United Kingdom (March 23, 2023)—Following the peak of the pandemic, the concert industry blew the doors off in 2022, with acts of every kind hitting the road, playing to audiences everywhere that were starved for a good night out. While it was a blockbuster year at the box office, however, it also underlined continued problems that the live sound production sector faces in the wake of COVID. With that in mind, the UK’s Professional Lighting & Sound Association (PLASA) has released its The Live Sector in 2022 Report, revealing the results of a survey it conducted in November, 2022 among more than 1,300 live sound pros in 40-plus countries.
Many of the report’s findings are perhaps unsurprising: labor shortages are still up; Brexit and energy costs due to the war in Ukraine are affecting businesses; the vast majority of manufacturers are facing massive supply chain issues; and more. Some findings are surprising however, such as the return of freelance audio pros to the industry, suggesting that the institutional loss of experienced pros to other fields may have finally turned around.
Financially, the industry has mostly “bounced back” as predicted, with companies with over a million pounds turnover seeing positive growth, although those with under one million turnover are still generally making up ground. Also, most companies that took on debt during the pandemic are still paying it back.
Delays and shortages across the board remain, with 90% of manufacturers facing component delays and ¾ non-manufacturers facing delays in finished goods. Several reasons are cited, with Brexit leading the way.
Skills and work also remain affected, with employment down 10%, and ¾ of employers struggling to fill roles. And as a result, companies are delaying projects. Approximately half of employers do not think that graduates have the necessary skills, although a third indicate their need to hire apprentices to fulfill work.
The big exodus of freelancers may be over, with 90% of freelancers reporting they are back in the industry, either full or part time. Although a third report working 40+ hours a week, the average working week may have slightly shrunk, and more are working from home. However, long-term security for freelancers appears to have reduced, and there is much less international travel, though that is often placed at the feet of Brexit.
Overall, turnover and demand has increased, with the industry showing resilience and hope for a more predictable future. This year’s findings stand in contrast to 2021’s report which showed huge challenges and not much confidence for recovery.