The Impact of Covid-19 On The Live Music Industry. What is the future?

What challenges do the music industry face today in this ever-changing landscape!

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Having worked in the LIVE festival scene for nearly all my life, the entertainment industry has never seen such unrepresented change across the LIVE scene for as long as I can remember.

With the BIG question, what is going to happen post-COVID-19 for the LIVE music sector?

With thousands of tours, festivals and shows across the globe already been cancelled, in this time of unprecedented uncertainty, the future of the music industry looks decidedly bleak due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The financial security and safety of many people working in the music industry are shrouded in complete mystery in these very challenging times.

The LIVE industry relies mainly on a freelance workforce. Recently I saw some information from The Musicians Union that reported that 94% of UK musicians work freelance for the majority of their income.

There is no security measure in place to cover the loss of income to the millions of workers who are only paid for completed work from live music events across the world.

The industry operates in such a way that it is impossible for musicians or to the fact the crew to receive any financial remuneration for cancelled shows.

The industry “gig workers” do not enjoy the work benefits that many conventional jobs have on offer in today’s society.

The Freelancers do not have the luxury of paid salaries, retirement plans, paid holidays, or even health insurance, for the sake of pursuing a career in the mad world of entertainment.

Unlike many jobs, musicians/touring crew members cannot work from home whilst in “quarantine” to make up for a loss of earnings, this is impossible to achieve.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is proving to be the most devastating challenge ever to face the creative and music community.

Even more worryingly, as the world continues to deal with the ongoing crisis, it is very clear there is a significant lack of economic support for those in a real desperate situation.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

In the past weeks, its become very clear that most of the music festival cancellations amidst the chaos around the world including; Isle of Wight, Coachella, SXSW, Reading & Leeds and Glastonbury — which is the UK’s flagship/biggest music festival with over 200,000 attendees per year.

Financial risk and business consultants claim that the Glastonbury festival could experience revenue losses of over £100 million as a result of being axed for 2020, with the total costs of cancelling the event will be in excess of over £60 million. A recent statement from Glastonbury festival.

“Once the running costs and refunds are taken into account,” Eventopedia CEO Toby Heelis told Metro.

Ultimately the total financial cost the festival will incur depends on the type and level of insurance the festival has arranged.

This particular insurance coverage can be premium heavy, but really does protect the event which can include; non-appearance of the headliner, illness and in some cases the main support act, also including bad weather, war and terrorism, communicable disease and cyber.

My guess is not many if any festival promoters will take this cover — having worked promoting shows, I have never come across a promoter who would take this cover, due to the financial costs up-front — but maybe this could change?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

So what’s going to happen over the next few months-year, 2 years?

At this time of huge uncertainty, we can be sure that many music-related event cancellations will continue to ramp up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many countries have placed bans on large social gatherings, including Australia- which has just banned all non-essential gatherings of over 100 people to slow the spread of the virus.

The reality as a result of this, Australia’s live music industry is on the “brink of collapse”, according to Billboard, without financial aid from the federal government.

Epidemiology experts also warn that large-scale mass gatherings, for example with large numbers of people who are in extremely close contact for extended periods, are significantly at a higher risk for virus transmissions.

How will recorded music surfer due to the global pandemic?

The decline of the record industry over the past decade has forced monumental changes to the music industry.

The introduction of the digital arena, with piracy, and app-based listening, has transformed how artists/bands, record labels generate their income.

The balance has surely shifted from the sale of recorded music to promoting live music events, merchandising streaming, SYNC for film/TV and publishing — these are the jewel in the crown for both label and artist.

Before the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, it was already a very challenging landscape for artists, bands, record labels, to receive financial compensation for music units sold.

This is because the royalty rates earned from streaming music only make up a relatively small part of their total income generated — but there are signs of positive changes within the Indie sector.

You would possibly presume that the listener-ship would remain stable through the current crisis because there is nothing to stop people from consuming recorded music.

The recent stream tallies of Spotify’s ‘Top 200 global chart’ prove that streaming revenues may remain strong in the face of the current situation.

The figures suggest that record labels are in a stronger position than live music promoters and booking agencies, but this to me is quite obvious because people will access streaming sites and download the music they like.

Live Nation the biggest promoter in the world — is a strong example of such a company, having experienced a plunge in share prices of more than 33% in a matter of days.

However, another piece of data suggests that overall streaming levels are declining in the face of the world crisis. The data shows the total number of streams has been steadily declining in Italy, alongside other countries that are profoundly affected by the pandemic.

Since introducing a national quarantine on March 9th, there was a 23% drop in Spotify streams compared to before. The results show that those in isolation are listening to less music than they usually would.

Final thoughts!

Everyone in the music industry has seen a huge impact over the last few weeks. The entire live music industry has come to an abrupt halt in a matter of weeks, and unfortunately, everyone is still struggling to adapt to these immense changes.

It is not just the music industry, but the coronavirus spread is impacting every industry and sector across the world. Although admittedly, the music industry is amongst those who have been hit the hardest.

Being a LIVE promoter, I hope that many of the companies that deliver quality music events around the world will be able to weather the storm and remain resilient in the face of such adversity due to the outbreak of Covid-19 these are for sure very uncertain and challenging times for everyone.

By Pete Moore




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Peter Moore

Peter Moore

Peter has lived New York, Los Angeles and London working in the music, film and TV industries for over three decades helping creators realize their vision.

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