Thursday, September 21, 2023

PLASA surveys the live events industry; discovers short-term challenges as public demand begins to rise

PLASA, the 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 November 1, 2021 to December 21, 2021 and was completed by 1,948 respondents in over 40 countries in five different languages. The data provides evidence of the challenges currently facing the sector, with the vast majority currently reporting delays, shortages and cost increases.

According to the survey results, looking ahead, confidence is mixed, with the majority of respondents lacking confidence in industry recovery within the next six months. It is important to note that the survey was conducted before the Omicron variant emerged prior to the 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.

Survey results indicated that, for now, companies and organizations 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.

In the lead up to the traditionally busy summer season, the live events industry is faced with a devastating skills shortage. Sixty-nine percent 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.

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.

What was once a strong and dynamic sector and the envy of the world — bringing in £70 billion (USD$ 95.3 billion), 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 significant 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.

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.”   

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