Entertainer sector trends

Woman in top hat singing into microphone

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the entertainment sector

Entertainers are part of the leisure services industry and this sector tends to be one of the first to feel the effects of fluctuations in the economy. For most of the 2000s healthy economic conditions in the UK meant that individuals had high levels of disposable income available to spend on leisure services and demand for the services of a good entertainer is likely to have increased.

Leisure spending suffered as a result of the financial crisis in 2008. The downturn in the economy that followed the crisis continued for several years but then things started to pick up in 2013. The economic recovery continued throughout 2014 and into the first half of 2015 but slowed in the second half of 2015 and into 2016. It is likely that the fortunes of entertainers in your area will have fluctuated in line with the economy. The vote in June 2016 to leave the EU added further uncertainty to the economic outlook. However, consumers' expenditure on leisure activities held up reasonably well during 2017 although the economy as a whole saw a slowdown. 2018 saw consumers cutting back somewhat on going out as the uncertain economic conditions continued.

The pub sector (popular venues for live acts) performed strongly in the first half of the 2000s before levelling out in the mid 2000s and then starting to decline due to the uncertain economic climate, the ban on smoking in public places from 2006 (Scotland) and 2007 (rest of the UK) and the ongoing trend for people to drink at home rather than in the pub. The smoking ban affected demand from the pub sector's traditional customer base and as a result many now focus more strongly on food - this may have led to a fall in the number of pubs that offer live entertainment.

The mid 2010s saw a general decline in live music venues, particularly in London, where 35% have closed. In 2015 the Mayor commissioned a Music Venues Taskforce to report on the reasons for the decline and to formulate a rescue plan. The charitable organisation, the Music Venue Trust, aims to protect the long-term survival of grassroots music venues throughout the country. In October 2018 a number of organisations, including the Musicians Union and the Music Industries Association, pledged their support for a Pipeline Development Fund to tackle the challenges that continue to face grassroots venues. Initiatives like this may help to stop the decline in the number of venues.

In contrast, the weddings sector is comparatively 'recession-proof' and was not as affected as others during the economic slowdown. With the amount of money that couples are prepared to spend on a wedding having steadily increased and the number of people getting married apparently on an upward trend in the 2010s having been in decline for many years, the future of the weddings sector looks positive.

However, you'll need to take account of the fact that weddings are not spread evenly throughout the year or throughout the week. As would be expected, July and August are the most popular months for marriage, with a total of about 30% taking place then, followed closely by June and September (total about 25%) and then by April, May and October (total about 26%). The least popular months are January and February. More than 50% of marriages take place on a Saturday. The next most popular day, following a long way behind Saturday, is Friday, when about 20% take place. The remaining marriages are spread more or less equally over the remaining days.

The implementation of the Live Music Act in October 2012 was an important development for the live entertainment sector. This Act removed the requirement for small venues to be licensed for amplified music performances between 8am and 11pm, as long as the audience is 500 people or less. According to the industry body UK Music, the change in the law gave the potential for around 13,000 small venues to start holding live music events.

Matters which have affected entertainers in recent years have been the dispute between HM Revenue & Customs and the entertainment sector over the taxation status of performers and changes to the National Insurance rules in respect of Class 1 NICs. A change in the rules means that, from April 2014, entertainers who are engaged on contracts for services are treated as self-employed and the person who engages them no longer has to deduct Class 1 NICs. You should consult an accountant at an early stage for guidance on tax and National Insurance matters.

It must be pointed out that references to an 'entertainment sector' can be a little misleading as each town has differing levels of interest in seeing live performers, as do individual areas in each town. The success of an entertainer depends mostly on whether they are good enough to be popular and whether they have a sufficiently business-like approach.

Keep up to date with developments

Joining a trade association or union is an excellent way of keeping up to date with developments in your sector. Equity is probably the best known of these and their website includes a wealth of helpful resources to help people who are considering a career as a performer.

For musicians, the Musicians' Union is also a good starting point for getting more information. The Musicians Union has major offices across the UK and you can find out the office for your region by visiting their website.

The Stage is a useful website for anyone involved in the entertainment industry. It contains lots of information about all aspects of the entertainment sector, including news and comprehensive advice sections.

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