Some of the UK’s most legendary performers are among those calling on the UK Government to commit to underwrite cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer. Alongside industry experts and trade associations, Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest have all added their name to the chorus of voices calling for a government-backed scheme.
The news comes as results from a new YouGov survey show that half of the UK population want to go to a live event this summer, while 75% believe live events are critical to British culture. Whilst recent news of mass ticket purchasing following the roadmap announcement is positive, it is even more critical for a government-backed insurance scheme to be in place to safeguard the industry.
Sir Cliff Richard said: “Our business brings inspiration and happiness into people’s lives. We can make them smile when they are sad and help them sing when they have nothing to sing about. We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume.”
Industry experts say that Britain’s live music and events industry can get back to work tomorrow without the government spending one pound – as long as it pledges to meet costs arising from any future cancellations caused by COVID. By making this promise, HM Treasury can bridge the gap for COVID cancellation insurance and support the UK’s live entertainment industries.
Earlier this week the Government published its roadmap out of lockdown, but despite this hugely positive announcement, coverage against COVID is no longer available in the commercial insurance market and is not expected to return for some time. In the interim, it can only be provided by the government acting as a backstop to give event organisers the confidence they need to start booking venues and working with suppliers.
Tim Thornhill, Director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division and live entertainment insurance industry veterans Bob Taylor and John Silcock, are working closely with live music industry umbrella organisation LIVE and insurance industry colleagues to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.
Tim Thornhill commented: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.
“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”
Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE added: “Governments in Germany, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands and elsewhere are already backing schemes to allow production companies and their staff to plan for a safe return to live events. The UK rollout of the vaccine is cause for optimism in creating events that are safe but the industry will be significantly hampered without COVID event cancellation insurance.”
The industry’s call for action supports the letter to Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, from Julian Knight, Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, which warned that festival organisers and investors are unable to risk repeating losses sustained in 2020, unless the cost of events can be insured against cancellation.
As we noted some months ago there are dozens of multi-millionaires within the global music industry who could easily form their own Lloyd’s syndicate. This would provide a pot of say £100m cash reserve, which would underwrite major festivals such as Glastonbury. Not that Glastonbury needs it, as that particular event could be underwritten by a levy of say £10 per ticket online, as demand far outstrips supply even at £500 per ticket on the reseller platform market. In short, the wealthy audience who want their festival can afford to insure the risk.
The streaming services could also do more. There is no doubt that Spotify, Apple and Google could also form their own global gig insurance pool, if they so wished. They could partner with a major insurer to act as a Lloyd’s syndicate in terms of underwriting particular tours – like say, a new artists showcase, or a BAME only/MOBO tour. That also ticks the right boxes on social media, so it helps big tech look better, as they fund a world tour which consumes the entire carbon footprint of a small island.
The insurance sector has looked at the risks associated with live events where 100,000 people might gather over three days. Correctly, wise heads have decided that the government’s unpredictability as regards lockdowns and Tiers means the risk of cancellation remains relatively high. That makes premiums high.
Your move Bono. Your move Apple.