A long road still to travel for the UK’s iconic live music industry


After almost a year of total closure for the live music industry, today’s long-awaited roadmap from the Prime Minister has provided some clarity on when we will be able to return, yet there is still uncertainty on the financial support that is needed while the industry remains closed. 

The roadmap puts a “not before date” of 17 May for live events and states there will still be requirements for limited capacity and social distancing. It will not be until at least 21 June before we might be able to return to any form of normality. The economics of the live music industry means under these conditions it is simply not viable for the live music industry to reopen for many months. The joy of live music is created through people coming together to share that experience – and the economic model means that operating at greatly reduced capacities is simply not viable. 

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 at least 21 June, 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. 

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 of 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.”

Mark Davyd, 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 road map once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way.”

“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. 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. 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.”

David Keighley, PSA 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.”

Greg Marshall, GM of AFEM said: “Today’s announcement provides some hope for the electronic music events sector, however, while venues and events remain prohibited from re-opening at full capacity, and in order to help the industry bounce back once events are allowed, it is imperative that the government provide the financial support needed for the chain of individuals and businesses involved. Specifically, furlough extension and new support options for freelancers and those who have been unable to access support so far; further support via CRF with eligibility criteria adjusted to help those who have so far been unsuccessful; a three-year extension to the reduced cultural VAT rate of 5% on tickets; a Government-backed reinsurance scheme because the industry remains at a standstill without the ability to insure shows and festivals against cancellation due to COVID-19; Extension of business rate relief for venues while they remain closed or partially closed.”

“It is also essential that the government remains open-minded to approving full capacity clinical trial test events so the industry can establish scientifically proven protocols for running safe events at capacities which are financially viable for the operators.”

Paul Reed, CEO of AIF 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 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.”

“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.”

Lucy Noble, NAA Chair said: “It is fantastic news that the vaccination programme is going so well and that the country is taking tentative steps towards reopening. It is especially welcome to have a target date for reopening at full capacity of 17 June. While we know how much people need to look forward to coming together for live events, for the music sector, the lack of insurance and capacity restrictions until at least 17 June will make it impossible to book acts, sell tickets and remobilise for many more months to come. We have been able to retain the majority of our workforce thanks to the CJRS and it’s essential that furlough is extended for the events industries while we are not able to reopen. The reduction of VAT on tickets sales to 5% was a sensible, budgeted, designed intervention that aimed to provide support to the music industry, but hardly any tickets have been sold this year and it’s imperative that this reduction is extended so that the industry can take advantage of it.”