Production Park
11 May 2023

The changing landscape: Plasa panel on what’s next for live industry

Better inclusivity and improved wellbeing, more opportunities for young people, legislation for freelancers and greater awareness of what job roles it takes to put on a global production – our panel at Plasa Leeds offered an insightful look at the future of the live experience and entertainment industry.

Featuring Production Park’s Lee Brooks, Academy of Live Technology’s Rachel Nicholson, Backlash Production’s Jamal Chalabi and TAIT’s Nicole Henson, led by Production Park's Robin Cramp. Here’s what they had to say… 

“It’s now a completely different landscape. The old rock and roll culture is changing.”

Jamal Chalabi has over 30 years experience managing tours and acts like Yungblud, Massive Attack, James Bay, Tom Jones, and Avicii. In that time he said, “before there was no book, no guidance or even health and safety. Everything happened through word of mouth and jobs were quite protective. People didn’t share contacts. It was unhealthy – the hours, the bullying, the rock and roll attitude. But it’s beginning to feel much more open now. There’s more inclusivity – it needed to change and it’s starting to change, especially post-covid.”

“We need to create opportunities for young people to try things in their formative years.”

Part of that change involves industry-focused education and awareness of what careers are out there. Rachel Nicholson is the head of Academy of Live Technology and said, “There’s a long-term issue of how we get new people into the industry. There’s a lot of reliance on independent charities and organisations like theatres to expose people to these kinds of careers. When these lose funding or close, we lose those first opportunities that often light the spark. There’s a critical period between 12 - 16 years where if there’s no chance to try something, young people (especially girls) think it’s not for them.”

“We can now advocate that the industry is stronger than ever and the careers are there.”

And that spark of early interest is needed for people to understand there are valuable careers attached to the things they love. This lack of awareness is part of the reason there’s a huge skills gap – there aren’t enough people coming into the industry.

Nicole Henson from TAIT, is also a former student of the Academy of Live Technology, and she said, “It wasn’t until starting at ALT that the idea of working not on the stage, but behind or at the side, was a thing. Not having exposure to the people who work in the technical roles puts blinders on you and the opportunities that are available. Studying Live Events Production allowed someone like me – who knew they wanted to be in this industry, but not what they could actually do – to explore all the different kinds of roles available.”

It's a collective effort to help make people aware of what’s out there, as Rachel said, “The creative industries is one of the fastest growing industries, with a bigger economic contribution than UK automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined. We need to take some responsibility for telling the different stories.”

Production Park’s founder Lee Brooks spoke about how it’s so positive to be facing challenges that are about growth, “going from three years ago where there were no jobs, to what’s now a healthy industry that needs more people to fulfil the jobs.”

He continued, “King Charles' Coronation demonstrated the profile of our industry from the drones to the stage production and crowd management. It’s a UK-wide story of talent pools, but how can we reinforce that to keep it going? There’s a huge export opportunity here.”

“Our industry is so important. It defines our culture and who we are as a society. Live events and music crosses boundaries and brings people together.”

One way we can reinforce talent pools is by protecting the gig economy, since a huge portion of this industry are freelance. Jamal suggested, “Legislation is very important to this. The wider industry didn’t really look after anyone during covid. We feed a huge number of industries – record production, film, television… The live industry is an absolute commodity and the bigger industries need to be feeding downstream to support the industry.”

Ending on a crucial message, Jamal said, “Our industry is so important. It defines our culture and defines who we are as a society. You saw people getting very polarised during the pandemic. Live events and music crosses boundaries of religion, language and different cultures and brings people together – they cross pollinate. It’s incredibly important to have in these times now.”

For more from Production Park on the importance of investing in live experience talent, read our piece here. For more about the businesses and organisations behind the panel, go to:

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