During the month of December losses across the live music sector hit a staggering £2 million with the main cause of cancellations being that touring parties tested positive for Covid-19. Additionally, sales figures across the industry declined to just 23.6% according to the leading grassroots music charity Music Venue Trust. In just one week (6-13 December), ticket holders who did not show up due to fear of omicron resulted in £859,386 of lost revenue across the sector.
The lack of support and guidance from the government means that artists and music venues are left in limbo, as venues remain open but musicians, including Wolf Alice and Miles Kane, are now choosing to cancel shows once again due to safety concerns. However some disabled artists lack the privilege of choosing to cancel and instead are forced to cancel for their own safety.
In the week ending 31 December, one in 15 people in the UK had Covid-19, while London recorded the highest number of cases with one in 10 people contracting the virus.
Whilst Germany has placed legally binding rules to ensure disabled people are treated fairly should hospitals become overwhelmed, there has been no response from the government on supporting disabled and clinically vulnerable people, despite increased NHS staff absences and non-essential appointments and surgeries being cancelled.
With one in 3 jobs in the music industry lost to the pandemic last year, many disabled musicians and charities that support disabled creatives are warning that without government intervention many may face permanent unemployment and at risk of poverty.
Disabled artists are more likely to be vulnerable to the virus, and by leaving the industry to self-regulate the government has essentially asked artists to risk their lives by performing. Many disabled people are also struggling to get their booster jab, meaning they are at an even greater risk of infection. One woman who is housebound due to chronic illness explained to me “I'm severely immunosuppressed and so need three primary doses and a booster. But like many, my third dose was recorded as a booster. So I was unable to book my booster in early December when it was due.” She then went on to say that despite her GP giving her a letter to explain this, she's still unable to book an appointment at the booster clinic.
Anusha Stribbling is an emerging disabled musician from Berkshire. Speaking to Voice, she said: “The industry is trying to push so hard for in-person events not realizing that the reality of in-person events doesn't exist for those with disabilities… I personally tried to reach out to a venue to see if they would support doing in person and virtual events for musicians so that disabled musicians could be supported during this time but they outright rejected my proposal. I fear that disabled musicians are going to be left by the wayside”.
Many disabled music fans also fear attending live events due to the rise of the Omicron variant, meaning that both disabled artists and fans are in a difficult position.
More needs to be done in order to protect clinically vulnerable and disabled musicians as well as their fans. Whilst many musicians are against vaccine passports due to the idea it may reduce venue capacity and in turn lower revenue streams, perhaps this is the only way forward to protect all involved.