UK festival industry warns of ‘wipeout’ at DCMS inquiry
Key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry today gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector, which has been ‘decimated’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The inquiry heard from Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project and nighttime economy advisor for Greater Manchester; Anna Wade, communications and strategy director, Boomtown Fair; Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers (AOF); Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive, UK Music and Paul Reed, chief executive, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
The witnesses gave evidence on a number of challenges facing the sector and conveyed the urgent need for further government support to avoid a ‘total wipeout’ of the festival ecosystem.
Among the participants’ key demands was an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.
“If organisers don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security, there’ll be major cancellations within weeks”
Indicative date for full return to live
Participants unanimously agreed that one of the most pressing requirements from the government is an indicative date for festivals to return to full scale and without social distancing, which would allow organisers to either proceed with their events or cancel.
AIF’s Reed said: “Right now is when organisers have to make key decisions. If they don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security for summer events, then there’ll be major cancellations within weeks.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We have a vaccine on the way. It’s being rolled out and there’s a timetable for that. The public target for ministers has been two million vaccines every week and if we know our testing capacity and the testing situation is going to be at a certain point by a certain time, we should be able to have some sort of roadmap for live. If you’ve got that sort of data and information, there should be a way to calculate or make some sort of political determination or judgement for an indicative date for a return.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “There’s a challenging road in front of us but not impossible. We need the government to understand our timeline because we can’t roll something out quickly – it’s a very very complex operation to put on festivals. Normality might resume but that doesn’t necessarily give us a green light.”
“Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else”
Government-backed insurance scheme
Citing insurance schemes rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin expressed concerns that the UK would be at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t prevail with our own scheme: “I think the real danger here is that if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe or close to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could have a sort of a talent transfer. We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians and people who should be working in and supporting the UK festival scene are looking to the continent thinking ‘actually if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we are going to be’.”
AIF’s Reed reiterated the need for a government-backed insurance scheme, adding that none of AIF’s member festivals will be able to go ahead in 2021 without it: “Without government intervention, festivals will simply cancel early and on mass. It’s still too early to tell in a binary sense whether the season is on or off, but for the larger festivals, [the decision of whether or not to cancel] will come by the end of this month and for some of the smaller ones it’s March but they are all reaching a point at which they will need to commit that upfront capital and make a determination on the event for this year.”
Addressing the government’s claims that an insurance plan should be the final hurdle for event organisers, Boomtown’s Wade said: “Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else. Then we can commit to things and start getting a bit more confidence back in the industry.”
“If festivals don’t take place in 2021, the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear”
Consequences of a cancelled 2021 festival season
Boomtown’s Wade said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
AIF’s Reed said the loss for the taxpayer will be ‘significant’ in the 2021 festival season is cancelled: “If you look at the overall contribution of festivals to the UK economy, you’re looking at £1.7 bn GVA and 85,000 jobs. The live music industry in general, I believe, generates about £1.6 bn in VAT receipts and a significant portion of that will be generated by festivals.”
Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project reinforced that point, adding: “The UK has got one of the biggest festival markets, globally, and we’re proud that music is one of our biggest exports. If festivals don’t take place in 2021, I think the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear.”
“If events like [Boomtown Fair] can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect”
The wider economic impact of a disappearing festival sector
Lord said: “Let’s not forget everything that happens on the outside of the perimeter. When Parklife takes place on that one weekend it brings £16 million into the local economy. Every single year we have the Parklife Foundation, which raises on average about 100–120,000 pounds for local community causes. So there’s a bigger picture here and we need to look at the whole ecology. The supply chain will be wiped out if we have another year like 2020.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “If events like ours can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect because we then can’t invest in local services people and skills. Festivals are like mini-cities so the supply chains, infrastructure and the services that we use are vast and countless.”
“Testing and pilots are two of the pillars. The other pillar would be industry mitigations”
Testing and safety precautions
AIF’s Reed said: “It’s difficult at this stage to see testing as the only solution to facilitate festivals. I think testing and pilots are two of the pillars, alongside vaccine development and rollout and of course treatment. But the other pillar would be industry mitigations, which is why we have a festivals working group which is cross-industry and that is working with the DCMS and Public Health England, to look at specific guidance and planning assumptions. [Those aspects] will contribute to a proposition for how festivals can safely return and instil that confidence in customers.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We don’t want to come back before it’s safe. It’s why we’re engaging in testing to make sure that we can find ways to make sure that no infections are brought into events spaces. And it’s one of the reasons we’re asking for an indicative date from the government because having government be clear on a date when we believe it’s safe to be able to hold events without social distancing and at scale will help with the public confidence.”
Steve Heap, general secretary, AOF, said: “The customer confidence, I think, is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Our ticket sales are virtually at zero. There are one or two festivals are managing okay to sell, but the customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for the tickets because they’re just not sure the event will go ahead until we get to such a point that we can say they will.”
To coincide with today’s hearing, UK Music today published a new report, titled Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to restart the live music industry when it is safe.
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Diversity: Change is coming
Wow – what an incredible year it’s been. I vividly remember my first time going up to bat for UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, as their new chair, feeling intimidated and overwhelmed in the Universal Music Group’s boardroom. The mighty UMG – home to Island Records, Polydor, Virgin – had agreed to host our inaugural session right where the big deals were done; the Rolling Stones, Sam Smith and Stefflon Don probably all inked deals or demo-ed LPs right here.
We’re in the same space discussing diversity in the music industry, with all the trade bodies and all the major labels around the table. I was nervous, even with vice-chair and veteran of the music world Paulette Long to back me up and keep me in check. But we didn’t know that when we left the room, the world was about to turn upside down.
This is March 2020. Parts of the UK are celebrating our exit from the EU with post-Brexit parties and a sense of euphoric win. Something else that’s in the air is Covid-19, but despite footage of super hospitals being built in China, it’s not yet being taken seriously here. Just a few months later; George Floyd is brutally killed beamed directly onto our phones.
The outcry over the murder of George Floyd once again highlighed injustices in the law, amplifying the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement. Theirs would soon become the strongest voice for global justice, equality and equity. It resonated with our UK youth like never before; modern, contemporary, organised and effective at all levels. Statues got dismantled, hashtags became “must”-focussed – #rhodesmustfall and #TheShowMustBePaused backed by the Black Music Coalition in the UK and black music executives globally. Furlough was introduced and the music industry began its journey into the abyss.
It’s not just “more brown faces in the board rooms”; it’s more diversity of thought and practice
Globally, the major labels moved quickly. New investment came in to support black talent, the term “urban” finally got thrown out and “white privilege”, “systemic racism” and “unconscious bias” were the new words in the music ecosystem. Letters were written to key UK music industry players, which had raked in profits from black artists and black culture for decades but had always overlooked the structural and systematic racism. “Enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues,” said BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo.
There were difficult debates, decisions and discussions for all of us. From the CEOs of major record labels to promoters and artists not from minority communities; questions of privilege (perhaps “white”, perhaps “gender”, perhaps “place”) were being asked. How much of their success in the music industry was down to privilege, family networks, not undiluted raw talent? More importantly, how do we create better opportunities and better representation for the rest of us? Modern day, diverse citizens should be everywhere across the music industry, not just as performers, not just as interns, but at executive and CEO level, smashing the glass ceilings of back rooms and boardrooms.
Black artists have always raised their voices for while others have stayed silent; Howlin Wolf spoke about the Mississippi Blues, Jazz and Be Bop defied Jim Crow’s America. James Brown post-Watts Uprising shouted “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, Hip Hop hit back at Reaganomics. In the UK Steel Pulse was talking about Handsworth Revolution, Bashy heralded serious emotions about Black Boys. Stormzy raps on Grenfell and Dave just echoes what James Brown knew all those years ago; Black is Beautiful.
Now was the time for the music industry to stand up and back a radical, sustainable plan to repair the diversity deficit and back our black artists, black workforce and a modern diverse music ecosystem. At UK Music, the taskforce was already nine months deep into our flagship workforce survey. Now, this could go out against the backdrop of #theshowmustbepaused and #blackouttuesday; receiving unprecedented support from all the trade bodies – BPI, MU, PPL, AIM, MMF, FAC, IVORS, MPG, MPA and PRS. The uptake surpassed the 2018 survey by over 33%.
If diversity without action is just a dream, action without evidence is a nightmare
This was and is the only survey to look this deeply into representation in the UK music workforce, auditing levels of diversity, social mobility, the protected characteristics, retention and access at all levels, right across the music business. This included studios, management agencies, music publishers, major and independent record labels, music licensing companies, the live music sector: the total UK music ecosystem.
But what can be done with just data? To really put evidence to work, codesign across the music industry is required to deliver an action plan that is respectfully collaborative, holds senior executives to account and changes the culture with visible metrics and targets. It’s not just “more brown faces in the board rooms”; it’s more diversity of thought and practice, with sustainable ways to move progress forward with pace.
If diversity without action is just a dream, action without evidence is a nightmare. Our ten-point plan is drawn from the 2020 survey, based on new metrics, fresh evidence and lived experience of diversity in the music industry today, here in the UK. It is the accumulation of months of work across the total industry ecosystem – we consulted, we watched, we listened, we gathered data and now there is a strategic plan that has been co-signed by every single major music trade body. And some of it is really simple, common sense stuff, ensuring ordinary people in the music industry are allowed to execute extraordinary work.
Dialogue with diverse voices – with people who don’t look like you, talk like you and hang out in places like you
As the chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, I know we are responsible to make change happen, and we must be held accountable to ensure actions are sanctioned, strategy is developed and systems change. The ten-point plan closely aligns with the demands of Black Music Coalition, Women in Ctrl, PRS Foundation and all the other campaigning music companies to ensure justice and equality with a sharp focus on race and gender.
The ten-point plan has some really simple stuff that some would say is just common sense. Advertise to a broader audience base for new recruitment, listen to diverse staff members, update and implement stronger diversity targets. There are also deep, long-term drivers around the gender and race pay gaps, around governance and ultimately putting new voices into key decision-making rooms. Some say follow the money, we say: dialogue with diverse voices – with people who don’t look like you, talk like you and hang out in places like you.
We want to bring people with us, because we know diversity is stronger, better, smarter and more sustainable when “done with”, rather than “done to”. But at the same time, there are some drivers, some values that are absolutely no compromise. The ten-point plan demands sharp actions at pace with respect. It’s going to be a long complex journey. Without the tragic death of George Floyd and the uprisings afterwards, without #TheShowMustBePausedUK, without #BlackOutTuesday, the UK music industry wouldn’t be at the watershed moment I believe it is today. Change is coming.
It’s simply time to act.
UK live industry grew 17% in year before Covid
The worth of the UK’s live music industry increased by 17% in 2019, according to UK Music’s flagship annual economic study.
The Music By Numbers 2020 report says that the live sector enjoyed its most successful year to date in 2019 and that 2020 was “shaping up to be even stronger” but due to the pandemic is now in “urgent need of a lifeline”.
According to the recently published UK live music: At a cliff edge report, the live sector contributed £4.5 bn to the UK economy in 2019 but its revenue has dropped to almost zero this year due to the pandemic.
“The Music By Numbers report shows that pre-Covid-19 the live music industry was growing rapidly, up 17% in 2019 and delivering increasing value to UK plc. The pandemic literally stopped the show. Targeted help is needed to support our proudly entrepreneurial sector through this economic uncertainty and return it back to growth,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association (CPA).
UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “2019 was a fantastic year for the UK music industry, and we were firmly on track to be one of the great British success stories of the coming decade.
“Music By Numbers 2020 shows just how successful our industry was before the catastrophic blow of Covid-19 knocked it down, and how important it is that we get it back on its feet.
“When the time comes to recover from this pandemic, our world-leading music industry can be a key part of our country’s post-Covid economic and cultural revival – but we need the right support to get us there.”
“The pandemic literally stopped the show. Targeted help is needed to support our proudly entrepreneurial sector”
In the report, UK Music says the live sector’s increase in worth was partly due to a high number of stadium tours and “a consistently strong performance across the sector,” along with data collection improvements among grassroots venues.
The report nods to 2019 stadium shows from international artists such as Bon Jovi and The Eagles alongside domestic superstars such as the Spice Girls and Take That.
Major touring artists contribute massively to the live sector’s GVA and supports festivals and enables promoters to reinvest in
However, this year, social distancing has prevented most events from taking place – operationally and economically – while travel restrictions have made touring impossible for both UK and international artists.
The Music By Numbers 2020 report concludes by noting that the government-backed Culture Recovery Fund was welcome but says “more support is needed so that the industry can get through this period with as many organisations and companies surviving as possible”.
The report calls for five specific actions to restart the live music at the earliest opportunity including an extension of the VAT rate reduction on tickets beyond 31 March 2021; government backing for a live music events reinsurance scheme; an extension of business rate relief for venues for 2021/22 financial year and removal of festival sites on agricultural land from the business rates system.
It also calls for 2020 local authority license fees for festivals to be rolled over to 2021 and for the continuation of joint industry/government work to establish clear protocols with health agencies regarding testing and live events.
Read the full Music By Numbers 2020 report here.
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Live Nation, CTS, DEAG shares soar after vaccine news
Live music industry behemoths including Live Nation, CTS Eventim and DEAG saw their share prices soar yesterday (9 October), following early results from the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine which could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.
Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s biggest promoter and owner of Ticketmaster, saw its share price rise by more than 22% while pan European ticketing giant CTS Eventim was up 23% and German live entertainment group DEAG’s share price also grew by double digits.
The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised. It is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing.
The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month and the UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, health secretary Matt Hancock said it is “absolutely a possibility” that the vaccine would become available before Christmas but he expects a mass roll-out “in the first part of next year”.
This is a first but critical step in our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine
But Boris Johnson has warned people not to “rely on this news as a solution” as it is still “very, very early days”.
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says news of the vaccine is “hugely promising” but added a number of caveats.
“These results indicate 90% efficacy among people who took the vaccine. For an immunisation programme to be fully effective, it will need mass take-up. Never has tackling anti-vax propaganda been more important, and it’s a more difficult challenge than people appreciate,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Rolling out the vaccine will require the biggest logistical effort since WW2 (esp. given the cold chain and need for multiple doses) – government has been doing lots of groundwork to get things ready for a working vaccine, but it will still take many months to roll out fully.”
2. These results indicate 90% efficacy among people who *took the vaccine*. For an immunisation programme to be fully effective, it will need mass take-up. Never has tackling anti-vax propaganda been more important, and it’s a more difficult challenge than people appreciate.
— Jamie Njoku-Goodwin (@jnjokugoodwin) November 9, 2020
Dr Albert Bourla, the chairman of Pfizer, says: “We are one step closer to potentially providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global pandemic. This is a first but critical step in our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine.”
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UK Music reports progress with diversity in industry
Representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities and women has increased at almost every level in the industry since 2016, according to a new report by UK Music.
The trade body revealed the findings of its 2020 Workforce Diversity Survey in its UK Music Diversity Report, as well as a ten-point plan to tackle racism and boost diversity in Britain’s music industry.
The survey’s most notable findings include an increase in minority ethic employees between 16-24, up from 25.9% in 2018 to a record 30.6%.
The number of people from minority ethnic professionals at entry-level has also risen from 23.2% in 2018 to new high of 34.6% in 2020, though representation is worse in senior positions at just 19.9% – one in five posts.
Elsewhere, the proportion of women has increased from 45.3% in 2016 to new high of 49.6% in 2020. However, the number of women in the 45–64 age group has dropped from 38.7% in 2018 to 35% in 2020.
“Against a backdrop of global change the diversity taskforce has been carefully listening, challenging and working behind the scenes to help shape a transformational and game-changing ten-point plan,” says UK Music diversity taskforce chair Ammo Talwar MBE.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too”
“This plan is data driven and evidence based with metrics and lived experience. It’s the accumulation of nine months’ work across the whole music industry to support yet hold the industry to account. No tokenistic statements, no short-term wins but a truly collaborative long term plan that reboots the sector and ensures diversity is front and centre of all major decisions.”
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “As an industry, we are united in our determination to lead the way on improving diversity and inclusion in our sector and across society. This report consists of a frank and candid analysis of the current situation our industry faces, and a bold and ambitious ten-point plan for how to achieve the positive change we all want to see. It’s relevant not just to the music industry, but to organisations everywhere.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too. This ground-breaking report is an important step towards achieving that.”
The trade body’s ten-point plan to improve diversity makes a number of commitments including maintaining a database of people responsible for promoting diversity across UK Music; removing the word “urban” to describe music of black origin, using genre-specific terms like R&B or soul instead; and ending the use of the “offensive and outdated” term BAME in official communications.
UK Music has conducted a diversity study every two years since 2016, which collates data from across the music business including studios, management agencies, music publishers, major and independent record labels, music licensing companies and the live music sector.
The Associates: Tesder, TEAA, UK Music
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 PSA, Svensk Live and SMA, this time we check in with the Turkish Live Music Association, The Entertainment Agents’ Association and UK Music.
Turkish Live Music Association (Tesder)
The remit of the Turkish Live Music Association (Tesder) is to increase the value and credibility of the sector by creating and maintaining business standards for its members, who are typically concert promoters, venues and ticketing companies.
Tesder has around 50 members, which account for around 80% of the revenue in the local live music industry. Membership fees are equivalent to about €250 per annum, plus a registration fee of approximately €350.
Tesder works on a volunteer basis, and therefore relies on the ten leading companies in Turkey to dedicate members of staff to the association when needed.
As part of its measures during the pandemic, Tesder has helped to organise a government-financed digital concert series that included around 200 shows, thus helping both acts and their crews, as well as sound/lighting companies and other service providers to generate money.
The pandemic has allowed Tesder to effectively lobby politicians, and the organisation is currently working to achieve a 20% tax reduction on concert tickets (10% VAT reduction and 10% entertainment tax reduction), which will, in time, help remedy proposed new regulations on decreased show capacities.
Tesder is also working on a general Turkish live music sector insurance, which could involve partial government financing, like the country’s already compulsory earthquake insurance.
Tesder is working on a general Turkish live music sector insurance, which could involve partial government financing
The Entertainment Agents’ Association Ltd (TEAA)
The Entertainment Agents’ Association Ltd (TEAA) promotes and protects the interests of its 250 members throughout Great Britain, all of whom provide talent for the entertainment industry.
The annual fee for membership is £265 (€297) plus VAT, and all applications are reviewed by the Association’s National Council to ensure that they adhere to the required criteria and codes of practice. TEAA’s affiliate scheme costs £99.95 (€112.00) plus VAT per year.
Membership includes access to approved artist and sole agency contracts; suggested terms of business; information on compliance and GDPR; and regular updates that ensure agents continue to trade according to current legislation.
Since lockdown, all TEAA meetings have taken place virtually and the workload for councillors, all of whom are volunteers, has significantly increased as they ensure that members are up to date with government announcements, and national and regional initiatives as they happen.
The Association has introduced regular Zoom calls so that members can talk directly to council members and to one another. Virtual calls have included the Association’s accountant providing advice on what funding options are available to help members’ businesses survive.
The calls also help the Association identify areas where it needs to offer additional support, as well as helping to accumulate experiences first hand regarding problems as they happen relating to accessing loans or grants, or issues with contracts. This information can then be fed back to the government.
The Association has introduced regular Zoom calls so that members can talk directly to council members
UK Music is an umbrella body that represents the commercial music industry and the 190,000 people who work in the sector nationally.
Set up in 2008, it ensures that the collective voice of the industry is heard by government and other key stakeholders. It fights on behalf of its members for changes of benefit to the sector and its talent pipeline.
UK Music publishes widely respected research that outlines the £5.2billion (€58bn) annual contribution the industry makes to the UK economy.
Its members are: AIM, The Ivors Academy, BPI, FAC, MMF, MPA, MPG, The Musicians’ Union, PPL, PRS for Music, and UK Live Music Group.
UK Music is in constant dialogue with government to help the industry through the coronavirus crisis. It has successfully lobbied for a task force to help the sector combat the crisis’s impact; for an extension of the furloughing scheme; and for detailed talks about restarting the live industry.
UK Music has also helped co-ordinate a multimillion-pound network of hardship support schemes for those hardest hit by the pandemic.
It is co-ordinating working groups, including a Next Steps Group, to draw up a road map to help the industry emerge from the crisis.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Diversity: ‘Change needs to come from the top’
Black music professionals are calling on the industry’s behemoths to help diversify the industry from the top down.
In IQ‘s recent feature, Opening Doors, several key industry figures called on the industry’s power brokers to reflect on their responsibility to effect change.
“We have to hold companies and senior management accountable. It takes a long time to change culture, but that can be accelerated if the desire for change also comes from the top,” says Natalie Williams, former head of research for UK Music.
“If you’re a senior executive, then maybe you should look at yourself and the friendship circle that you have – if that’s not diverse, then you could be part of the problem.
“Ninety per cent of people do not think they are part of the problem, so they end up passing the buck to their HR department,” she added.
While ICM Partners agent Yves C Pierre says “The pool of people put in power need a diversity check from within, because we can see they’re great at buying IP but I think that’s the easy route.
“The power brokers need to step out of their comfort zone and confront the task of changing what’s become the norm internally from the inception of the business model.”
Read the entire feature here.
UK music sector reacts to newly permitted events
Socially distanced live indoor performances will be able to resume in England from Saturday, as the government eases lockdown measures.
The relaxed measures signal Stage 4 of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of live performance, which was announced on 17 July and delayed from 1 August until tomorrow.
Though the date for reopening will bring some relief to the UK’s music sector, a number of industry bodies have expressed scepticism about the economic viability of live music returning.
“Unfortunately, it remains the case that the vast majority of grassroots music venue members of the Music Venues Alliance are not financially able, or even have an appropriate layout in the physical premises, to deliver these newly permitted events,” says Mark Davyd from the UK’s Music Venue Trust.
“Those that can make social distancing work will be unlikely to be able to stage government compliant events with this much notice but will be relieved to finally be able to open their doors in the coming weeks.
“However, despite the challenges the announcement presents, we broadly welcome this progress towards the return of live music. If gigs are going to return in stages, which is the government plan, then we have reached Stage 4 of that plan and can begin to imagine that Stage 5, real gigs at venues, might be achievable in the foreseeable future,” concludes Davyd.
“It remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way”
Michael Kill, CEO of Night Time Industries Association says: “While we welcome the government’s announcement of the further easing of lockdown measures, this is still a long way off being back to normal for many businesses in the night time economy and events sector.”
“While some bars and restaurants have been able to open with a limited capacity, many are only just breaking even and we expect live music venues and performance spaces to have similar issues with viability, only able to accommodate for limited numbers under the current government social distancing measures.
“We still have many questions with regard to the operational conditions for opening these businesses, but would urge the government to consider a more robust communication strategy with a realistic timeframe to allow businesses the opportunity to prepare for opening,” says Kill.
Acting CEO of campaigning and lobbying group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, says: “Further easing of lockdown for live performance is a symbolic moment, yet it remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way.”
“The government must ensure support measures for all aspects of the sector – including venues, festivals, musicians, performers and crew – are in place while many individuals and businesses in the sector still cannot get back to work.”
“We still have many questions with regard to the operational conditions for opening these businesses”
Though the initiatives were successful in prompting the government to unveil a £1.57bn package of grants and loans for music and arts organisations, the industry needs more government support to sustain the live industry’s broader ecosystem.
Industry bodies are calling for a multi-year extension of the cultural VAT rate reduction beyond January in line with DCMS’s recent recommendations and a government-backed reinsurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead.
Also as part of this weekend’s easing of lockdown, the government is enforcing tougher measures including a clampdown on illegal gatherings of more than 30 people, which could see those responsible hit with spot fines of up to £10,000.
The government’s previous restrictions on concerts were met with a rise in Britons attending illegal, non-socially distanced “quarantine raves” in woodland near cities including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Beyond the Music helps deaf and disabled into industry
Attitude is Everything, the UK’s leading authority on live music accessibility, is launching a three-year programme that aims to boost employment opportunities for deaf and disabled people in the commercial music sector.
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Beyond the Music will provide the necessary skills, experience, resources and guidance for deaf and disabled people and also for music businesses, in order to plug the employment gap and create inclusive work environments.
“Attitude is Everything believes it is crucial that deaf and disabled people have full and equal access to any employment opportunities on offer,” says head of volunteering and skills development for Attitude is Everything, Paul Hawkins.
“Beyond The Music will allow us to try and identify why deaf and disabled workers are so underrepresented in the sector, and to take positive action to implement change. The first step towards that goal is the survey we are launching today. We are enormously grateful to the National Lottery for funding this project, and also for support we’ve received from venues and others in the business. More will be needed on the road ahead as we strive for equality and inclusivity.”
“Beyond The Music will allow us to try and identify why deaf and disabled workers are so underrepresented in the sector”
Beyond the Music’s accompanying survey will collect responses from deaf or disabled people, who work or aspire to work in the industry, which will help to shape the programme.
Attitude is Everything has also shared a number of objectives it hopes to achieve during the time period, including building a Beyond the Music Network, creating an Accessible Employment and Volunteering Toolkit and organising Accessible Creative Environments training.
“For a number of years UK Music has been a proud supporter of Attitude is Everything’s great work to improve access to music and the music industry for deaf and disabled people,” says UK Music acting CEO, Tom Kiehl. “Beyond The Music is an exciting new initiative that everyone must now get behind. We look forward to working with Attitude is Everything on this and welcoming them to the UK Music Diversity Taskforce.”
The initiative launched after findings from Arts Council England showed that just 1.8% of staff at music industry organisations consider themselves to be disabled, though 19% of working adults in the UK’s general population are considered disabled under the Equality Act.
Last year, Attitude is Everything revealed that its own research found that 70% of disabled musicians hid details of their impairment for fear of losing opportunities and that two-thirds had compromised their health to perform in inaccessible conditions.
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.