Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images – People show their NHS Covid Pass to enter the Prince Edward Theatre in Soho, London, UK, Dec. 17, 2021.
All such restrictions will be lifted in most of the UK at the end of January, yet, business remains uncertain.
UK industry body LIVE has conducted a snap survey indicating that 26% of domestic and 44% of international show have been canceled in Q1 as a result of lack of confidence from both the public and business professionals.
The public, generally speaking, is hesitant to buy tickets, as it fears further restrictions – which survey respondents cited as the main reason for the cancelations. But even once markets fully reopen, 90% of the industry believe Brexit will negatively impact the industry.
According to the LIVE survey responses, key reasons for concern regarding domestic touring are lack of confidence from the public (70%), local lockdowns or new restrictions being brought in (60%), further Covid-19 variants disrupting touring (55%), lack of confidence from artists, venues, promoters (35%), impacts of Brexit, such as requirements for visas, work permits, cabotage, ATA carnets etc. (20%).
As far as international touring is concerned, the order of these key reasons changes slightly, with the majority citing local lockdowns or new restrictions as their main concern (80%), followed by further Covid-19 variants disrupting touring (65%), lack of confidence from the public (50%), impacts of Brexit (45%) and lack of confidence from artists, venues, promoters (35%).
Klaus Vedfelt – Crossing the channel and touring Europe will be much harder for UK artists post-Brexit.
The UK government is under heavy pressure from artists and industry professional to address the existing obstacles.
While most of the UK is set to lift most COVID restrictions and reopen for business this month, the survey findings show that a mere reopening date is no longer enough to instill confidence in both audience and industry professionals.
The unpredictability of COVID, most recently highlighted by the appearance of the Omicron variant, which marred most plans for a successful Christmas period, made one thing clear, according to LIVE: “Overnight businesses of all size can be devastated by rapid changes in the public health situation.”
And while the UK may be reopening, much of Europe remains closed. This puts international tours at risk, as it is financially unviable to only tour the UK. These issues are compounded by the impacts of Brexit, which includes the introduction of visas and punitive regulations on the trucks and vehicles that make touring possible.
90% of respondents to the LIVE survey believe Brexit will negatively impact the live music industry once all markets are fully open again.
LIVE CEO Greg Parmley commented, “Whilst it is great news that restrictions on live music venues will come to an end in much of the UK at the end of January, the live music industry is still facing serious challenges. The impact of the past two years has been catastrophic for the venues, artists, freelancers, and technical staff that power our £4.5 billion industry.
“It will take a long time for us to recover from the worst period in history of the industry and the government needs to fully understand the challenges we face. Whilst the UK is reopening many artists need international markets to fully reopen before touring can be financially viable.
“We are also encouraging the public to continue to support live music, whether that is seeing a new band at a small local venue or a big act in an arena, so that we can get through this difficult period together.”
According to LIVE data, the UK live music industry supports 210,000 full-time equivalent roles, as well as over 90,000 freelancers. All of them – artists, crew, venues and supporting businesses – are suffering from dramatic losses of income. The impact of delays and cancellations has ripple effects across the entire industry in the long term.
The industry has therefore repeated its calls for a package of measures from the government following a devastating two years as a result of the pandemic. Vital support measures, according to LIVE, would include “keeping the reduced rate of VAT on tickets, urgently fixing the broken government insurance scheme and resolving roadblocks for transportation to enable tours to go ahead.”
Gus Stewart/Redferns – UK artists have been performing locally whenever possible, like Little Simz at the O2 Academy Brixton, London, Dec. 16, 2021.
Touring locally won’t cut it for most artists in the long run, which is why it’s vital for Europe to fully open all markets back up.
LIVE, a federation of 13 live music industry associations, represents 3,150 companies, 4,000 artists and 2,000 backstage workers. The snap survey about the 2022 cancelations was conducted among “booking agents across the industry, including the largest businesses,” according to the trade body.
Jon Ollier, founder and CEO of One Fiinix Live, said touring plans would become a seasonal rather than a regional thing. “For some time now, I have been saying I would expect there to be a wave in the winter months and even if it is just regular flu season causing us problems, we will see some restrictions,” he explained.
“This opinion was not very popular with a lot of people, but I really do see the shift being less geographical and more seasonal – I think we will have interruptions to the economy like this during the winter months, possibly even for a further couple of years, but that we should be able to do good business for the other nine months of the year,” Ollier continued.
He said, “It remains to be seen if this will be limited to Europe and the Americas in the short term; it could be that places like Asia, Australia and New Zealand will take a little longer to arrive at something similar.”