Many big music festivals may not survive if the 2021 season is cancelled

Music festival organisers have warned that the future of the industry looks “grave”, if the 2021 season is cancelled.

Anna Wade, communications and strategy director of Boomtown Fair, which employed around 40 full time workers before the pandemic hit, recently told MPs: “In terms of Boomtown, it is a very similar story as it is for all festivals and events up and down the country.

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“We were absolutely decimated as well. We were first to really shut down and will probably be one of the last to reopen as well.”

Sacha Lord, co-founder of Manchester’s Parklife and the Warehouse Project superclub in Manchester, said that the UK risked falling behind Europe if action was not taken. He warned that mass testing and vaccination is the only way forward.

Speaking to MPs, Lord said: “Social distancing does not work at any of these events. It’s a festival. You just cannot put social distancing in place, so we are anticipating that we will be operating at 100 per cent.”

Lord said that coronavirus has “absolutely decimated” the festival and music events industry, adding, “it decimated us not just as a business but also all the suppliers, all the freelancers during the actual weekend that takes place”.

Inquiry into the future of UK music festivals

The House of Commons Culture Select Committee is carrying out an inquiry into the viability of 2021’s summer events, after the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 festival season.

“MPs will examine what support is needed for UK music festivals to return in 2021, as they consider the economic and cultural impact of festivals across the country,” the Government explained.

‘Glastonbury not yet cancelled’

On BBC Radio 5 Live, Spice Girls singer Mel B indicated that Glastonbury 2021 had been cancelled without any announcements from the organisers.

She said: “I know that Glastonbury has been cancelled so a lot of big stage performances are on hold again this year.

“It’s sad, but we’ve got to get this virus under control.”

Emily Eavis, who co-organises Glastonbury festival with her father, took to social media to update festival fans on the current situation.

She wrote on Twitter: “Happy new year to you all! There’s no news this end yet, we haven’t cancelled. Will let you know right here as soon as we have an update.”

In December 2020, Eavis told the BBC: “We’re doing everything we can on our end to plan and prepare but I think we’re still quite a long way from being able to say we’re confident 2021 will go ahead.”

Additionally, co-organiser Michael Eavis told The Guardian last June: “We have to run next year, otherwise we would seriously go bankrupt… It has to happen for us, we have to carry on.

“Otherwise, it will be curtains. I don’t think we could wait another year.”

How to safely restart the live music industry

UK Music is an industry funded body which was established in October 2008, and works to represent the collective interests of recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry.

UK Music members include The Music Producers Guild, FAC, The Musicians Union, Music Publishers Association and Association of Independent Music.

On Tuesday (5 Jan), UK Music published its Let the Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to protect and support the live music industry.

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “While this pandemic is still raging and continues to cause devastation to lives and livelihoods today, there is an endpoint in sight.

“The government is rolling out the vaccine and is openly speculating about returning to normal by the spring - but there is a serious risk that even if this proves to be a reality, lack of notice and available insurance options will mean much of the 2021 summer music season can’t go ahead.

“In this report, UK Music is putting forward a clear plan for recovery: what we need to do to get the live performance sector back up on its feet again in 2021. But the clock is ticking and any day soon we could see major festivals and events start pulling the plug for lack of certainty.

“With the right support the live music industry can be at the forefront of the post-pandemic recovery and play a key role in our country’s economic and cultural revival - but there will need to be a concerted effort from industry and the government together if we are to let the music play and save our summer.”

Within the report, UK Music sets eight key tasks for the government in order to support the live sector:

  • An indicative date for full capacity restart without social distancing
  • A government backed reinsurance scheme
  • Targeted financial support
  • Extension to the VAT rate reduction on tickets beyond March 2021
  • Rollover of the paid 2020 Local Authority license fees for festivals to 2021
  • Extension to business rates relief
  • Ramp up engagement with the music industry on Moonshot testing pilots so rapid testing can be utilised to eventually bring back full capacity crowds
  • Establish a taskforce that can advise, evaluate and validate the various innovations the music industry is looking at implementing to reduce the risk of transmission - now and for the future