The live entertainment industry in the UK is facing a tremendous financial crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The live events sector employs almost a million highly skilled professionals in the UK, ranging from production, audio, lighting, and video, to logistics, transportation, planning, and technology manufacturers.
PLASA (Professional Lighting & Sound Association) – a technology and sound supplier in the UK – initiated the #WeMakeEvents Red Alert campaign, calling out for government action to support hundreds of musicians, venues – big and small, and other background workers who have either lost or are at the impending risk of losing their jobs.
A Red Alert campaign was hosted across the UK on August 11th, with the aim to pressurize the government and steer their attention to the plight of hundreds of live events industry workers. The country was illuminated in red lights – symbolizing the industry going into “red alert”. Iconic venues such as the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall were among those that were lit red in solidarity with the workers. Thousands of crew members (including producers, tour managers, engineers, truck drivers, cleaners, and security staff) took to the streets in the UK’s major cities of Manchester, London, Liverpool, etc. In Manchester, demonstrators pushed a set of flight cases through the streets intending to spark more support from the government.
#WeMakeEvents was held to urge the government to extend more financial sustenance until the industry is resumed. PLASA wrote on their website:
- Grants – not loans – made available to businesses in the events supply chain
- Furlough scheme extended until the industry is back to work (and not until the end of October as announced by the government)
- Extension of the self-employment scheme, tailored towards the industry
As per PLASA’s infographics, 600,000 workers are employed in the live events industry, of which around 70% are freelancers. The entire sector has been forced to stay off work for the past four months. While other businesses have slowly reopened, the nature of the live entertainment business clashes with the norms of government-mandated social distancing policies, therein pushing back the resumption until at least Spring 2021. The announcement to reopen gigs in outdoor venues was reversed a day before, further shattering the hopes of the distressed live events sector.
“Live events around the world have been devastated, from major festivals and landmark theaters to grassroots venues and business events. The events supply chain is on the brink of collapse and urgently needs more support to survive the Covid-19 crisis.” PLASA said in a statement.
In April, Music Venue Trust (MVT) launched a campaign – ‘Save Our Venues’ to prevent the closure of over 556 grassroots venues, which have deep-rooted cultural significance in the UK’s music world and have helped launch several famous musicians. Subsequently, ‘#LetTheMusicPlay’ campaign commenced last month, supported by 1200 artists and industry figures including Iron Maiden, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones “to protect the crew and the individuals that make up the UK’s treasured music scenes”. The likes of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, and Little Mix also signed a plea to save the live music scene. ‘#LetTheMusicPlay’ campaign demanded detailed government aid to prevent venue closures and employee redundancies.
An estimated loss of over 60% of jobs in the UK’s live music industry has been projected, which is set to collapse live music, touring, and festival economies. Figures indicate that every arena-sized event employs over 400 individuals doing behind-the-scenes management, who are integral to the foundation of live music events. These workers are doomed to endure major financial instability.
“Sound, light, rigging, catering, drivers, stage managers, production managers, tour managers – they only get paid when they’re on tour, they all got sent home in February and March, they’re unlikely to get back to work until next March at the earliest,” said a #LetTheMusicPlay spokesperson.
The British government announced a relief package of GBP 1.57 billion ($ 1.96 billion USD) for the country’s arts and heritage sector, after months of campaigning by #LetTheMusicPlay. “We’re introducing a world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions weather the impact of coronavirus,” said UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in a tweet.
Of the total amount, the government released GBP 880 million to be split into two rounds, one proposed to be distributed immediately and the second will be reserved for later. Arts Council England received GBP 500 million to support music, theaters, and comedy venues with an additional GBP 2.25 million allocated for the grassroots music venues.
While the move to distribute relief funds to the live events industry was welcomed, many claim that the allocated GBP 1.57 billion is insufficient to serve every company and freelancer. “We know we will be the last to return and not only are we worrying if we will have an industry to return to post lockdown, but we are also struggling to make ends meet in the here and now. That’s why the Government repeatedly pointing to the £1.57bn given to the Arts Council gives no comfort” said a comedian and theater stagehand.
Britain faced a GBP 74 billion loss in revenue within the first few months of the lockdown. As many self-employed residents continue to suffer despite the government relief package, the slow allocation of the relief funds leads to the closure of beloved music venues – Manchester’s Deaf Institute and Gorilla, to name a few.
Feature Image Via PLASA Official Photographer