In the second of a series of interviews with leading live events industry professionals, Access asks UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin what the year ahead is likely to hold for the live music business.

This interview, along with the views of more than a dozen other senior events professionals, is published in the February edition of AAA. Don’t miss it – subscribe here for free.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenges for the industry in 2022, and what measures would you like to see taken to tackle them?

There’s a number of issues facing the industry in 2022. Covid hasn’t gone away, and although it looks like we are moving to an approach of learning to live with this virus as a country, it will still be a big task for the sector to recover and rebuild after the devastation of the past two years. The impact of Brexit continues to be felt, and we’re going to keep lobbying government for action. Music education feels particularly important right now, and also under threat – we need to do everything we can to protect and strengthen the talent pipeline that our industry depends on. We need to keep moving the dial on diversity and do more to make our industry fair and inclusive for all. Tackling harassment, bullying and discrimination continues to be a key priority, and something we are committed to addressing as an industry. There’s the ongoing debate around streaming, of course. And then there’s the importance of sustainability, and the need for us to look at what more we as an industry can and should be doing to reduce our carbon footprint. So we’ve got lots of work ahead in 2022!

After nearly two years of the pandemic, from an industry perspective do you believe anything positive has come out of it and are we better placed to collectively face challenges as a result?

 It’s obviously difficult to take many positives from the past two years, which have been devastating for our industry. But if there’s something to come out of it, it’s the fact that politicians and policy makers have seen just how important music is to the public – as we showed in our This Is Music 2021 report, live music was one of the things people missed most during the lockdowns, while listening to recorded music has been one of the things keeping us sane throughout this pandemic. The public has a really profound emotional connection to our industry, and as we look to move beyond the pandemic it’s important that we leverage that with government. Music is a priority for the public, so it should be a priority for politicians too.

From sustainable solutions to the use of new and emerging technology – what do you believe are the biggest opportunities for the sector in 2022 and subsequent years?

For all the challenges facing the industry, there are definitely big opportunities too. Sustainable solutions and emerging technologies are two great examples, but I’m also really excited about the growing awareness around the music and health agenda. There’s increasing evidence about the huge benefits that music can have for mental health and wellbeing, and the impact it can have on people with specific conditions like dementia. It’s something we’ve talked about as a sector for a while, and governments and the wider health and care system are finally starting to take notice. This is a big opportunity for us a sector, and I believe that in the years to come, music will be nationally important for the whole country not just because it is an economic driver and is a vehicle of social change, but also because of its incredible power and potential to boost our collective health and wellbeing

Should the scheduled rise in VAT on ticket prices in March be suspended/cancelled and if so why?

It’s really crucial for the live sector that this VAT rise is cancelled. Our industry has been hammered over the past 22 months and still faces huge levels of uncertainty – the last thing we need now is a tax hike. We want to play a positive role in the wider economic recovery, but raising VAT on our sector is not the way to do that – we should be cutting VAT to support what is still a fragile recovery, not increasing it.