Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs

The Creative Industries Face a New Problem - Techs are Leaving.

Tim Brennan sitting in front of a Sony MVS 6000 Vision mixing desk on Rhianna's Diamonds tour

Traditionally January & February are fairly quiet in terms of music touring, usually things start to pick up in March. But, when Covid19 hit the UK in March 2020, many freelance technical staff were just beginning to be booked for the summer festival season. I myself had been booked through the summer to undertake a contract, but then it all went very wrong, lockdown and unease in the industry saw a spate of rapidly cancelled tours including my own contract.

Many freelancers were excluded from the governments support schemes, some were able to find some form of support, but a lot had to find alternative employment or at least try.

Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, a lot of those freelancers face a difficult decision, do they risk giving up that alternative employment for an uncertain future, uncertain in the fact that the government can at any point decide to extend the restrictions on live events.

Live events and music tours take time to plan, including booking of freelancers to fill the technical roles for the event. We are now seeing those events that were booked to take place in the next few weeks being cancelled, and those booked freelancers being told that they are no longer needed.

After 15 months of uncertainty and little support, a lot of us are deciding that actually the temporary job that they have had to take is the better option, it’s better to have some regular income than being cancelled and having nothing.

Chatting recently to friends within the industry, I can tell you that a lot of them, highly respected individuals have decided to stay put in their new careers and are not returning to the events industry.

So, what does that mean for live events and concert tours, a lack of highly skilled experienced staff will result in tours and events not being able to take place. Add this to the extreme shortage of experienced truck drivers and we have the perfect storm and that is before we even think about the nightmare of post Brexit creative touring.

Our industry is staffed mainly by extremely resourceful highly skilled freelancers, people that can keep calm in the face of adversity, that’s why we are truly world beating in what we do. But, being as resourceful as we are, it’s not going to take us long to realise that there is a very uncertain future in our industry and that’s why I think we are going to be facing a shortage in skilled technical staff.

You might think that this is a good thing, that these people leaving the industry for more sustainable incomes is probably for the best. But, if there is such a move away from events and touring, then those events and tours will not happen, that has a huge impact on the industry and the ability of the performers to earn a viable living.

With the change from sales of physical media, such as records & CDs, to a streaming model has seen the revenue streams of musicians dramatically change, with little income from streaming, artists are relying on touring to bring in ticket and merchandise sales as an income. You can see where I am going with this…

Little income from streaming matched with the prospect of limited touring due to staffing issues will see a dramatic decrease in new bands coming through or those that are already on existence not being able to carry on.

This will also have a severe impact on mental wellbeing, not only of those involved in the industry, but also the fans, we all know what it is like to see your favourite artists perform their latest hits, or go to the theatre, opera, recital, all these things allow us a chance to relax and enjoy the moment, something that is very hard to come by in the current climate.

But the A bomb that is ticking in Wardour Street and is yet to explode, is the post Brexit creative touring issue.

Every day me and my colleague Ian get messages from technical staff or performers asking about touring in the EU.

The Government has failed to provide freelancers in our industry with the robust information they need to make decisions about their job, career and lives. Carry on Touring is helping as much as we can, but it should not fall to us to support the industry where the Government are falling short.

The Creative Industries are losing one of the most valuable resources: the technicians that make it all happen, and the longer the government keep us closed down, the more we leave for good!


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  • Tim has hit the nail on the head with this article. The Tech Exodus is very real, presenting a massive problem for the organisation of tours and events. Covid and Brexit have left freelancers, suppliers and organisers high and dry but the governments response has been abysmal. I do not know a single freelancer who recieved any assistance from the governments package so I can fully understand their reluctance to return to the industry. Though we have tried to raise awareness on the issue, I feel the general public still have not grasped how detrimental this could be. It’s a different world and those of us who inhabit it have very particular skill-sets which take years to develop. The quality of the show is dependent on us and our input We aren’t soldiers but we battle to bring the best. We’re not heroes but we will perform the heroic. We’re not magicians but we make the impossible happen

    Rob Waring
  • I often wonder if we would make the better representatives in this scenario, I know and understand! we need to approach MP’s to speak for us, but it doesn’t seem to be getting us any closer to sitting down and making the changes we need. Surely there is someone in the Government who is 100% not 40% behind us, someone who will fight our corner, with complete understanding, and able to convey our needs to who ever it needs to be addressed to. We are being told that the MP’s who are working with you are doing their best… I am beginning to doubt that… as it has taken 6 months up to this point… and it seems that no one has sat down with the EU representatives (Since last year) and even tried to discuss whats needed.

    We all know you guys are working relentlessly, to push our point over, and it is massively appreciated. I am at a loss to think why OUR powers that be, seem to be smirking behind their hands at our requests.

    Ian 'Mole' Ettridge
  • Well done Tim and Ian for highlighting so eloquently and precisely so the government and music labels can see the perils already being faced and the bigger picture.
    Without first hand experience, many have no idea how the production of live events comes together and honestly; it’s understandable, it’s unlike any other industry!

    Growing up as the child of a roadie, seeing behind the curtain, the network of freelance skill is incredible and people do it because they love it. It is a fluctuating living as is without a pandemic. But when roadies can’t tour, drivers & riggers can’t tour, catering teams can’t tour, wardrobe teams can’t tour, set designers & graphic tech specialists can’t tour, not only that, think of the specialist touring accountants, PA’s, stage managers, production crew, the list literally goes on for niche and exceptional skill set to be lost, the industry will collapse and the next generation of skill will not materialise.
    With your guidance, the government, music labels, arenas, stadiums and out of the way independent little venues need a serious sit down together to get a retention and encouragement plan!
    This cannot be allowed to happen.
    Thank you for all that you are doing.

    Zoé O'Brien

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