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Thursday 16 December I attended a LIVE Executive meeting where several issues to do with Omicron Virus and Plan B update were discussed.
With the festival season planning well underway and early season festivals only a matter of weeks away LIVE, on behalf of all of our industry are asking government to consider reintroducing VAT at 5% for all ticket sales. To reconsider how the insurance scheme is structured and to scrap business rates on music venues including outdoor festivals. Some of these questions were asked in the House on this very day and a representative of the HM Government Treasury Department responded by informing the House that the Chancellor was in California on business and reiterated the amount of money and schemes that business in general had been offered during the last 20 months of the pandemic. He made no promises that any of the new asks would be forthcoming but took them on board.
It was also reported by Mark Davyd of the Music Venues Trust that in his conversations with the Arts Council it was pointed out that the Emergency Support Fund is now open with approximately £23m available. I strongly recommend that AFO members should look on the Arts Council website and apply as appropriate. It is believed that the Emergency Fund would help with financial support for organisations that are likely to go bankrupt within the next 12 weeks.
It was also reported that a drop of between 15 and 25 percent attendance in clubs and concerts through this seasonal period was extremely worrying. On behalf of AFO I reported that festival ticket sales in the early part of the season were quite low, mostly because of customer’s concerns about the new strain of the virus.
It was also reported that several people have pointed out that turning off the NHS App from their mobile phones would avoid them being pinged in the period before Christmas and therefore avoid them having to isolate. We are not recommending this just reporting it.
After some discussion it was generally agreed that if Omicron continues at the current rate it will simply run out of people to infect very quickly which might be a good thing as long as more people are vaccinated and safer. It was also noted that there is evidence, and in particular with the help of our Scottish colleagues, that checking Covid passports and mask wearing at venues and events had very little bearing on the spread.
Rumours that festivals and events were super-spreaders were totally unfounded and not proven. However, not wishing to be law breakers venues and festivals should follow current government legislation and advice.
The LIVE funding.
There is no doubt at all that the existence of LIVE with extremely good contacts in political circles and sound advice from the experience of the members had been a great support to the festival industry during the last 20 months and undoubtedly will continue to be so. LIVE employs legal, political and administrative staff to conduct operations and deliver such successes as a 5% VAT on ticket sales, a reduction in business rates, an insurance scheme and links into the Furlough Scheme when it was available. It would be fair to say that AFO’s members should join with other associations and financially contribute towards the cost of running LIVE which runs into tens of thousands of pounds. The Advisory Board of AFO are discussing a system to achieve this and will report accordingly in the New Year. As an example the National Arena’s Association are committing to paying 50p on every ticket sold in their venues for the next 12 months. Other associations like the Music Managers Federation, PSA and AIF have made lump sum contributions available. We (AFO) as an association benefitting from the work of LIVE ought to be contributing towards the cost of running the organisation and we hope that members of AFO will give serious consideration to helping in whatever small way may be possible. Member's thoughts on this would be appreciated as soon as possible.Previous Story: Omicron: Live Music RestrictionsNext Story: SUSTAINABILITY