‘Christmas Of Misery’: UK Business Sees 40% Downturn In Ticket Sales Over Omicron

An empty bar in London
James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images
– An empty bar in London
A rapid rise in Covid-19 cases has led to a surge in booking cancellations across the live events and hospitality industries in the UK.

UK industry body LIVE conducted a “snap industry survey,” which shows up to 50% audience no shows, resulting in a “huge rise in lost income,” for a sector that’s already grappling with “soaring costs, artist and staff absences and no sign of government support,” according to a LIVE statement.

100% of participants in the survey, which includes 40 music venues and “the main ticketing agencies,” have seen a drop in ticket sales, with 95% stating that the latest coronavirus variant has impacted their business negatively – including fewer people coming to shows, dramatic reductions in ticket sales and significant increases in requests for refunds.
The survey results indicate that “money is being lost as a result of staggering numbers of event cancellations, with 70% of organizers forced to cancel some shows due to take place last week. Jessie Ware, Steps, Paul Weller, Coldplay and Lil Nas X are among the artists forced to cancel due to the virus.”
According to LIVE’s findings, cancellations extend into 2022, “with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February – some as many as 10 each – and more expected to follow.” As LIVE data shows that venues across the UK will stage an average of 16 live music shows each month, this represents a significant number.
Survey respondents said expected 2022 ticket sales have dropped by over a third (37%) in the last few weeks when compared to before Omicron, during what is usually one of the busiest times of year for ticket sales. 
Visitors display their COVID vaccination passes as they arrive at Heaven nightclub ahead of a performance by the House Gospel Choir, Dec. 15, 2021 in London, UK.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
– Visitors display their COVID vaccination passes as they arrive at Heaven nightclub ahead of a performance by the House Gospel Choir, Dec. 15, 2021 in London, UK.
People attending nightclubs and large-scale events in England currently need to present a “Covid Pass” indicating their Covid-19 vaccination status or negative test result.

The UK’s most recent response to coronavirus is the so-called Plan B, which introduced the requirement for ticket holders to produce a negative test or proof of vaccination when entering certain venues. LIVE accused the government of effectively introducing a “lockdown by stealth” – a situation in which the people’s confidence in going out has been diminished so much that they decide to close shop and stay at home.

The resultant 50% of no shows some of the venue operators participating in the survey are experiencing makes the staging of economically viable events impossible. “With an 80-90% turnout required in order to make live events financially viable, the majority of events still taking place are doing so at a huge loss to organizers,” LIVE states.
CEO Greg Parmley commented, “These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it’s absolutely vital that the Government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and creating a Christmas of Misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work.
“We also face a double-whammy as next year’s sales take a nosedive, meaning organizers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss.”
According to LIVE data, the UK live music industry supports 210,000 full-time equivalent roles, as well as over 90,000 freelancers. 
“The impact of cancellations, no shows and the knock on effect on venues to pay staff, while affecting hundreds of thousands of livelihoods, will have a ripple affect across the industry in the long term – closed grassroots venues will no longer be able to host early talent and communities will miss out on local events,” it states.
The UK live sector is therefore repeating its calls for government to “provide immediate financial assistance to prevent the permanent closures of the UK’s world-beating performance spaces, and the ‘Christmas of Misery’ currently facing its artists, crews and employees.”
On behalf of more than 3,100 businesses, 4,000 artists and 2,000 backstage workers in the sector, LIVE is asking the following:
– Scrap the planned increase in VAT, and institute and emergency reduction back to 5% during the worst of the Omicron wave;
– Offer short term financial support for the sector as it battles with the immediate impacts of cancellations;
– Cancel business rates well into 2022, and defer any loan repayments; 
– Fix the Government reinsurance scheme so that it covers the risks organizers face – in particular cancellation due to an artist getting Covid or the reintroduction of social distancing.