Jon Collins previews LIVE’s Freelancer Survey

LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) CEO, Jon Collins shares his thoughts following the release of the Freelancer Survey.

LIVE CEO, Jon Collins.

What was the idea behind the launch of the Freelancer Survey?

“One of LIVE’s key objectives is to develop better data on all aspects of the UK live music industry – from total value to ticket buying, employment and touring. Each of our specialist groups identifies issues and data needs on a rolling basis and we then seek to fill that need. Freelancers are integral to how live music operates but there is precious little information out there about their experience and sentiment. This survey explores pay transparency and the personal experiences of freelancers at live music events. It aims to help freelancers understand their true value and benchmark their own experience whilst also celebrating what makes live music a great industry for freelancers. It is intended to set a benchmark to better understand where we are today so that, via our LIVE Workforce group, we can look to improve the picture on matters such as recruitment and retention.”

Was this a collaborative effort?

“This work would not have been possible without the expert input of our key partners: Suzi Green at The Back Lounge, Paul Jones at UK Live Event Freelancers Forum, and Richard Turrell at Handle Freelance Solutions. All have helped to shape the initial questionnaire, encourage completions, and analyse the output. We must thank Richard and Handle for the time and resource they have offered to underpin this work. In addition, LIVE Head of Partnerships, Gaby Cartwright, has been an important conduit between this work, as well as the wider LIVE Workforce group and the LIVE Board.”

What has the response been like?

“We have been pleased to see people from right across our industry recognise the importance of gaining a better understanding of the thoughts, views, and experiences of freelancers. We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic broke many of the traditional rhythms of the sector: the supply and demand of events, audiences to attend them and teams to work them. Insight into the needs and motivations of the various generations will help us to tailor better programmes to recruit and retain. We are delighted that just under 1,300 people completed this survey. It will provide a base from which to build in years to come.”

Do you have any initial takeaways from the survey’s findings?

“One thing is clear… people love working in live music. That shines through at every event you attend, and it comes through in the survey. Of course, we also need to know the areas in which improvement is required so we are currently poring over the data around how people secure jobs, their terms, and conditions and, a thorny old issue, what happens on cancellation. Given the wider pressures in live music at present, most obvious in the current spate of festival cancellations, that is an issue that is going to be particularly prevalent this summer season.”

How do you hope the data drawn from this survey will be used moving forward?

“Data like this has an internal and an external purpose, helping us support our lobbying efforts and develop support documents and guidance to make our sector an even more exciting and rewarding place to find and build a career. With a potential Labour government in the future (should they win the election) there is a likely new deal for working people which will include measures, and in the party’s own words, ‘To make sure that a freelance career in the arts remains a viable prospect.’ The more we can show progress, the less likely we are to see inappropriate UK government intervention and the more likely government is to offer support on our wider asks for live music. For example, a VAT reduction and EU touring reform. It is all connected.”