A Leicester venue owner and promoter has spoken about the major impact of Covid-19 on the music industry.
Nik Sharpe, owner of The Cookie on Leicester’s High Street, is concerned about what the industry will look like at the end of the pandemic.
Since the first coronavirus lockdown was put in place back in March 2020, venues have either been unable to open or have had to run to incredibly restrictive socially-distanced gigs.
This has forced both venues and musicians to take drastic measures, with some gigs being postponed until 2022 – including major festivals such as Glastonbury.
The constant reshuffling and delay of tours has caused lots of problems for Nik, who also works as a promoter for Leicester’s O2 Academy, as well as being the festival programmer for Handmade Festival.
Nik said: “Every time you think it’s going to be okay to hold gigs again things either don’t improve or get worse, so we have to reschedule everything.
“It’s just a guessing game, there’s no joined up thinking of what to do from the music industry, we’re all just working by ourselves to try and get through it.
“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the music industry, it’s very difficult to look at it all and work out what we are coming back to.
“If we come back in the autumn and are still doing socially distanced gigs, then how is that going to impact venues who desperately need income?
“How many venues are going to be around when we get out of this? How many bands are going to be around and want to perform? We just don’t know.
“Leicester is an incredibly creative place, with lots of venues and talented individuals who will all be looking to get back out there as soon as possible, but the uncertainty is creating a huge problem.
“I think we could see venues close down, not just because of the immediate impact of Covid, but the long-term capacity changes we might have to enforce.
“If you cut a venue down from a 100 person capacity down to 50 in smaller venues, it will just stop them from being able to recover and survive.
“The biggest issue is the timing. How long will we have to wait before we can open? How long will we have to wait before we’re at full capacity? These are questions venues across the country will be asking.”
While some places have benefitted from some financial support from the government, not every venue has been able to get the same level of support, forcing them to do new things to keep going.
Nik said: “The support has been good, but not everyone has been able to get that support. I’ve seen bars, pubs, and venues forced into doing things outside of what they’re used to, such as food delivery, just to pay the bills.
“If the support was good enough for everyone, you wouldn’t have businesses resorting to that.
“Normally I organise close to 200 shows a year as a promoter, so that’s a massive amount of business gone.”
Nik also set out a few things that he would like to see from the government to help himself and other venue owners get back on their feet throughout and after the pandemic.
He said: “We just need some clarity from the government. Can we expect a touring schedule in the autumn? Are festivals going ahead this year?
“We have already lost Glastonbury this year and I know a lot of festivals are holding on hoping that they can go ahead in the summer.
“We also need 5 per cent on VAT to be continued for gig tickets, and we need support on tariffs across the music industry, including the streaming licence that has been put in place by the PRS, which was ridiculous and done without any consultation.
“I think, after this, people will want to get out of the house and go to gigs again, and many bands might have the best years of their careers, but we also need to keep in mind people have been on reduced incomes or lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
“It’s one thing that you are allowed to open, but can people afford to go to gigs? That’s the next question we need to answer.”