Newly appointed CEO of Live music industry umbrella organisation LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment), Jon Collins outlines the organisation’s priorities under his leadership.

 In July 2016, on an ominous, thunderous day in Chicago, my daughter and I made our way into the city, heading toward Soldier Field – an enormous outdoor stadium on the South Side. As we arrived, the weather worsened: a torrential storm began raining down on the 60,000 fans gathered to see Coldplay on the American leg of their tour. Fortunately, the gig went ahead, and Viva La Vida rang out from thousands of singing fans as the storm raged above us. For my daughter and I, that will always be remembered as a very special moment.

It’s because of events like this, the joy of discovering new bands at a festival like Bearded Theory and the sheer eclecticism of Ian Prowse’s Open Mic night at the Cavern that I will never turn down an opportunity to take in live music.

The British live music scene is particularly special. Live music can be heard in every corner of the country: in large stadiums, at bustling summer festivals, and in grassroots venues on local high streets. The birthplace of the Beatles, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Stormzy, the Rolling Stones; British live music is the proving ground of the world’s biggest and brightest stars.

This unique energy is what drew me to my new position as chief executive of LIVE.

Boasting millions of fans around the world, the sector is worth £4.5 billion and sustains over 200,000 jobs, representing one of our country’s greatest cultural and economic assets.

LIVE is the beating heart of that industry. Formed in 2020 in response to the devastation posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, our ecosystem has been on a bumpy ride – venues forced to close without any Government support, the continuous threat of closure and many false starts along the way led to significant dents in everything we thought we knew about how to operate.

But in the face of that hardship, the sector endured with the resilience of spirit, determination, and vibrancy that speaks to each and every single fan of live music. LIVE has made significant progress – a reduction in VAT injected cash directly to the bottom line of struggling businesses, while wins negotiated on the international stage eased the tangle of restrictions left for touring artists post-Brexit; from visas to a little-known area of EU law called cabotage. Not to mention our #LetTheMusicPlay campaign which led to nearly £200 million in direct emergency funding for the sector from Government. In a little over two years, LIVE has become a force to be reckoned with.

As I begin my new role, there is no shortage of challenges. My commitment to the sector? LIVE will be on the front line to protect and promote our shared interests, hand in hand with those on the ground who understand the issues best. We’ll be in the room shaping policy with Government – from action on VAT to achieving business rates reform – and we’ll be a driving force for improvements and best practice, from sustainability to diversity.

My immediate priority over the next few months is to listen and learn from the wealth of experience held in LIVE’s 14 member organisations, and the 3,150 businesses, 4,000 artists, and 2,000 backstage workers they represent.

While the last few years have been some of the most difficult our industry has ever faced, they have also highlighted the resilience, drive and vibrancy which radiates from every single corner of this fantastic sector.

Live music in the UK has a bright future, and LIVE will be there every step of the way.

This article was published in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here