PLASA, the lead association for the entertainment technology industry, and #WeMakeEvents, the global campaign to save live events, have published a detailed global survey report on the current position and future recovery of the live events industry.
The survey ran from 1 November 2021 to 21 December 2021 and was completed by 1,948 respondents in over 40 countries in five different languages.
The data provides strong and clear evidence of the challenges currently facing the sector, with the vast majority currently reporting delays, shortages and cost increases.
Looking ahead, confidence is mixed, with the majority of respondents lacking confidence in industry recovery within the next six months. This is even more startling considering the survey was conducted before the Omicron variant threatened the lucrative winter holiday season.
However, there is cautious optimism from seven to 18 months, which mirrors the progress made when the Live Events industry re-opened in 2021.
Companies are still feeling the impact
But for now, companies and organisations are carrying a heavy financial burden, reporting a huge decrease in annual turnover. To increase the pressure further, 45% took on additional debt to survive the lockdowns. Freelancers are fairing no better, with low earners growing in number and top earners dropping by 78%.
The supply chain is in complete disarray, with shortages and delays across the board. A shocking 94% of manufacturers are experiencing delays in components, resulting in many being forced to source new suppliers and redesign products. The knock-on effects are felt by rental companies, venues, installers and distributors, with the vast majority facing delays in finished goods, cost increases, and unavoidable complications.
Juan Jose Vila, COO of Equipson Spain, comments: “The global Live Events industry has been hit like never before in our lifetime, with much of the supply chain left out in the cold, forced into accruing debt and calling off work. Much of what is involved in making live events happen is out of sight – from the engineer behind the sound desk, to the factory that the technology is produced in. This survey demonstrates how impacted the global industry continues to be, so I stand with my industry colleagues around the world in calling for urgent financial support.”
A major skills shortage
In the lead up to the traditionally busy summer season, the Live Events industry is faced with a devastating skills shortage. 69% of companies report a lack of workers, particularly on-site roles such as engineers, technicians, crew and riggers. These crucial shortages are forcing many to delay or cancel work, further losing revenue and opportunities. There is very little confidence that this picture will improve over the coming months, with the real risk of not meeting the increasing audience demand for live entertainment and cultural events throughout 2022.
Andy Dockerty, Managing Director for Adlib, comments: “As a busy supplier to live events, the pressures have been immense. Covid and the enforced lockdown resulted in our turnover being down 80% and we had to rely on substantial CBILS loans to honour debt amassed through no fault of our own. These loans enabled the company to stay afloat and have resulted in huge additional monthly repayments.
“Couple this with rising bills and interest rates triggered by a lack of confidence in the sector from lenders, the industry is heading for a very uncertain 12 months or so. When allowed to work we are capable of recovering quickly, proving the sector to be viable. The negative messaging and Plan B announced by government in December resulted in our sector once again losing 80% of its income for December, January and the majority of February with absolutely no help at all, amassing further debt.
“We believe there is the potential for a busy 2022 from April onwards, however, there is the added factor of huge shortages within the sector resulting in many companies not being able to deliver numerous jobs or capitalise on any opportunities because of the lack of qualified personnel. Although we may be coming out of one crisis, amassed debt, massive staff shortages, rapidly rising overheads and interest rates, product availability and supply chain issues means we are quickly heading into a very different crisis and we will all need help.”
The pandemic caused an exodus of freelancers seeking work in other sectors, 17% of which migrated into Film & TV. Only half have returned to the Live Events industry full time, leaving a skills gap that takes many years of training and experience to fill. Freelancers who remained or returned are facing shorter lead times and increased pressure. Not only that, touring abroad has dropped by 60%, and international travel remains an unfeasible option.
A perfect storm of issues
What was once a strong and dynamic sector and the envy of the world – bringing in £70billion, according to the BVEP UK Events Report – is now suffering from a ‘perfect storm’ of issues which is permeating every part of the Live Events Supply Chain. Moreover, sectors such as hospitality and leisure will feel the economic effects as the Live Events industry attracts siginificant revenues to them.
However, when the Live Events industry re-opened in 2021, it experienced an overwhelming demand. According to Live Nation’s Third Quarter 2021 report, ticket sales were up 10% on 2019, and many festivals sold out in record time, proving a strong public appetite to make up for lost time and a highly resilient and relevant sector.
As a result, the Live Events industry has every chance of bouncing back to full health – but only with the help of government support and business investment. Without which, 2022 may see a noticeable loss of live events; many companies may not survive much longer, and many of the industry’s skilled freelancers may never return.
Adam Blaxill, Chair of PLASA, comments: “Companies and freelancers are acutely aware that there is a long road to recovery in front of the Live Events industry. The last couple of years have been fraught with financial difficulty and unexpected challenges, and most people anticipate more hurdles to come. As a director of a company in the creative sector and as Chair of PLASA, I call on the UK Government to recognise the complex challenges we face and assist in the recovery. We are renowned all over the world for what we do; our capability and the quality and creativity of our sector is world class, yet this survey clearly shows that it is being diminished – our capacity is declining and our talent is leaving!”
Download the PLASA and #WeMakeEvents survey report for free at www.plasa.org/plasa-wemakeevents-covid-survey-report-2022