesses that have opened and now have to close again, completely misses out the businesses in the live music industry that have been closed for over six months. Festivals, concerts and clubs, along with their support crews, cannot survive another winter with no income and no government scheme to see them through until next spring.”

Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days. The scheme will begin on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review in January.

 


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UK club owner to legally challenge gov’s 10pm curfew

Jeremy Joseph, the owner of London nightclub G-A-Y, has hired leading barristers from Kings Chambers and Simpson Miller Solicitors to challenge the government’s decision to implement a national curfew of 10 pm on hospitality premises.

The 10 pm curfew came into effect on 24 September and has reportedly caused a “catastrophic” drop in trade for businesses, believed to be solely due to the implementation of the new restrictions, according to a recent survey.

The pre-action protocol for judicial review saw the legal team, which is supported by G-A-Y’s longstanding legal and business affairs advisor and Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), write to the secretary of state, Matt Hancock at the department of health and social care with a formal challenge to the health protection which was amended to include the new curfew.

“The 10 pm curfew, which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has been detrimental to the hospitality sector including G-A-Y, makes absolutely no sense,” says Joseph.

“It does the opposite of protecting people by pushing them onto the street at the same time. They are going from being safe inside venues with staggered closing times to unsafe on overcrowded streets and overloaded public transport.

“This government has failed to show why the 10 pm curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation.

“This gov has failed to show why the curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation”

“It seems to direct the blame for this action on the sector, consistently treating the night-time economy as a scapegoat when, in fact, we have years of operational experience of keeping customers safe, and have spent substantial time and effort making sure our venues are Covid secure.

“Enough is Enough. Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have to be made accountable and today we have instructed our legal team with the support of the NTIA to serve the government with a pre-action protocol for judicial review to challenge the decision to implement the national curfew of 10 pm on the hospitality sector.”

Dan Rosenberg, partner at Simpson Miller, said: “Our clients are well aware of the need to prioritise the health of the public and are supportive of any measures that help control the virus. Ultimately, their businesses in the long term depend upon the virus being brought under control.”

“However, while they have been supportive of other decisions made by government, including in relation to social distancing and other measures to protect the safety of their patrons, they fail to see the logic behind the arbitrary decision for all venues to close at 10 pm.”

The new restrictions affect businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants) – along with social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls.

Concert venues and theatres are permitted to stay open past the 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

In addition, the new £10,000 fines for those who breach social distancing legislation will be extended from individuals to businesses.

 


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#WeMakeEvents: UK industry gears up for round two

The UK events industry will hold a second #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest tomorrow under the banner Stand As One, in a bid to gain sector-specific support from the government.

Last week, the chancellor announced a new Jobs Support Scheme, designed to support industries that are operating at 30-50% of normal capacity.

However, key figures and organisations pointed out that the events sector is currently operating at 1-5% of normal capacity – rendering the scheme useless to the industry.

The industry is also reckoning with the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, lasting for six months, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

“With the increased restrictions that have been announced, it looks unlikely that we will be able to return to work in a financially viable way within the next six months,” says a spokesperson from #WeMakeEvents, Stand As One.

“This means that the majority of businesses in our sector will not be able to generate sufficient revenue to support their contribution towards employees’ salaries, nor will they be able to contract in the huge self-employed community within the industry.”

According to a new report, the night time economy has already taken a severe blow since the new government curfew was enforced, with over 300 businesses reporting a “catastrophic” drop in trade.

“Feedback from over 300 night time economy businesses on Thursday and Friday night across the country reported a catastrophic drop in trade, showing on average 62% down on previous weeks, believed to be solely due to the implementation of the new restrictions,” says the Night Time Industries Association CEO, Michael Kill.

“It looks unlikely that we will be able to return to work in a financially viable way within the next six months”

“Many business operators reported that customers were unwilling to allow the curfew to limit their evenings, and that many were seeking alternative locations to continue there social experience.

“It is very clear that the systematic closure of businesses at the same time has been counterproductive, culminating in overcrowding on public transport and dispersal routes.

“The sector has been very explicit in its feedback to the government regarding the impact of a 10 pm curfew on the night time economy, but we are yet to see the scientific evidence to substantiate the decision to implement this and we feel the sector has been unfairly targeted.”

The silent, socially distanced protest, Stand As One, will take place tomorrow (29 September) at 12:30 pm in Parliament Square.

It is the second #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest to take place in the UK after the initiative launched in August and similar protests have taken place in France, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Spain.

On 30 September, around 20 countries will light buildings red and, where possible, hold socially-distanced demonstrations under the #WeMakeEvents banner for a global day of action.

 


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UK govt dedicates £2.25m to grassroots venues

The UK government has announced that the first tranche of funding from its £1.57 billion cultural recovery package will be used to save around 150 grassroots music venues from insolvency.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden made the announcement over the weekend, saying that £2.25 million from the overall package has been earmarked to support venues at imminent risk of collapse.

The money is expected to benefit up to 150 venues across the country and will be received by organisations within the next few weeks.

Arts Council England will administer the financial support, providing grants of up to £80,000 to help cover essential on-going costs including rent, utilities, maintenance contracts and other bills incurred between 4 August and 30 September 2020.

Eligible venues include those that present live grassroots music events in any music genre, including multi-arts venues that host other events alongside a main music programme and those that play “a significant role” in developing talent.

The fund is being launched at the request of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which recently urged the government to do more to support the live industry. Members of the UK live music industry had also previously raised concerns over the lack of information surrounding the distribution of funds from the rescue package, which was first unveiled at the beginning of July.

“Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm”

Further information on eligibility criteria and funding distribution is expected this week.

“Without our grassroots music venues, we wouldn’t have the Beatles, Adele or Elton John. Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm,” comments Dowden.

“The first £2.25m of our unprecedented cultural rescue package is targeted at their survival. We’re working to deliver the rest of the £1.57bn emergency package as quickly as possible, so that we can protect and preserve our precious culture, arts and heritage for future generations.”

Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT) says the organisation “warmly welcomes” the funding for grassroot venues facing “urgent, short-term challenges”.

“Without this help, the sector would be facing a wave of permanent closures,” says Whitrick. “Throughout this crisis we have worked closely with DCMS and are delighted that the urgent need for this intervention has been recognised and responded to.”

MVT has also been working with the government in Scotland, where £2.2m was recently dedicated to supporting grassroots venues.

The news come as venues across the UK struggle in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, with many having to cut staff, or being forced to close their doors forever. Manchester venues Gorilla and Deaf Institute were recently saved from the brink of closure after being bought by venue operator Tokyo Industries.

Applications for the UK funding are open until 3 August. More information about the fund and how to apply is available 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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Live industry reacts to new UK immigration plans

Live music industry professionals are warning against the “significant barriers” that EU musicians and their crews will face under the UK government’s new immigration plans – and fear the consequences for UK artists if the European Union imposes similar restrictions.

Yesterday (19 February), the UK government unveiled its new points-based immigration system, which takes effect from 1 January 2021.

Under the new system, points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications or professions, with visas awarded to those who gain enough points.

However, musicians coming from the European Union to tour in the UK can curtail the points system due to their designation as being of a ‘specialist occupation’.

“Under the current immigration rules, there are a range of other immigration routes for specialist occupations, including innovators, ministers of religion, sportspeople and to support the arts,” reads the Home Office’s policy statement.

“Our broad approach for January 2021 will be to open existing routes that already apply to non-EU citizens, to EU citizens (the current ‘Tier 5’).”

This means EU bands will need to meet the same criteria as those from the US and other nationalities as of Jan 2021. According to Steve Richard of T&S Immigration Services, the majority of US acts and those of many other nationalities do not need actual visas to tour the UK for a short amount of time, but rather carry paperwork with them issued by the UK promoter, agent, venue or label, and show it on arrival.

The news could mean more paperwork for EU acts wishing to tour in the UK, but also points to more bureaucracy for the UK live industry. As Paradigm agent Rob Challice asks: “Will the EU apply a similar system for UK artists travelling the other way – is this the Brexit people voted for?”

The retaliation from Brussels is a worry for all the industry professionals and experts IQ talks too – not least because touring crews have already reported difficulties crossing EU borders in a post-Brexit world – as well as a concern for the future of the grassroots sectors on both sides of the Atlantic and a strong sense of frustration at the continued lack of clarity coming from Westminster.

 


Tom Kiehl, CEO, UK Music

New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world.

This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time and increases the possibility that member states introduce new bureaucratic hoops for UK musicians to jump through when seeking to perform across the EU.

It’s welcome the government has reduced its salary cap, yet these proposals will still not work for many in the EU who want to work in the UK music industry over a longer period of time given musicians average earnings are £23,000 and a reliance in the points-based system on the need for elite academic qualifications.

“This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time”

Mark Davyd, CEO, Music Venues Trust (MVT)

Assuming the EU responds reciprocally to this position, which it has publicly stated on a number of occasions is the intention, then this will create very significant barriers to touring in Europe for both artists and crew.

Those barriers will be experienced most severely at DIY artist and grassroots touring artists level, where tight margins and schedules simply do not have the capacity to absorb additional costs or waiting times, and where skills to manage such a process simply do not currently exist.

If this is the final outcome of Brexit for our industry, then a comprehensive immigration support service which is free to access for musicians and crew from the grassroots sector must be swiftly created so that it can professionally manage such a process.

An ability to tour is a key element of any music industry UK Export strategy, and we trust the need for such a service will already have been fully considered and costed within the government’s plans.

“This will create very significant barriers to touring in Europe for both artists and crew”

Horace Trubridge, general secretary, Musicians’ Union (MU)

Our major concern is that other EU countries will apply the same restrictions to us. Equally, UK musicians are going to lose work through the fact that others won’t want to come here – visiting bands hire local support and have UK musicians perform with them.

Therefore, this is a dual problem – it is reducing work opportunities for UK musicians, as well as causing difficulties for EU musicians.

We are, however, still getting positive noises for our Touring Passport, which would allow musicians, their crew and equipment to move freely. The good news is that our campaigning has meant the message has got through to politicians – they are aware of the issue and have repeatedly said they will do something, we just but don’t know what yet.

We are not giving up. Hopefully, there will be some sort of carve out for musicians – there has to be, the music industry is too valuable to the UK for them to cut us adrift.

We just want make sure that any solution is reciprocal between the UK and the EU – that is just as important to us.

“The music industry is too valuable to the UK for them to cut us adrift”

Ian Smith, founder, Frusion/Fizzion agencies, UK EU Arts Work 

This is going to have several effects on the industry. For one, there’s a lot of misunderstanding going on around this. Promoters are freaking out and will be hesitant to book artists post-2020. This will have a real impact on small venues and the live scene in general.

Uncertainty from market to market will mean that UK musicians won’t be booked into the EU, either. Whatever happens on the EU side now, the live music scene is generally suffering and will continue to do so.

The Permitted Paid Engagement currently exists for acts coming in for a short period of time. Promoters and artists need to know if there’s a simple entry point available to use.

While this uncertainty continues, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the industry resulting in, in my opinion, a lost year of potential bookings. This will only settle down in January/February next year, then there will be a slow uptake again until 2022 when things will flatten out as we all figure out how to deal with it.

For now, we all just wish it wasn’t happening.

“For now, we all just wish it wasn’t happening”

Paul Reed, CEO, Association for Independent Festivals (AIF)

It is a concern that these plans will increase bureaucracy for EU musicians coming to the UK for festivals from 2021.

The salary threshold remains unsuitable for the industry. Hopefully, this is also an opportunity for government to review other matters concerning the visa system, such as the out-of-date definition of what constitutes a ‘permit free’ festival [those not needing a certificate of sponsorship under the points-based system]. We have members below 15,000 capacity that programme from far and wide outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Deborah Annett, CEO, Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

It’s really difficult to understand what all this actually means at the moment. The government is talking about an immigration system, but what we are referring to is touring, rather than immigration and we are very keen to explain this to the Home Office.

The creative industries are worth £111 billion a year to the UK economy, that’s as much as the finance and building sectors – we are so valuable. However, there is no evidence that the Home Office is listening to the creative industries at the moment.

We are also worried about this not being a great starting place when thinking of UK musicians working in the EU – what do we expect will happen in return? If we are coming up with a regime to harm EU musicians, that can only come back to bite us.

“If we are coming up with a regime to harm EU musicians, that can only come back to bite us”

David Martin, GM, Featured Artists Coalition

This policy demonstrates that the government has paid no heed to advice about the devastating impact of their plans on the UK’s music industry.

The impact of the loss of free exchange of ideas and experience, cannot be overstated but moreover, this policy would have a career-ending impact on many artists.


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