Media Insight Consulting CEO and TicketSwap marketing head, Chris Carey has worked closely with the UK Live Group to present a case to Government for industry support in the wake of Covid-19. He suggests the urgent steps still needed on the path to recovery.
The coronavirus has hit the UK economy extremely hard. We have seen recession return to the UK for the first time in a decade and quarterly unemployment grow by a record jump. Live music is certainly not the only sector that has been hit hard, but it is in a particularly precarious position.
In their quarterly earnings call, Live Nation has reported that global income is down more than 90%. That is a reasonable barometer for what is happening in the rest of the sector. While the furlough scheme has helped sustain some companies, support for freelancers has been harder to access, and there are many people who make live music happen who are falling through the gaps.
If we look at what the government stands to lose, we are talking about a sector that employs over 200,000 people and contributes £4.5 billion to the economy every year. More than that, the legacy of the UK as a music destination boosts tourism directly, and the perception of the UK as a creative hub adds significant value to the UK’s international standing.
In response to the evidence presented by the live music industry as part of the #LetMusicPlay campaign, the government announced £1.57bn in support for the arts in early July. The figure has been welcomed but it is a relatively meagre sum when compared to the €50bn that Germany had already committed to the arts back in March.
It’s easy to be critical, but the money is currently failing to flow to those who need it and key sectors – such as nightclubs – have been overlooked. Looking past these details, the intention is that this money will be used to protect the infrastructure required for the live music industry to function.
Small venues are an immediate concern. The Music Venues Trust has been campaigning #SaveOurVenues since the start of this crisis, and has already saved 150 at risk venues, but 500 more remain in peril. It is vital that these spaces can survive this immediate crisis. If we lose venues they will be impossible to replace. The land will be given over to yet more houses, and the vital narrow pathway of small venues, where artists hone their craft and develop their fanbases, will become more narrow still.
As well as the physical infrastructure, the human capital needs protection too. The recent #WeMakeEvents campaign highlighted the plight of the tens of thousands of production crew who have been out of work since the pandemic started. As much as we need venues to host events, we also need the specialist skills to deliver events of the highest quality.
In each of these cases, monetary support is the most fundamental need. Looking past the financial aspect, there are a few key things that the government must do to help safeguard the future of the UK live music industry.
Looking at the other ways the government can help, insurance is going to be key. The ongoing risk of a corona outbreak means that events could be cancelled in response. This increased risk is something that needs to be insured against, but traditional insurers are not in a position to offer this to the music industry. As such, the government must consider underwriting a fund to insure events in order to make it possible for them to take place.
The other request is clarity. This is not an easy request, but it is a fundamentally necessary one. We need a date to work to when events can come back. Events don’t happen overnight, and the opportunity to prepare, market and execute events relies upon a target date for reopening. Beyond the logistics, it also helps those businesses that are trying to weather this storm to make informed decisions about staffing, cost management and gives them the best to navigate this very challenging moment.