You might think holding a festival is as easy as booking a band and turning it up to eleven. Not so, says Hannah Blakey of Maurice Turnor Gardner
Once again Glastonbury has proved itself worthy of its reputation as the greatest music festival on the planet. The spectacular weekend in Somerset was littered with moments that will go down in festival history, from the Dalai Lama being treated to a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ on the Pyramid Stage to Lionel Richie getting a crowd of 100,000 people dancing on the ceiling.
Now thousands of festivalgoers have scrubbed away their glitter and face paint and adjusted back into the real world, plans for next year’s festival are already afoot, with organisers Michael and Emily Eavis confirming that the headliners for Glastonbury 2016 have been booked.
With Glasto ticket sales in 2014 recorded at ’35 million, festival organisation is clearly a lucrative business. For those attracted by the money-making potential of such an event or equally for those keen to achieve the demigod status of festival organiser Michael Eavis, below is a checklist of just a few of the legal issues to consider before bands are booked and porta-loos ordered.
First, noise is regularly noted as the major environmental impact of music festivals. Although any noise pollution caused by music festivals is temporary, a ‘one off’ event can still be regarded as statutory nuisance if the noise obstructs a neighbour’s use of their land.
Typically, on applying to the local council for a licence to hold a music festival (a key point on any festival organiser’s to-do list), conditions will be applied to the licence regarding noise. Environmental Health Officers may attend the festival to monitor sound levels to ensure they are within certain parameters.
To keep your neighbours onside, you may consider offering free or discounted tickets or even offer to pay for temporary relocation of residents in the immediate locality to ensure neighbourly relations are maintained.
Another issue for the committed festivalgoer to consider is the threat of trespass. With so many fellow campers milling around at all times of the day and night, protecting the sanctity of your tent can be tricky. To avoid concerned festival punters and dissuade potential unwanted tent rummagers, an organiser should ensure paths are well lit and security present as much as possible.
For your performers, particularly those travelling from overseas, immigration and tax will be key considerations. For those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, a Permitted Paid Employment visitor visa may be acquired. This allows a performer to enter the UK for up to a month to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system.
HMRC levies tax on the income of foreign musicians if related to their performance at a UK event. Further, there are (very unpopular) rules that impose UK tax on the global sponsorship income earned by non-resident musicians.
In order to calculate the percentage of this global income that is taxable in the UK, HMRC divides the number of days a foreign musician spends performing in the UK in a year by the total number of days the musician performs around the world.
For performers such as Kanye West, who has multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with Adidas and Absolut, a tax bill on even a tiny percentage of worldwide income could be a bitter pill to swallow. High appearance fees and promises of decadent ‘tour riders’ may therefore be required to persuade performers to sign up.
Clearly, the logistics involved in organising a music festival are highly complex, with the entire process potentially proving incredibly expensive. In fact, in 2014, despite ’35 million ticket sales, Glastonbury Festival reported a profit of only ’764,000. With this in mind, one wonders whether more fun may be had by leaving the organisation up to the time-worn professionals. Tickets for Glastonbury 2016 will be on sale in October.
Hannah Blakey works at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP