A federation of key live events industry associations, LIVE has made significant progress tackling major industry-wide issues since its launch last year. Access speaks to the key figures involved in shaping the future of the organisation.
Since its launch at the start of 2020, the Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment (LIVE) umbrella group has united the live music sector, broken down barriers and got its collective voice heard by the Government.
From successfully campaigning for sector support during the pandemic, addressing the fallout of Brexit for touring acts, winning industry-wide backing for significant sustainability commitments to pushing for increased equality and diversity, LIVE has forged ahead with impressive results.
Among the many landmark moments for LIVE since its launch were the #LetTheMusicPlay and #KeepVATat5 campaigns, which not only won widespread support across the live events industry, but among artists and fans throughout the UK and beyond.
Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, Live Nation executive president of international touring Phil Bowdery and ILMC MD Greg Parmley were the key players behind the launch of LIVE, which now consists of four sub-committees and includes senior event professionals from across the industry.
LIVE is now a federation of 13 live music industry associations, including the Association of Independent Festivals, Association of Festival Organisers, Concert Promoters Association, National Arenas Association and Production Services Association. Collectively, they represent 3,150 businesses, more than 4,000 artists and 2,000 backstage workers.
The united approach means that LIVE represents the interests of artists, managers, venues, festivals, promoters, agents, production companies and ticketing operators.
Parmley, LIVE’s CEO (pictured above), says that early on in the pandemic it became clear the live sector did not have a significant voice at a Government level, and that the scale of the situation urgently called for it.
“We had never had to go to Government for anything purely because the commercial sectors were so successful up until the pandemic,” he says.
An early success for the fledgling federation was the launch of #LetTheMusicPlay on 2 July 2020. It called for financial aid and a defined opening timeline for the live industry. It involved a letter being sent to then culture secretary Oliver Dowden with signatories from across the industry, as well as a high-impact social media campaign highlighting the need for support.
“The amount of money that was originally allocated in the CRF was substantially less than what ended up being allocated after the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign.” Greg Parmley
Says Parmley, “It was a really successful campaigns involving multiple artists. We were trending worldwide on Twitter all day. It highlighted the plight of the live sector to the UK Government, and it came shortly before the announcement about the Cultural Recovery Fund.
“The amount of money originally allocated in the CRF was substantially less than what ended up being allocated after that campaign. The CRF was only going to be available to bricks-and-mortar companies, so we spent a lot of time lobbying to get festivals included, we did a lot of work with AIF on that so that promoters, agencies, and production companies would also be included.
“We’ve seen more than £100 million in funding go back into the business, so as an organisation we are proud of the role we played in that.”
He says LIVE also played an integral role in making sure that the Government’s test event series, the Events Research Programme, included live music shows.
“Originally the ERP had no live music events, so working alongside [Festival Republic MD] Melvin Benn and others, we lobbied very hard to make sure that there were live music events included so we could get results relevant to our industry. “Originally the ERP had no live music events, so working alongside [Festival Republic MD] Melvin Benn and others, we lobbied very hard to make sure that there were live music events included so we could get results relevant to our industry. Melvin was instrumental in organising many of the pilots that allowed us to reopen last July.”
To make sure specific interests and issues are being addressed collectively by executives with specialist knowledge, LIVE has launched four sub-committees.
LIVE Touring is chaired by promoter Craig Stanley at Marshall Arts. His role has included coordinating the live sector’s response to leaving the EU. Meanwhile, LIVE Venues is chaired by Lucy Noble, artistic director at the Royal Albert Hall, and sustainability working group LIVE Green is chaired AEG Europe COO John Langford. Manchester International Festival head of music Jane Beese oversees the Equality Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee.
Parmley says a fifth sub-committee is in the pipeline; a wellness and mental health steering group that will focus on making sure there is support available to those impacted.
The individual groups have all made considerable progress. In the case of LIVE Green, the most significant step has been getting all 13 association members of LIVE to ratify the Beyond Zero Declaration to make measurable sustainability improvements, with the aim of reaching net zero emissions by 2030.
Parmley says, “LIVE Green is creating a free-to-access online resource that will pull in all the work already happening across the sector with the aim of providing a single resource for everyone in the industry.”
Lucy Noble, who also chairs the National Arenas Association, recalls a pre-LIVE video call that she was invited to take part in by the DCMS.
She says, “There must have been around 70 people on the call. The theatre, sporting and cinema sectors had strong voices but there was no one purely representing live music. It’s such a huge part of the entertainment industry yet it wasn’t being valued and considered in the way it should have been.”
Noble says the LIVE Venue group includes input from organisations including the British Association of Concert Halls, Music Venue Trust, the Academy Music Group and the National Arenas Association.
“We talk about audience behaviours since Covid struck, and what venue operators are doing in terms of Covid status checks to try to make sure we are all behaving in a similar way, so there are consistent messages to audiences. That has been really useful.”
Helping touring groups to navigate the maze of post-Brexit bureaucracy, and pressing for it to be eradicated, is Craig Stanley. A promoter, agent, and tour producer based in London and Los Angeles, he has more than 40 years of experience touring the world with artists across all scales of production.
Stanley agreed to chair the LIVE Touring group after being called up by Parmley. He says the priority was dealing with the implications of Brexit on all aspects of live event touring and addressing the lack of detail in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
He says, “The agreement runs to more than 1,400 pages, but there is very scant mention of live entertainment. We all felt that the deal, negotiated by Lord Frost, was very rushed.”
“Now the Government calls us for advice, whereas a year and a half ago they didn’t really pay lip service to the live industry.” Craig Stanley
Since the 15-member group was launched, it has engaged with the Government on multiple levels regarding numerous issues, with the departments lobbied including the DCMS, Home Office, the Department for Transport, Treasury, the Cabinet Office and No.10.
“The Government is now aware of the sleeping giant our industry was, and it understands that Brexit has huge implications for us,” says Stanley. “We have been very successful at identifying the problems and clarifying what they mean to our sector, we have helped get rules changed and clarity given, so that we now know what we’re dealing with.
“I sit on what’s also called the Touring Group at the DCMS and now the Government calls us for advice, whereas a year and a half ago they only really paid lip service to the live industry; whether that was the music makers, technicians or suppliers.”
One of the many challenges involves in trying to move people and equipment around Europe is the amount of paperwork that needs to be completed, from ATA Carnets (a travel document needed for instruments and equipment) to CITES permits if instruments contain rare materials or remnants of endangered species such as ivory.
“We were promised a bonfire of Brussels bureaucracy but all that has happened is Brexit has added to the pile. But we have managed to get a lot clearer guidance published, there’s a lot more information on the Government websites, and the Export Office is really now focused on trying to help us,” says Stanley.
The post-Brexit issue Stanley is most concerned about is cabotage. It means that UK tour vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes are allowed just two drops before having to return to the UK.
He says, “It is an existential threat to our industry as a direct result of Brexit. It means there will be no trucks and without trucks there can be no tours. Finding solutions to cabotage is the greatest single thing that the group is engaged with.”
The next big step for Stanely and the group is pushing for the government to create a central information resource for the live industry: “We are a big enough industry, we are bigger than the steel and fishing industries combined, we are a major industry with 210,000 full time or equivalent jobs, we contribute £4.6 billion to UK PLC every year, so they should have a specific help hub, an information source so that solo traders, a young band or Coldplay have one place they can go where they can get up-to-date information and advice on all 26 European countries, because they are changing their rules frequently.”
For Parmley the current focus is lobbying Government to extend the reduced VAT rate period beyond the end of March, and LIVE is also pushing for the introduction of a permanent cultural VAT rate on tickets for concerts and festivals.
“That already exists for the classical music sector but the UK has one of the highest VAT rates for contemporary music concert tickets anywhere in Europe,”
Another project is the creation of “all-encompassing” annual economic report that clearly illustrates the value of the entire live music industry in the UK.
He says, “A lot of the economic impact work we have run in the last two years has been really useful in making our case, and so a real focus for this year is setting up an annual report that is driven by the live sector and really illustrates the broader economic impacts of the industry.”
Association of Independent Festivals (AIF)
Association for Electronic Music (AFEM)
Association of Festival Organisers (AFO)
Association of Independent Promoters (AIP)
British Association of Concert Halls (BACH)
Concert Promoters Association (CPA)
Featured Artists Coalition (FAC)
The Entertainment Agents’ Association (TEAA)
Music Venue Trust (MVT)
Music Managers Forum (MMF)
National Arenas Association (NAA)
Production Services Association (PSA)
Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers (STAR)