'Boris needs to wake up': UK's live music industry pleads for help as coronavirus keeps venues shut

A lighting business, which has worked with A-listers such as Beyoncé, Stereophonics and Petshop Boys, has told ITV's Tonight they are "angry with the government" for not providing more help to their sector during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pip and Dave built Neg Earth together in the 1980s which has provided work for hundreds of freelancers and staff through lighting countless gigs at huge arenas across the country. 

They told ITV Tonight they are "gutted" they will have to let employees go, as the furlough scheme winds down. They want to see a targeted extension to the furlough scheme, plus help for thousands of freelancers involved in their industry.

Their comments come as new figures shared exclusively with ITV News reveal more than half of staff across UK arenas are on furlough. And without an extension to the Job Retention Scheme, almost 3 in 5 people in venues (57%) will be out of a job by the end of the year according to Music Industry Analysts, Carey & Chambers. 

Employment in the live entertainment sector has fallen by 15% so far. 

"I'm angry at the government... We contribute to the the government purse and Boris needs to wake up," says lighting business owners Pip and Dave

There is also a very high risk that talented crew members leave the music sector and never come back as across the events sector spend on crew has fallen 77%.

In 2019 the live music sector contributed £4.5bn to the UK economy, supporting 210,000 jobs. Concerts themselves generated £2.74bn, supporting 125,000 jobs.

Arts Editor Nina Nannar explains how tens of thousands of seats have been left empty for six months in live venues like the SSE Arena in Wembley 

The raft of new measures for England announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday and similar restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are an attempt to limit social lives and allow people some freedoms without sparking a dangerous spike in the virus.  

But social distancing in itself is damaging sectors which rely on people coming together in significant crowds.  With mass entertainment still banned industry leaders worry there could be permanent damage.

In 2020, the vast majority of venues have had no income since early March, which is now at six months with no revenue,  according to the new figures.

With the lack of any footfall, and no revenue anywhere near their normal level local venues and the local jobs they support – from ticket sellers, to coach drivers, hoteliers to hot-dog makers - are all at risk.

The live entertainment industry is also calling on the government to provide a clear timeline for a conditional start date, a VAT extension to the recently reduced 5% cultural VAT rate on tickets, and an industry-specific insurance scheme so that they have the confidence to reopen when they are able to.

Co-head of Creative Arts Agency whose clients include Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Emma Banks, told Arts Editor Nina Nannar: "The brain drain, the talent drain that we're going to have…. once you've got another job and if this looks unsecure to say the least,  then I don't blame people for finding another opportunity."

"But jobs that we have in this business, even the ones people think are very simple are actually hugely technical. People learn on the job as well. So the worry as much as those that know how to do it already,  is that we are losing a whole load of people that are never going to get into the business. The youth that would be so important for what we do in ten years time because the music industry is a massive revenue generator for the UK, but it's also something we can be really proud of."

Ms Banks said: "In the last few years, particularly, we have got huge artists and expertise, lighting, designing, singing, you name it, we're going to lose those people, they're going to end up somewhere else."

"And clearly if we start touring and the guys aren't available to do the work, that puts a big question mark over whether you can do the tour," she added.

The government told ITV's Tonight programme it has acted quickly to protect livelihoods and support businesses, and that they’ll continue to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and rebuild the economy.

Watch: Can We Save Our Jobs? Tonight on Thursday 24 September at 7.30pm on ITV