Live sector responds to PM's roadmap for return of gigs on June 21

Live sector responds to PM's roadmap for return of gigs on June 21

The live sector has responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement in the House Of Commons on a roadmap out of Covid restrictions

After almost a year of total closure for the live music industry, trade bodies welcomed the clarity on when concerts and festival will be able to return.

However, there is still uncertainty about the government’s plans for further financial support that is required while the industry remains closed. 

The roadmap puts a “not before date” of May 17 for live events and states that there will still be requirements for limited capacity and social distancing. With that likely to be unviable for most promoters and venues, it will not be until at least June 21 before the sector might be able to return to any form of normality.

In a statement, new umbrella trade body LIVE said: “The Chancellor now has a choice to make, as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible until at least June 21, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.” 

Mark David, CEO, Music Venue Trust, said: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we ‘Revive Live’ in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene. We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way.

"We warmly welcome the government's acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”

Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Budget on March 3, Davyd also called for sector-specific help in in the run-up to the return of live.

“Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people's lives, careers and families right across the live music industry,” he said. “In light of today's announcements, the Budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support."

In light of today's announcements, the Budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support

Mark Davyd

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, said: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The Chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the Budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”

David Martin, CEO Featured Artists Coalition, said: “While the Prime Minister's statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter intuitive for the industry's long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.

“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year's slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today's statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK's economic recovery.”

The live sector has urged the government to allow venues to introduce rapid lateral flow tests and vaccine passports to help a return for gigs. Last week Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government favoured testing over passports.

Festivals are also seeking assurances on insurance schemes.

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “The prospect of there being no legal impediments to live music events means issues like insurance are now even more pressing. They now present one of the final barriers to getting events going this summer.

“The industry has worked tirelessly with the government to explore testing, better ventilation and many other innovative solutions to help lift the pause button, which has crippled our industry for the past year.

“We will now continue to work with the Government on pilot schemes to ensure a safe, consistent and successful approach to getting live music back in our communities as soon as possible.”

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: "We welcome the Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the House Of Commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and Covid certification. 

“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme, and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision on a cut-off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.” 

Reed added: "We also appreciate that this is a best case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical."

Geoff Taylor, CEO, BPI, BRITs and Mercury Prize, said: "We welcome the recognition of live music and the eventual reopening of venues and nightclubs in today’s roadmap. It’s vital that the UK’s world leading music events are prioritised in the pilots so they can restart as soon as possible, and that until they are able to restart appropriate support is available."

David Keighley, PSA (Production Services Association) chair, said: “Whilst we fully understand the risk averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.” 

Michael Kill, CEO NTIA, said: “We are pleased to hear within the Prime Minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night-time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos.

“Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night-time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the Chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”

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