‘COVID-19 and Brexit lead to Q1 cancellations’ – LIVE

LIVE CEO, Greg Parmley highlights the ‘perfect storm of COVID-19 and Brexit’ resulting in over 25% of live music shows being cancelled at the start of 2022.

Over a quarter of shows have been cancelled in the first three months of 2022, leading to a loss of income for the live music industry and the live events supply chain, a snap industry survey conducted by LIVE (Live Music Industry Venues & Entertainment) has shown.

The industry has repeated calls for a package of measures from the UK government following a ‘devastating’ two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Support measures would include keeping the reduced rate of VAT on tickets, amending the UK government’s insurance scheme and resolving roadblocks for transportation to enable tours to go ahead.

“We’re in fairly constant dialogue with the DCMS about support measures, this is one step in quite a long road, to leverage support for the sector,” LIVE CEO, Greg Parmley informed TPi, following the release of the survey results. “The debt burden that a lot of companies are carrying after the past two years is massive. A discounted VAT rate on tickets is crucial to allow companies to recover in the medium and long term. Most venues and live events companies are far worse than they were pre-pandemic. For them to properly recover, it is going to take several years of clawing back lost business from the debt accrued amid the lockdown.”

The risks the Omicron variant placed on the sector in 2021 resulted in event organisers having to make tough calls to cancel or delay shows. According to LIVE, ‘the unpredictability of COVID-19 has shown that overnight businesses of all sizes can be devastated by rapid changes in the public health situation.’

“The tax argument we’ve been making is a way of putting more money into businesses while allowing live events to go ahead. In addition, the live events insurance scheme is simply not fit for purpose, it only covers cancellation in the wake of a lockdown, which is the very last step along a very long chain of restrictions and measures,” Parmley said, highlighting that the scheme doesn’t cover the reintroduction of social distancing measures, which effectively forces small shows and venues to cancel, or cancellation due to production crew contracting COVID-19. “In those instances, live events organisers are not able to insure their events, so the scheme which was created to drive confidence in the market is not working, we need that to be reappraised, urgently.”

LIVE CEO, Greg Parmley.

A lack of public confidence, potential new restrictions and the possibility of further variants were all cited as the main causes of show delays and cancellations. Additionally, despite the UK beginning to reopen, much of Europe remains closed.

“The more support measures we have, the quicker the industry can recover,” Parmley commented. “There’s huge issues with the supply chain, and Brexit will hit us like a sledgehammer when European touring continues. We’re not out of the woods yet.” These issues are compounded by the devastating impact that Brexit is beginning to have on the industry. The introduction of visas and regulations on the trucks and vehicles that make touring possible led to 90% of survey respondents stating Brexit will negatively impact the live music industry once all markets are fully open.

“If the situation doesn’t change a lot of upcoming artists won’t get to experience touring Europe or navigate the additional administration costs required with cabotage,” he added. “Not only that but an entire generation of artists and crew will likely miss crucial development opportunities.”

The live music industry supports 210,000 full-time equivalent roles, and over 90,000 freelancers. According to Parmley, the impact of delays and cancellations will have a ‘ripple effect’ across. “Unified messaging has been super important,” he stated. “Emerging from lockdown, there’s been a  focus for LIVE and other associations to campaign for sector-specific support. Being united in our messaging to the government, we’ve been able to be clear about what the industry needs – one voice.”

This article originally appeared in issue #268 of TPi, which you can read here.