Fears for live event sector could mean no show for music-lovers

Despite the lifting of most remaining coronavirus restrictions this week, there are fears for the large-scale events which many people have been so looking forward to.

After a long hiatus, everything from club nights to festivals and concerts are now allowed to take place.

However a Merseyside businessman has serious concerns about the future of his industry and the true financial cost of the pandemic.

Andy Dockerty Credit: Adlib

Andy Dockerty started supplying event equipment in the 1980s on a £40-a-week government enterprise scheme.

Without his lights, sound, video walls, engineers and technicians there would simply be no show.

Adlib is now a multi-million pound business but it has still been hurt by the pandemic.

The company is starting to supply again and people are trickling back to work but Andy has lost nearly a third of his staff and had to borrow £4m just to keep it going.

Stormzy performs on stage in 2019 Credit: Isabel Infantes/PA Archive/PA Images

Some would argue Adlib was one of the lucky ones.

The company was granted £2m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) while the stages fell silent.

55 members of the tight-knit workforce lost their jobs when furlough was discontinued but the firm got a grant to support the remaining staff from November through to March.

It has now drawn down another £2m CBILS loan to pay off the first and to keep people in jobs.

Adlib has provided services for festivals like TRNSMT Credit: Adlib

Andy says he has had good support from the local authorities and his bank.

Of course the government loans must be repaid and this time next year Adlib will be paying back £80,000 a month.

Andy will have to use nearly all of the company's profits to do so.

Entertainment company Live Nation says 83% of fans are keeping tickets for rescheduled shows.

According to Live Music Industry Venues & Entertainment, a federation of 13 live music industry associations, the sector lost 85% of its revenue in 2020.

Crowds at a music festival in Liverpool as part of the national Events Research Programme in May Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

Andy says the first half of 2021 has been a write off too with only 50% of business expected to return.

To compound the problem, big events may now be allowed but they take months of planning, rehearsals, ticket selling and advertising.

A lot of this year's festivals have already been cancelled. Many music tours have been postponed until 2022.

Ian Nelson Credit: ITV Granada

Last July, I met up with Ian Nelson who started here as a touring engineer and is now Adlib's Audio Technical Manager.

He told me then how he was heartbroken to feel that his industry was being ignored.

Ian has only just returned to work after a difficult year in which his wife lost her job as a result of the pandemic, his daughter was homeschooling and he said he ended up "cutting a lot of grass".

Things haven't got much better and he told me the last three months have been the hardest.

As for Andy, he fears smaller companies may crumble before the industry can get back on its feet.

Andy now has an uphill struggle to rebuild his skilled team and wants better protection to make sure there are still live events for people to return to.