170,000 jobs in UK live music industry to be lost before end of 2020, study finds

"Things are becoming increasingly desperate for a great many people in the industry and Government needs to recognise that these crucial individuals need support"

A new study has found that 170,000 jobs will be lost in the UK live music industry this year due to coronavirus restrictions if government support is withdrawn.

While last week saw over 1,000 venues, theatres, festivals, arts spaces and organisations in England celebrate in being awarded in the latest wave of £1.57billion Cultural Recovery Funding, helping them to weather the storm of coronavirus closures into next Spring, many fear that freelance and self-employed workers and road crew are being “ignored” by the chancellor’s new Job Support Scheme and that the CRF bailout favours bricks and mortar establishments and the people employed by them.

They continue to warn of potential bankruptcy and longterm industry damage if help is not provided– with many calling for a tailor-made support package for the live music industry, or perhaps the introduction of a ‘Seat Out To Help Out’ scheme to offset the costs of paying crew and artists to put on socially-distanced shows.


Now, it has been predicted that 26,000 permanent roles in live music will be lost by Christmas, plus over 140,000 FTE roles – including self-employed and freelance workers, which have “effectively ceased to exist since March”. The research has been done by LIVE, a new organisation representing the live music industry and shows that the industry is about to fall off a ‘cliff edge’.

The live music industry is said to have lost 81 percent of its income since most gigs were made impossible in March when COVID-19 restrictions swept the world. Researchers say that this is four times the national UK average, where reductions across industries run at around 20 per cent. While welcoming the lifeline offered to some live music businesses by the Cultural Recovery Fund, 80 per cent of employees are reliant on the furlough scheme which ends this month.

parliament square protests
Workers from the events industry gather during the #WeMakeEvents – “Stand As One” silent protest at Parliament Square on September 29, 2020 in London, United Kingdom (Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

“We were one of the first sectors to close and we will be one of the last to reopen,” said Phil Bowdery, Chair, Concert Promoters Association. “We are currently caught in a catch-22 where we are unable to operate due to Government restrictions but are excluded from the Extended Job Support Scheme as the furlough comes to an end. If businesses can’t access that support soon then the majority of our specialist, highly trained workforce will be gone.”

Andy Lenthall, general manager of the Production Services Association, agreed: “Those who have often found themselves overlooked and left behind throughout the last six months are the freelancers and self-employed – the people up and do the country that we rely on to bring us the live experiences we love.

“Things are becoming increasingly desperate for a great many people in the industry and Government needs to recognise that these crucial individuals need support.”


The #WeMakeEvents march in Manchester. Credit: Getty

In 2019 live music supported 210,000 full-time equivalent roles, as well as tens of thousands of freelancers, with live music contributed £4.5 billion to the UK economy. Campaigners argue that this will be at stake when normality returns, due to “mass redundancies and a talent drain that will impact any successful industry relaunch”.

Economist Chris Carey of Media Insight Consulting who co-authored the new report added: “From the artists on stage, to the venues, and the many specialist roles and occupations that make live music happen, this research shows clearly that the entire ecosystem is being decimated.”

“The Culture Recovery Fund is a help, especially to grassroots music venues. However, larger companies are going to be hit harder and without ongoing Government investment in protecting this industry, the UK will lose its place as a cultural leader in live entertainment. Moreover, the skills we lose in this time will significantly hinder the sector’s ability to recover and return to driving economic growth and supplying UK jobs.”

This comes as the #WeMakeEvents campaign continues to call for government action, with #SaveOurScenes taking their protest to the streets of London last week.

A DCMS spokesperson responded to the report, telling NME: “We are working flat out to support our world class performing arts sector through these challenging times. Over three quarters of eligible people in the cultural sectors have benefitted from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

“Our unprecedented £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund, which builds on £200million from Arts Council England, is helping to stabilise organisations across the country, protect jobs and ensure work continues to flow to freelancers.”

The live music industry is said to be facing “their biggest crisis since the 1920s“, with many workers unlikely to be able to return when full capacity gigs are predicted to be possible again in April 2021.

Visit here to donate to Stage Hand, who provide financial support to live production workers in times of need, and here for information on supporting #WeMakeEvents.

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