Live music sector chief accuses Government of imposing ‘lockdown by stealth’

·4-min read
Union Chapel in Islington, London. (Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)
Union Chapel in Islington, London. (Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)

A live music sector chief executive has accused the Government of imposing a “lockdown by stealth” which is pushing the industry “to the edge”.

It comes as music venues call on the Government to provide support and financial assistance as they struggle due to the rise of Covid-19 case numbers due to the new Omicron variant.

The live event industry has faced extensive restrictions and lockdowns during the pandemic, forcing venues to cancel or delay shows in 2020 and 2021.

Following an urgent question in the House of Commons, Greg Parmley, chief executive of industry body Live, said: “The current lockdown by stealth is quickly pushing the live music sector to the edge.

“We are now facing a crippling blow as individual venues scramble to cover the spiralling costs of Covid-related cancellations, which will inevitably result in permanent closures.

“The Government must step up to the plate and provide a raft of financial assistance now, if it is to avoid much-loved live music venues and businesses closing up shop for good.”

One of London’s award-winning music venues, Union Chapel has warned it faces an “extremely tough future” as all its January events and 50% of its February shows have been cancelled or rescheduled due to the new variant.

The venue, which has held international music events for global superstars such as Amy Winehouse and Adele also had a number of December shows cancelled at short notice and has seen a “substantial drop in audiences” – up to 50% for some events.

The last few weeks have thrown us and the live music sector back into financial crisis, and there is now huge concern for the months to come

Michael Chandler

Union Chapel, which is homed in a Grade I listed chapel in north London, is also a charity that helps people experiencing homelessness and crisis, but said there is a “serious threat” to that work as the funding comes largely from income generated by live music events.

Michael Chandler, chief executive of Union Chapel Project, said: “This year was going to be a vital year for our recovery after the enormously challenging year we had in 2020.

“After a brief period of stability, the last few weeks have thrown us and the live music sector back into financial crisis, and there is now huge concern for the months to come.

“This has a major impact on us as a charity and our vital work for the community, now and into the future.”

Mark Davyd, founder and chief executive of Music Venue Trust agreed that the situation is “very serious” but “very familiar” to what the sector experienced in March last year.

He told the PA news agency: “The slight difference this time is that we already know what Government can do. There are already methods in place that proved highly effective last time to prevent business closures, job losses, livelihoods being lost, venues being permanently closed – we really just need to open all those levers and make that happen.”

Union Chapel is among the music venues calling on the government to support the sector. (Zak Hussein/PA) (PA Archive)
Union Chapel is among the music venues calling on the government to support the sector. (Zak Hussein/PA) (PA Archive)

The head of the trade body said that as of Monday business was down by 27% overall and the number of no-shows was 23%, with financial losses of around £2 million in the week before, according to a weekly poll run to assess the situation.

He noted that things have got worse since then and predicted that next Monday’s poll will show that business will be down by around 50% across the board.

Mr Davyd said: “We’ve been here before, this is manageable, we’ve proven that, the Government has proved it can manage this. It just needs managing.

“It really is one of those situations that is like, we’re going to have to do something, the question is, do you want to do it now immediately, or do you want to do it in seven days’ time – when are you going to do it? It will need to be done, it’s just a question of when.”

He added that action cannot wait until the new year, and if nothing is done before then venues will start taking their own steps, such as planning how they will lay people off, shut their businesses and escape their tenancies.

He encouraged people with a ticket for a music show to inform the venue if they do not plan to attend so the ticket can be potentially sold to someone else.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting