Powered by Freelancers – the Live Music Edition 2024

Authors of LIVE’s latest survey reveal key insights from the sector-wide paper, highlighting the challenges facing live events freelancers and how the industry can unite to overcome them.

There were many takeaways from 2020 for the live events community, but one of the striking issues was the wider world’s lack of knowledge of what goes into live events – specifically, just how many people were now out of work due to the sudden closure of venues. One positive in these dark times was the number of communities that began to spring up online to foster a sense of support and a forum to share ideas. Two such communities that are still going strong are The Back Lounge, founded by Tour Manager, Suzi Green, and the UK Live Events Freelancers Forum, created by Ethix Management’s Paul Jones. Four years since their creation, both these forums have now played a key part in the Powered by Freelancers – the Live Music Edition 2024 – a study in collaboration with LIVE and Handle Freelance Solutions to quantify some of the hearsay within the live events industry and translate the most common points of discussion into hardcore facts.

Filled out by 1,281 freelancers and temporary workers, the survey looked to address several major concerns within the industry such as job satisfaction, security and pay rates, with the findings made freely available online throughout February 2024. “It sets a benchmark for our industry,” writes LIVE CEO, Jon Collins, in the introduction to the report. “One we will use to measure progress over the months and years to come.”


Prior to the official publication of the survey, Paul Jones shared key insights at GTL Sessions, highlighting one of the key “resounding positives” of the survey – that “the freelancer community is feeling optimistic about the next 12 months and many feel that the industry is a great place to work”.

Despite the positives, the report also highlighted the concerns of many participants who stated that they simply couldn’t solely work “for the love of the industry”. Reading through some of the statements in the report, many of the concerns seemed to echo those within the gaming industry, where passionate individuals’ mentality of completing a project would be seen as a given without adequate compensation or even realistic time off.

Job security was also a worrying stat, with 38% of participants stating they didn’t feel financially secure for the next six months. Equally concerning was that 56% either disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was easy to secure a new freelance job, at the time of filling out the survey.

Although the survey was anonymous, respondents had the option to submit their race, gender and age. Although on all three markers around 46% preferred “not to say”, of those that did, 39% were men, 13.6% were women, 0.8% identified as non-binary and 0.2% were transgender. “We have a wide and varied workforce that has become more inclusive but there is a need to further embrace diversity and the entice more people from all walks of life into the sector,” stated Jones.


With two of the key creators of the survey being forums that looked to build community and support one another, it was natural that some of the questioning would focus on wellbeing.

“You might wonder why a mental health support group would want to get involved in pay rates and the freelance experience,” stated Suzi Green within the report. “But a number of issues that we hear in the weekly meeting are played out both in the survey’s data and the comments regarding fair terms of employment.”

She went on to state that “pay security underpins everything” and that “it’s hard to focus on self-care when you’re not sure if you can pay your rent long-term”.

Green was also keen to highlight that one interesting finding was that half of the respondents said that a “work-life balance was very important,” despite the inevitably inconvenient working hours for a freelancer working in the live events sector.

Security in pay extended to another focus of the report where participants were asked about the issue of show cancellations. It’s a topic that has garnered a lot of mainstream attention with A-list artists cancelling tours due to several reasons from ticket sales to issues with their mental health, but behind these headlines there is a workforce that are suddenly out of work.

Some of the standout figures were that 52% of participants had work cancelled with less than a week’s notice. Several anonymous applications also provided some rather shocking anecdotes such as several month-long tours being pulled at the last minute while they were on the way to the airport without any warning, and in many cases, without a cancellation fee. The data also highlighted the lack of secure contracts for freelancers with only 5% of those asked saying they “always” get a signed contract and 46% always getting email confirmation. In fact, 49% said they never get a signed contract.

This research “highlights a significant concern where late payments and a lack of formal contracts can often be normalised in the freelance community,” stated Darren Woolnough of Handle Freelance Solution. “From cancellations to the need to increase the ease and availably of job roles, there are no simple fixes, but we hope that this survey also provided additional insight into the many things that can be controlled.”


The last major section of the survey focussed on the complex world of rates. From the outset of the section, the authors of the survey acknowledged that this was a complicated issue with multiple variables, but that it was vital to have a more defined sense of what rates are being charged for various jobs.

In the opening to the rates section, the authors spoke of the overall trends discussed in the market with the anecdotal conversions of rates increasing during the summer of 2022 due to the shortage of crew before plateauing in 2023 and 2024. “This could be down to a break in touring cycles, an increase in cancelled festivals or a steep rise in touring costs,” the authors suggested. “The reason to shine a light on the current rates is so that we can benchmark where we are as whole and enable us to track future fluctuation,” they stated.

It also seems like a very valuable piece of research as the industry has been calling out for a need for younger generations to join the sector, and giving those looking for a career a realistic aspiration seems necessary. As well as giving a breakdown by position and sector in the market, the rates section also invited participants to discuss some of the terms of their employment. Interestingly, 24% said even when asked to get paid overtime that they never get paid for this work, while 30% never renegotiate if the job is bigger then expected.


With such a great deal of information, the authors summarised three key areas that the community should be focussing on: contracts and cancellations; recruitment and securing job roles; and age and gender. “As a collective, we will be taking all the learnings from the report and funnelling them into the objectives of the LIVE Workforce,” the report concluded.

The LIVE Workforce is a group of expert industry practitioners alongside ED&I and workforce specialists that looks to positively impact the current and future workforce of the industry. “Across this report, and with a focus on the three key areas identified, we will work as a collective to deliver positive resolutions to all.”

“The report has certainly sparked a few ideas for the future,” stated Green, evaluating the lasting impact of the survey. “One is a possible charter for best practice and to create amendable terms and conditions that anyone can download and amend then share via email post verbal agreement of work.”

Reading through the paper, it was interesting to quantify so many parts of the live events industry that up until this point could only be garnered from hearsay. It makes sense that for the industry to move forward, certain assumptions are agreed upon. There is little doubt that as well as giving the authors something to work from, this report will also make some waves in the sector. Powered by Freelancers – the Live Music Edition 2024 is available to read at: www.livemusic.biz

Words: Stew Hume