Chris Carey, CEO of Media Insight Consulting and co-author of industry report Live Music at a Cliff Edge, says live music can drive economic recovery but the industry urgently needs clarity from the Government to succeed.
In 2019, live music contributed £4.5bn to the UK economy. Some of that was ticket sales, some was spent inside the event and much of it was spent in the local economy around the event. If managed well, music can drive economic recovery. It can coax people off the sofa and back into our restaurants and bars before a show, but to do that everyone from promoters and venues to artists, and crew need clarity about what measures will be imposed to protect us from Covid-19.
Two months on from “Freedom Day” we have seen clear evidence that event professionals can run world class events in a Covid safe way. Initially, Latitude, and Tramlines each released data demonstrating how little Covid transmission took place, even though Covid was present on site. Since then, the festival summer has kicked into gear and again, the combination of vaccination prevalence and the safety measures on site are doing exactly what they are designed to do; keep people safe while having an incredible live experience. It’s taken a lot of work behind the scenes and the success should be celebrated.
Importantly, indoor shows are taking place safely too, from full capacity crowds at The O2 through to grassroots music venues up and down the country – and everything in between – being delivered safely. While the biggest events might grab the headlines, the return of music to everyday life, in a local venue, is an especially powerful step in getting the whole industry moving again.
“The thing that both professionals and music fans desperately need, is certainty.”
We are certainly not out of the woods yet. The 15,000-capacity NASS in Somerset cancelled recently, citing lack of government support on insurance underwriting. This doesn’t just affect fans, who were understandably disappointed, but also all the professionals who were set to make the event happen will go without work. Other events are pushing ahead, but behind the scenes the risks they are taking to do so are enormous, especially as the rules are evolving and changing around them.
When the UK declared itself fully open on 19 July fans flooded back. Yet that same day, a plan to insist on vaccination passports also came to light. A plan which was pursued loudly for months yet has since been cancelled and is now being held in reserve as part of the Government’s “Plan B”. For fans and industry this was another corkscrew bend on the roller coaster. The thing that both professionals and music fans desperately need, is certainty.
Certainty is a lot to ask for in a rapidly changing world, as new variants and new findings come to light. The Government absolutely needs the flexibility to react to the latest scienc, and no one would seek to deprive them that, but in the absence of certainty we need predictability and consistency from the government. If they can provide that, then the live music sector can start to rebuild and bring crowds back to high streets, restaurants and bars as well as venues.