chancellor's budget

Chancellor’s budget must cater for return of live music, says UK industry

The UK’s live music and events industry has called for the upcoming Chancellor’s budget to make provisions for the return of live music and events this summer. 

Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 3) will see Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveil his latest budget, and voices from across the industry are urging him to ensure that live music and events are sufficiently catered for so that they can make a meaningful return in accordance with the recently announced COVID-19 road map.

UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said that the Chancellor’s budget must “deliver the best of British sounds this summer and ensure live music is back to lift our spirits and help drive the post-pandemic recovery”.

He continued: “We need the existing jobs support schemes, the business rate relief and the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales to continue until the music industry is back on its feet. The hugely welcome £1.57 billion Cultural Relief Fund should also continue.  

“Critically, we must have a Government-backed insurance scheme so event organisers can plan with certainty and avoid financial ruin if Covid-19 forces fresh cancellations. With no insurance available, the risk of putting on events in June and July will be too great for many organisers to bear.

“If we fail to follow other governments that are offering insurance schemes to safeguard live music and events, the UK runs the risk of standing at the side of the dance-floor as other nations party through the summer.

“The Government support for the music industry has been a lifeline and we are incredibly grateful. However, it will all have been for nothing if it does not carry on until we can raise the curtain again on concerts, festivals and gigs. 

“Our industry has worked tirelessly with the Government to explore testing, better ventilation and many other innovative solutions to make events safe – and we will be engaging enthusiastically with the Government’s pilot schemes to ensure live music can return as soon as it’s safe. 

“While the astonishing vaccine success means the end of the health emergency is in sight, the economic toll of Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. Dynamic growth industries like the UK music industry will be more important than ever – and we want to play our part in driving the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“I am confident that with the right support, our world-leading live music scene will give us all an unforgettable summer by lifting the spirits of millions of music fans and spearheading a huge cultural and economic boost.”

Keith Watson, pro audio veteran and #WeMakeEvents steering group member, also outlined his hopes for the Chancellor’s budget. 

“There are a number of things that we think the government should be focusing on in their upcoming budget,” he told Audio Media International “First is to provide grants, not loans, to businesses in the industry,” he continued. “We did a survey that found 34 per cent of companies don’t think they’ll last until June. 

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“The second is that we need protection for freelancers – over 70 per cent of people working in the industry are freelancers or self-employed, many of which weren’t eligible for financial support. 

Lastly, so that promoters and festival owners can take the jump and put on new events, we need government-funded insurance, as the risk of putting on an event is so high that nobody wants to take that risk.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that live music and concert halls could open by May 17, with all social distancing measures lifting on June 21. It was also noted that these are earliest possible dates and that they are subject to change should COVID-19 infection rates rise.

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