‘A toxic pool of debt’: Events suppliers revenues down 95 per cent in 2020

Revenues across the live events supply industry (audio, lighting, staging) are set to plummet by 95 per cent into a “rapidly developing toxic pool of debt”, according to a report from LIVE, an umbrella group representing the live music industry.

The new report provides a sobering look at the current state of the sector and the further devastation it could face without urgent government support. 

With live events of all kinds effectively closed since the onset of lockdown in March, it is estimated that total revenue decline by the end of the calendar year will be 80 per cent, while 170,000 jobs – nearly two thirds of the entire industry workforce – will have been lost.

Among the hardest hit areas of the industry is the event production and supply sector. By the end of 2020, it is expected that revenues across audio, lighting, staging and video rental firms will be down 95 per cent. Grassroots music venues revenues are down 75 per cent, with 71 of staff on furlough; festivals revenues have dropped 90 per cent, with 75 per cent of staff on furlough; and concert halls, arena and stadia revenues down are down 74 per cent, 79 per cent of staff furloughed.

Andy Lenthall, general manager of the Production Services Association, said in the report: “The UK’s supplier base is world leading, our larger operators are suffering. One key company saw monthly revenue drop from seven figures to five, reflecting the cliff edge drop in revenue felt by the rest of the live music sector.

“Compounding the issue for these service suppliers is that much of the technology and equipment is purchased using asset finance, so it is accumulating interest even when it is not on the road. This is effectively turning an industry sector that grows using managed borrowing into a rapidly developing toxic pool of debt. Additionally, since most equipment is usually ‘on the road’ and not stored in a warehouse, companies are having to rent additional space in order to store idle equipment.

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“The impact of this unserviced debt will be crippling to the long-term health of the service supply sector, and that harm will again undermine the pace at which UK live music can return to strength.”

One of the most concerning aspects of the report is the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on freelance staff across the industry. The report indicates that 144,000 of the 210,000 self-employed and freelance workers across the sector will have lost their jobs by the end of the year. Approximately half of the sector’s 52,200 permanently employed staff are also expected to lose their jobs. 

While the government has created a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help the arts sector through the pandemic, the report claims this will not be enough to prevent hundreds of thousands from losing their jobs. So far it is thought to have saved around 10,000 full-time jobs.

Last week saw the second round of funding released, with £333 million so far distributed among 2,000 organisations in the arts sector, including music venues, festivals, theatres and promoters.

You can read the LIVE report in full here.