Jon Collins, CEO of Live music industry umbrella organisation LIVE, provides his view on how the risk-based live music industry can benefit from three simple steps by Government.

The cellist, Yo-Yo Ma once said, “Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks”.

One year into my role at LIVE and passion and risk are two of the big themes that have emerged (beyond confirmation as to the truly world-class nature of our live music sector).  The interplay between passion and risk drives us forward.

Prior to LIVE I worked for many years across the hospitality sector, so I know plenty of people passionate about delivering great experiences. In my view, people in live music take that passion up several notches… pursuing careers and building businesses founded upon passion-driven risk taking.

That openness to risk is apparent in our musicians embracing an often precarious career requiring them to put their work out into the world to be judged. It is apparent in our venues and festivals – from the grassroots striving to break new acts on a 0.2% profit margin to the arenas committing hundreds of millions over multiple years before they have even opened their doors, and the festivals laying it all on the line each year.  Perhaps it is most apparent in our promoters, who cut deals that are a cocktail of risk involving artist, venue, customer and more.

How do we, as LIVE, clearly convey this risk profile to policymakers? Politicians, officials and other regulators have the ability to change our trading environment, heightening or mitigating risk and, in the process, stifling or accelerating our potential to grow. Their concept of risk tends towards the regulatory – risk to life, risk of injury, risk of a disturbed night etc. Translating ‘risk’ and explaining how it is viewed by our sector is an important step in having politicians understand our work.

Passion increases our tolerance of risk. Risk, in turn, drives economic growth. So when Government asks, as they are now doing, how they can help us to grow, the answer lies in creating an environment in which we can all take more risks.

To do more, we need:

  • a talent pipeline to fill the wealth of roles across live music
  • touring support to give emerging artists greater access to the EU
  • a tax regime that incentivises investment in more performances

UK VAT on tickets is anti-competitive, four times the typical rate across Europe and puts an artificial ceiling on the number of viable shows. Put simply, there are gigs that would go ahead at 5% that are not at the current 20%. The impact of those decisions is felt in every town and city of the country each night a venue lies quiet. The grassroots venues not giving an opportunity to an unsigned band through to the concert halls and arenas not bringing thousands of people into the area. Fix that, and as National Arena Association research shows, you put £1million per 10,000 attendees into local economies from Inverness to Newquay.

A truly world-class industry, primed for growth (as long as we support the grassroots) and the best advertisement for the UK around the globe. Three relatively simple, relatively cheap steps that the Government can take and we can all be doing more.  Do they understand the risk of inaction?

This feature was published in the Summer edition of Access All Areas, which is available to read for free HERE