Live music industry responds to the 2021 Budget: “Government-backed insurance is urgently needed to get us back up and running in July”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the UK Budget earlier today (March 3)

Prominent figures in the live music industry have been registering their reaction to the UK government’s spring Budget for 2021.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined his financial plans for the UK earlier today (March 3) as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the measures announced by Sunak today is the extension of the UK’s furlough scheme into September and further financial support for self-employed people during the pandemic. An extra £300million for the Cultural Recovery Fund has also been promised.

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Leading figures in the UK’s live music industry, which is still reeling from a devastating year due to the pandemic-enforced shutdown of gigs, venues and hospitality spaces since last March, have been responding to Sunak’s Budget this afternoon.

While some of Sunak’s measures were “warmly welcomed” by the sector – such as an extension of the 5 per cent rate of VAT on ticket sales for the next six months (which “will provide crucial income to businesses across the live music ecosystem whilst they recover”) – there was widespread disappointment over the government’s failure to implement an insurance scheme.

“This would provide businesses with the security and confidence they need and is vital to saving the summer and autumn for live music,” a statement issued by LIVE, the UK’s official industry body for live music, said. “Festivals and large events take months of preparation and the lack of insurance will lead to further cancellations.”

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, added: “Today’s budget focused on helping live music to survive the long months of closure still ahead of us – and we desperately need that. But we also call on the Chancellor to look again at a Government-backed insurance scheme, which would ensure we can recover, and get people back to work, as quickly as possible once it is safe to lift restrictions.”

Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed called on the government to extend the 5 per cent VAT rate on ticket sales for the next three years “so that the UK festival sector can fully recover”.

lockdown
It’s hoped that live gigs and festivals will be able to return in the summer (Picture: Burak Cingi/Redferns)

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Reed also called for an insurance scheme, saying that independent festival organisers would “much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer”.

“As we have repeatedly stressed, the only way they can do this is with a government-backed insurance scheme that covers COVID-19 related cancellation,” he added. “The Chancellor today confirmed the extension of the government-backed restart scheme for film and TV productions – a similar safety net needs to be put in place before the end of March to avoid mass cancellations throughout the UK’s festival market.”

The Music Managers Forum’s Chief Executive Annabella Coldrick, meanwhile, welcomed the extension of eligibility for support to the self-employed, saying that it is “a really important measure that should have an impact on our community and their clients, many of whom faced real hardship during the pandemic, although unfortunately directors of limited companies are still excluded”.

Coldrick also said it was “disappointing not to hear any developments on government-backed insurance for live music events which is urgently needed to get us back up and running in July”.

“For a full longer-term music recovery, to a place where artists can perform to full capacity crowds and tour internationally, we will need this kind of targeted and continued support reaching into 2022.”

It’s hoped that live music, festivals and events will be able to return this summer, with the UK government effectively setting a ‘restart’ date of June 21 at the very earliest following the publication of their ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown last week.

Last week saw the Music Venue Trust update their ‘red alert’ list of grassroots music venues in the UK which are in danger of closing permanently due to the live music shutdown.

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