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Music chiefs warn UK summer festivals risk cancellation despite vaccines

View from above of the festival site on day 2 of Parklife festival on June 07, 2015 in Heaton Park Manchester, United Kingdom
Sacha Lord, co-founder of Parklife festival in Manchester, was among those due to give evidence to MPs about the impact of COVID-19 on summer music festivals in 2021. Photo: PA.

The music industry is warning that Britain could see most summer festivals cancelled even if vaccines are rapidly rolled out in the months to come.

Music chiefs say organisers need an indicative date for when large events will be allowed to take place, and a government-backed insurance scheme to deal with cancellation risks.

The trade body for the recorded and live music sector said there was a “serious risk” of cancellations without urgent government help. It noted key decisions were already being made now about whether summer events would go ahead.

“An indicative date for restart and a government insurance scheme are vital – without them, many major festivals will not have the confidence or the preparation time to go ahead this year,” said a report published by UK Music on Tuesday.

Watch: UK artists look back on a catastrophic year for live music

READ MORE: Businesses brace as Scotland and England ramp up restrictions

The report noted the estimated £5.8bn ($7.9bn) pre-pandemic value and 200,000 jobs in the music industry in the UK, but highlighted the severe toll of the pandemic in 2020. Festivals saw a 90.2% drop in revenue and as much as half the live music workforce may have lost their jobs.

Up to 80% of music creators’ income has been lost in 2020, according to the trade group. One survey by the Musicians’ Union suggested more than seven in 10 member are uncertain if they will remain in the sector or considering leaving.

“COVID-19 has created an existential crisis for the live sector and UK music festivals – the 2020 season was wiped out, and there is a real threat that the vast majority of the 2021 season will not happen either,” said the report, entitled ‘‘Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021.’

There are also calls for an extension to VAT cuts on tickets and business rates relief to help firms through the crisis.

“Government is rolling out the vaccine and is openly speculating about returning to normal by the spring – but there is a serious risk that even if this proves to be a reality, lack of notice and available insurance options will mean much of the 2021 summer music season can’t go ahead,” said UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

The report comes as industry figures were due to give evidence before MPs on parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday morning.

Watch: First Oxford vaccine dose administered in UK