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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