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More than 25% of UK Q1 concerts cancelled as COVID concerns continue

By | Published on Monday 24 January 2022


Of all the concerts and shows due to take place in the UK in the first three months of 2022, more than a quarter have already been cancelled as a result of the continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Which means that, despite COVID restrictions slowly coming to an end across the UK, the live sector still urgently needs further support from government in order to successfully stage a post-pandemic revival.

26% of planned shows for Q1 2022 have been cancelled according to a survey undertaken by live sector trade group LIVE. In some cases the cancellations were a direct result of COVID restrictions put in place in parts of the UK as the omicron variant spiked late last year.

However, even where shows could technically still go ahead, there were still plenty of COVID-related cancellations. Reasons for cancelling shows included the government’s official advice pre-Christmas that people should stay at home; concerns that cautious customers would still stay home even once that advice lifted; fears that new COVID restrictions could come into force at any time; and artists, crew members and other staff contracting the virus – or the risk they could before any one show was due to take place.

Meanwhile, for international artists planning to play the UK, there are even bigger challenges. First, whether any travel restrictions will stop them from reaching the country. Plus, even if shows are possible in the UK, those shows might be part of a Europe-wide tour which isn’t possible because of COVID restrictions still in force in other European countries. As a result, according to LIVE’s study, 44% of international shows due to take place in the UK have been cancelled in the first quarter of 2022.

Needless to say, this has all had a big impact on a live sector already on the brink after nearly two years of dealing with the pandemic. On that point, LIVE says: “These cancellations have resulted in dramatic income loss for thousands of artists, production crew, freelancers, venue and supporting businesses. This comes after unprecedented losses throughout the pandemic”.

With that in mind, LIVE says that the sector needs a new package of support measures for the UK government. It adds: “Vital support measures would include keeping the reduced rate of VAT on tickets and urgently fixing the broken government insurance scheme”.

Plus, also, properly dealing with the various visa, permit, carnet and cabotage problems created by big bad Brexit.

All the COVID challenges are “compounded by the devastating impacts that Brexit is now beginning to have on the industry”, LIVE confirms. “The introduction of visas and punitive regulations on the trucks and vehicles that make touring possible is leading to 90% stating Brexit will negatively impact the live music industry once all markets are fully open again”.

Commenting on the new stats and the need for more support, LIVE CEO Greg Parmley says: “Whilst it is great news that restrictions on live music venues will come to an end in much of the UK at the end of January, the live music industry is still facing serious challenges. The impact of the past two years has been catastrophic for the venues, artists, freelancers, and technical staff that power our £4.5 billion industry”.

“It will take a long time for us to recover from the worst period in the history of the industry and the government need to fully understand the challenges we face”, he adds. “Whilst the UK is reopening many artists need international markets to fully reopen before touring can be financially viable”.

“We are also encouraging the public to continue to support live music”, he goes on, “whether that is seeing a new band at a small local venue or a big act in an arena, so that we can get through this difficult period together”.