REPORT – 170,000 UK live music jobs lost by end of 2020

In a recent research paper by The Concert Promoters Association, following the lockdown in March and the ongoing UK Government restrictions on public assembly, event capacities and operational curfews, many of those working within the live music sector (ranging from artists, booking agents, promoters, venues, festivals and the various support agencies and their staff) have received no income at all. The devastating global impact of COVID-19 on the live music industry has seen major international promoting group CTS Eventim report a Q2 2020 quarterly revenue fall of 97%, while market leader Live Nation reported a similar figure in the same period. These results reflect the immediate impact of COVID-19 on even the biggest players in the sector. The impact of the pandemic is felt at every level of the business: in grassroots venues; local communities that lose their regular fundraising events; the suspension of concerts, tours and residencies; organisers forced to cancel their annual festival; arenas and stadia that shutter or pivot to become NHS facilities.

Overall, UK live music income will fall 81% in 2020, while revenue has been close to zero since March. The UK Government has supported the national economy with a number of initiatives, some of which have also benefited the live music industry. The key support offered was via the furlough scheme which has been incredibly important until now in retaining a majority of the sector’s directly employed FTE, their skillset and their experience within the industry. Results of the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund are still emerging but the first two rounds have awarded £88m to music, including £65m to LIVE members. Additionally, the reduction in VAT on tickets to 5% was also warmly welcomed by the industry, but very few tickets for new events have gone on sale since March, and so the benefit is yet to be felt. Most recently the ending of the furlough scheme and the sector’s exclusion from the Extended Jobs Support (new furlough) is a hammer blow when considered with the new Tier system of lockdowns and further restrictions on the industry restarting. In effect the Government is now withdrawing support for those companies and jobs it does not consider viable in the short term, while also limiting the ability of the live music industry to relaunch.  

In 2019, the live music industry accounted for 210,000 FTE6. However, the operational structure of the industry requires higher staffing (whether self employed, freelance or zero-hours) on event days, but lower levels of employees retained on an annual basis. The total number of full time employees is relatively small in proportion to all of those whose employment is centred around the live music industry. This serves to make the easy identification of direct job losses in the industry harder to define. And in particular as beyond these directly employed roles sits a supply chain of interdependent businesses also affected; from food, drink, and camping equipment sold at festivals, to the hotels and travel sectors servicing music tourists year round. Our research reveals that there are 52,000 full-time post holders at risk in the UK. Of those, 50% (26,100) are expected to have been made redundant by Christmas without additional Government intervention. Further, these are people with specialist skills who will struggle to find meaningful work at a similar level, or at comparable terms.

The impact on the other 158,000 roles has already been catastrophic due to the sector being effectively closed since March, and with little activity expected before Q2 2021. There is simply no work for the vast majority of these individuals. Some may have had other employment which they have been able to scale up, others will simply leave the sector entirely. The crew employed in many crucial support roles (including riggers, lighting technicians, sound engineers, caterers and transportation) rely on music or live events for their livelihood. They will be most hard hit, and are least likely to be able to find comparable employment in other sectors. The PSA estimates approximately 10,000 event production roles will disappear by the end of the calendar year. The twin tsunamis of mass redundancies and talent drain facing the UK’s live music business will imperil any successful industry relaunch in 2021 or beyond.  

The report’s findings include:
-In 2019 live music supported 210,000 full-time equivalent roles, as well as tens of thousands of freelancers
-In 2019, live music contributed £4.5 billion to the UK economy
-In 2020, revenue in the live music business will fall by 81%, and revenue has been close to zero since March
-76% of live music employees were utilising the furlough scheme, as of 31 August 2020
-50% of permanent roles will be lost by the end of the year (26,100 jobs), while temporary and freelance roles have already been decimated
-The Culture Recovery Fund has had a significant impact, safeguarding around 10,000 at-risk employees


 Research methodology

The paper refers to a combination of published industry data and primary research. The research cited has been carried out in collaboration with the various trade bodies working in live music in the UK. This collaboration allowed us to gather a representative sample of companies at each stage of the value chain and assess the impact of COVID-19 on their revenues, their current employment levels utilisation of the furlough scheme, the impact of the Job Support Scheme, and their projected future employment levels without continued government support. We note that CEBR has recently released a report for the Arts Council predicting the impact of Covid-19 on music. This is based on SIC codes, which regularly struggle to capture difficult to measure industries. The fragmentation of the live music value chain meant that SIC code analysis gives a picture that is incomplete at best. Consequently, the approach was taken to start from the impact on industry sectors and deliver a weighted average of industry micro data to accurately reflect the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on the live music industry.

Summary of findings

UK full year live music industry revenues will fall by 81%, compared to 2019. Nearly 3-in-5 of employees in the sector are currently on a furlough scheme (76%), with 15% of the workforce having already left the sector. If there is no ongoing sector specific Government support, factoring in the initial CRF results, it is expected that 50% of live music employees will be let go before the end of the calendar year. Freelancers and self-employed workers will also be forced to leave the sector, having been similarly affected with their annual income having fallen by 88%. This equates to 26,100 full time employees, in addition to more than 140,000 FTE roles for freelancers, crew, and other support staff that have ceased to exist since March. Beyond the initial economic impact, once people leave the sector, a significant skills shortage would be created, hampering the industry’s ability to successfully relaunch in the period post-COVID  

You can read the entire report findings here


About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.