‘The Industry Is Really Hurting’: UK Live Music Group Estimates COVID-19 Damage At $1.1B
Lorne Thomson/Redferns – Wireless Festival London
One of the latest events that had to cancel due to the government-imposed ban on public life
The UK’s Live Music Group has warned that the UK live business will lose thousands of jobs and suffer £900 million ($1.1 billion) in losses from the government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.
The live sector was expected to contribute £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) to the UK economy in 2020.
More than 550 grassroots music venues (82% of the total) are at immediate risk of closure, a development the UK’s Music Venue Trust is trying to prevent with a crisis fund and a campaign dubbed #saveourvenues, which has raised $1.5 million in its first week.
The UK Live Music Group estimates that a period of up to three or four years will be required for the live music sector to recover to 2019 levels.
2000trees – Scene from 2000trees Festival 2019
Independent events are particularly struggling.
A survey conducted by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) found that 92% of its members are facing collapse.
Three quarters of the industry’s workforce is furloughed, and will need support until live music returns.
If government support was cut before the music sector had a chance to recover, it could have “a catastrophic impact on the sector and the music business as a whole,” according to the group’s findings.
Tax breaks on ticket sales as well as clear guidance on about when venues can reopen, are among the group’s key demands.
The most recent figures on the UK live market are from 2018, when more than 30 million fans attended concerts and festivals in the UK, and the entire music sector employed 30,529 people, including many freelancers who currently fall through the gaps in the government’s safety net provisions.
Pollstar spoke with independent promoter Oliver Ward, who runs his own promotion business called Till The Wheels in London, and has been refunding all ticket buyers for cancelled shows. “I had one person just put £20 in my promotional PayPal account, and just said, ‘just save it for the future’, which is great,” he said.
Ward has started printing T-shirts with his promotional label printed on the pocked, which are being well received. Ward said he was “just kind of finding another avenue to explore while this is all happening. I’ve been getting a good response from that. My promotion business is just me. It’s more a case of just staying visible for me, and staying in contact with people. Also, I’m finding opportunity in the situation as well. This is a way for me to connect with people further afield, internationally.”
As far as government support is concerned, Ward hasn’t received any. “Never have. Doubt I ever will. The stuff I do is just me and my friends. I wouldn’t expect the government to care about anything that we do, anymore than we care about what they do,” he said.
Concrete governmental measures demanded by the UK Live Music Group include a continuation of all existing employment schemes and business support packages until live music industry recovers, VAT breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months so that festivals, concerts and live events can see a result of this support, additional financial support to ensure that landlords provide rent-free periods to grassroots music venues tenants, extension of business rate relief to the entire live music supply chain, include service companies, sound and lighting suppliers, clear guidance about when professionally run, licensed events can resume, in order to allow operators to properly plan a recovery, clarity around social distancing which takes into account the range of different venue sizes, some of whom may not be able to reopen until measures are further relaxed.
The UK Live Music Group is represented by the following UK organisations: Agents’ Association (AA), Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), International Live Music Conference (ILMC), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA), and the Music Venue Trust (MVT).
It is chaired by Greg Parmley, Managing Director of the International Live Music Conference, who said: “The live music industry has collapsed as a result of coronavirus and it will be one of the last sectors to emerge from this crisis. Removing existing support – such as the furlough scheme and help for self-employed – before live music resumes will trigger thousands of redundancies, and without additional support, the sector may never recover.
“Live music powers a huge eco-system of managers, artists, agents, technicians and suppliers, who have no income when there is no live music. The effects of this crisis are faced by the entire music industry – labels, publishers, composers and more don’t function without live performance.”
UK Music chair Tom Watson added: “The music industry is really hurting. Parts of the sector are effectively on life support and will need a sustained package of help from the Government to survive. The music industry has joined forces and is doing its best to look after its people through a fantastic network of hardship funds. As the world slowly emerges from the international lockdown, the UK cannot afford to leave behind its economy-boosting music industry. We’ll need more support from Government to survive and remain a long term contributor to the economy.
“If we are to nurture the next generation of British stars like Adele, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, we need the Government to listen and act to ensure our music industry remains the envy of the world.”
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association and artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall, commented: “The Government must not abandon the music industry which is such a vital part of our economy, culture and social fabric. The support for our world-leading industry must continue until we have a chance to get back on our feet.”