The report breaks down how Covid-19 has affected pros, providers and pro-audio manufacturers in more than 40 countries.
International event services and tech association PLASA recently teamed with online campaign #WeMakeEvents to conduct a global survey on how live event companies and professionals are continuing to be impacted by the pandemic. The Current Position and Future Recovery of the Live Events Sector provides an extensive breakdown of how Covid-19 has affected live events and touring around the globe, with input from pros, providers and pro-audio manufacturers in more than 40 countries. The report can be downloaded for free from plasa.org.
Conducted across the last two months of 2021, the survey gathered responses from 1,948 professionals in an effort to gain a clear picture of how the live events sector made it through 2021, and how it perceives the year ahead. Perhaps unsurprisingly, held while the Omicron variant was ramping up, the survey found manufacturers, and working freelancers in particular, with a dim view of the immediate future, though they did expect things to start turning around in late spring/early summer, 2022.
Given that PLASA is largely a European and UK-oriented association, the report naturally slants toward those markets, and many sample quotes from those surveyed blame Brexit as much as Covid for their current employment prospects. Nonetheless, the statistics and opinions given in the report echo situations facing the North American corner of the industry and are worth noting.
The report found 45 percent of businesses surveyed had taken on debt, while the lack of work left many freelancers with little choice but to find employment in other industries, resulting in an exodus of 64 percent of the work force. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that 74 percent of employers surveyed had their doubts about the availability of skilled workers as they began looking to staff up events and tours for the summer. At the time of the survey, 69 percent of companies reported a shortage of available crew, riggers, engineers and technicians.
Compounding the problem, an estimated 50 percent of available freelancers have not returned full time to the industry, with 17 percent migrating into film and television work. While the U.S. has a robust audio education infrastructure that is helping develop the next generation of suitable audio pros, other parts of the world have fewer audio programs, and providers surveyed in those regions are less hopeful about new graduates being fully prepared for working in a professional environment.
As a result, there is no quick solution, particularly as 38 percent of companies reporting said they would have to take on trainees or new entry-level workers as they readied for the summer season. PLASA noted that audio vendors felt there was a “real risk of not meeting the increasing audience demand for live entertainment and cultural events throughout 2022.”
Respondents to the survey did, however, note that the exodus had resulted in a rare opportunity for experienced freelancers to move ahead to higher levels of responsibility, as there are generally more roles available than people to fill them. The caveat, however, is that many of those roles are not paying as much as they have in years past. One respondent quoted in the report noted, “Pay and conditions are sufficiently bad that it is very difficult to be able to justify returning. I have applied for multiple positions which pay less than working fulltime for a supermarket.” If more seasoned pros don’t return to the workforce, that may provide opportunities for some, but it will also raise safety concerns, as comparatively inexperienced people may wind up having to fill positions with less training under their belts than their predecessors.
Despite the gloomy outlook, the report also noted that the pros surveyed expected to see the current situation turn around in seven-to-18 months—meaning from May 2022 onward. With pent-up demand for shows from audiences, the pervasive adoption of vaccines and boosters by the public, and the increased opportunity for outdoor events during the warmer months, that expectation is one that all pros in the industry can agree on, regardless of where they are on the globe.
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