UK Live Industry Report: ‘The Entire Ecosystem Is Being Decimated’

General view of the closed box office of the SSE Arena at Wembley Park on May 07, 2020 in London, England.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
– General view of the closed box office of the SSE Arena at Wembley Park on May 07, 2020 in London, England.
The venue is still temporarily closed.

A report commissioned by the UK’s live industry association LIVE shows the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government restrictions have had on people’s professional and private lives in numbers.
The full report can be downloaded here.
The research was carried out by Chris Carey and Tim Chambers for Media Insight Consulting on behalf of LIVE. They included sector-specific data on artists, managers, promoters, booking agents, venues, festivals, ticketing companies and technical suppliers, as well as case studies from some of those affected, and comment from industry leaders.
They find that 170,000 jobs live music, including 26,000 permanent jobs and 144,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) roles will be lost before the end of 2020, of government support isn’t upheld and expanded.
Empty streets in one of London
Peter Summers/Getty Images
– Empty streets in one of London
Police officers are checking that pubs, cafes, restaurants and clubs are shut from 10 p.m. every night.

A year-on-year revenue drop of 81% since March means, that the countless self-employed and freelancers, who form the live trade’s backbone, “will have effectively ceased to exist by the end of 2020,” according to the report.

Seeing that hardly any other industry has been hit with what effectively amounts to an full-on employment ban, the 81% revenue drop is four times the national UK average, where reductions across industries run at around 20%.
Revenues in this industry, which supported 210,000 FTE roles, as well as tens of thousands of freelancers in 2019, and contributed £4.5 billion ($5.8 billion) to the UK economy, have been practically zero since March. 
Government restrictions in the country are ongoing, the country’s recently introduced tiered system, which allows politicians to place certain regions under even tighter controls on short notice, put further limitations on the sector reopening.
According to the report, 76% of live music employees were utilising the government’s furlough scheme, as of Aug 31st, 2020.
“50% of permanent roles will be lost by the end of the year (26,100 jobs), while temporary and freelance roles have already been decimated,” a summary of the findings provided to Pollstar reads.
The reports breaks down revenue drops by value chain, revealing that the technical supply chain for staging, lights, PA etc. is hit the worst, with a 95% year-on-year drop.
As the report’s authors point out, “These companies would usually be supplying world leading tours around the world but instead they are seeing close to zero utilisation. Without these service suppliers, the rest of the industry will struggle to rebound quickly when things start to return.”
Park benches remain taped off in Victoria Park in East London.
Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images
– Park benches remain taped off in Victoria Park in East London.
The park usually hosts several AEG Festivals each year.

Festivals have been decimated by the regulatory ban on public gatherings and large-scale events. Across the sector festivals revenues are reported to have fallen by 90% year-on-year.

While some creative operators are able to generate a modicum of income from non-core activities, including distanced camping events and digital festivals, they remain an exception generating “a fraction of their typical revenue.”
Artists and artist managers have lost 64% of revenues, as estimated in conjunction with the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF), a member of LIVE, which commissioned the study.
Booking agents are facing a revenue loss of 82%, with 53% of staff on furlough. CAA’s Emma Banks is quoted in the report, saying, “We are desperate to maintain a position where we can react quickly when shows start again so we can return to work and earn a livelihood. This cannot happen without targeted assistance to see us through, and to deny this leading industry a chance to survive is unacceptable.”
For promoters, revenues are down 78%, with 67% on furlough. Phil Bowdery, chair of the country’s Concert Promoters Association, said, “We were one of the first sectors to close and we will be one of the last to reopen. We are currently caught in a catch-22 where we are unable to operate due to Government restrictions but are excluded from the Extended Job Support Scheme as the furlough comes to an end.
“If businesses can’t access that support soon then the majority of our specialist, highly trained workforce will be gone.”
Laura Marling performs her new album
Lorne Thomson/Redferns
– Laura Marling performs her new album “Song For Our Daughter” in an empty Union Chapel, June 6, in London, England.
There was once a time in the UK, when the government had announced to allow audiences back inside of venues from Aug. 1. Fast forward two months, and the country’s facing its toughest restrictions yet.

Grassroots music venues reported lost revenues of 75%, with 71% of staff furloughed. The numbers are similar for arenas and stadia, where revenues dropped 74% year-on-year and 79% of staff have been furloughed on average, although the number is higher for the biggest venues.

“Arenas are on their knees financially and sadly operators have had no other choice than to make redundancies because of the uncertainty ahead of us,” said Lucy Noble, Chair of the National Arenas Association.
“Thousands of jobs will be lost and after October we will have no real financial support. Added to that – without a date for when we can open again fully, we are unable to plan, so have to prepare for the worse.
Times are desperate.”
While ticket companies have been busy in the initial months after the imposed lockdown, handling the process of cancellation and/or postponement of events, with no effective return date for concerts and festivals, communicating with clients and customers and refunds, they, too, have fewer and fewer new events to sell with overall revenues down 87% year-on-year.
According to the report, ticketing companies “are planning massive redundancies (rising 10-fold from 4% to 44%) once the government furlough support scheme comes to an end.”
The only positive note, in what otherwise constitutes “a sobering reading,” is the UK’s Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). Of the £1.57 billion ($2 billion) made available by government, £88 million so far went to music, including £65 million ($84 million) to LIVE members.
Early analysis the CRF grants shows that is has saved an average of 25% of the jobs at successful applicants. Early estimates suggest that 10,000 FTE roles will be saved as a direct result of the fund, a finding that’s already reflected in the above mentioned headline figures.
1,974 organizations have so far received a portion of the fund, and for them it represents a real lifeline. And while the CRF will support many more businesses in the sector, the report points towards “significant gaps in coverage.”
Many small organizations in particular don’t meet the £50,000 minimum funding criteria, “thousands of freelancers and suppliers in the supply chain were ineligible to apply, and some sectors such as electronic music and clubs were largely unsuccessful.”
However, conversations between Arts Council England, the country’s department for culture, media and sports (DCMS) and the live sector regarding further funding rounds continue.
People queuing for a distanced pilot event at London
Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
– People queuing for a distanced pilot event at London
Beverley Knight performed at the iconic venue, July 23, in an event intended to prove that events could take place in a safe manner during the Covid crisis.

Thousands of skilled workers across this industry lost a whole summer of work, and are facing deep uncertainty regarding 2021.

The country’s prime minister Boris Johnsons recently stated, that severe restrictions could be in place for a further six months, which will mean a full year with next to no live music or revenues. 
“Yet,” the report finds, “in the Government’s latest financial support measures, those businesses most impacted by those Government restrictions, that cannot continue to profitably operate, stand to be supported the least.” 
Economist Chris Carey of Media Insight Consulting who co-authored the report commented: “From the artists on stage, to the venues, and the many specialist roles and occupations that make live music happen, this research shows clearly that the entire ecosystem is being decimated.
“The Culture Recovery Fund is a help, especially to grassroots music venues. However, larger companies are going to be hit harder and without ongoing Government investment in protecting this industry, the UK will lose its place as a cultural leader in live entertainment.
“Moreover, the skills we lose in this time will significantly hinder the sector’s ability to recover and return to driving economic growth and supplying UK jobs.” 
The full report can be downloaded here.