Scottish music industry is facing summer of discontent if railway crisis is unresolved – Brian Ferguson

A recent conversation with a leading Scottish music promoter was an eye-opening experience.

A gloomy picture was painted of a turbulent time ahead for an industry on a rocky road to recovery after two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

Anyone expecting a box office bonanza following the easing of Covid curbs in the spring has had something of a rude awakening.

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Sluggish sales for newly announced festivals and concerts have had alarm bells ringing for months, amid various theories as to why the expected return of demand has not yet materialised.

Commuters and travellers at Edinburgh's Waverley Station on the first day of ScotRail's new temporary timetable (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

A key factor has undoubtedly been the number of shows and events which have been rescheduled for this year and are still to take place. Many people holding onto tickets for events they paid for as far back as 2019 may be restricted in being able to commit both the time and money for other events.

Another crucial element is the escalating cost-of-living crisis, which has hardly been out of the headlines this year and must surely be curbing demand for tickets.

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Then there is the fact that the summer events calendar is as cluttered as I can recall it, although there have been recent casualties.

The Summer Sessions concert series is due to return to Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh this summer (Picture: Ryan Johnston)

Colourboxx, in Glasgow, and Breakout, in Kirkcaldy, were two of the highest profile additions this year, but have already been scrapped. Despite an array of big names, tickets are still available for The Big Top concert series at Ingliston, which has already seen a Snow Patrol show cancelled and a DMA’s gig moved to the Corn Exchange.

Ingliston is also home to the reinvented Connect festival, which will be staged at the end of August, in direct competition with all of the other events being held in the city over the holiday weekend.

The full scale of the comeback plans of Edinburgh’s festival will not be clear until mid-July, however there are already well over 2,000 shows to choose from.

Hampden Park in Glasgow is hosting ten gigs over the summer, including Liam Gallagher, Gerry Cinnamon, Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris and Coldplay. Tickets were still available for all of them yesterday.

Elsewhere, there is still availability for outdoor shows by Amy Macdonald and Duran Duran in Inverness, Texas in Stirling, and Deacon Blue at Edinburgh Castle.

Given all of the above, it is little wonder that many of those involved in the music industry are despairing at the prospect of prolonged disruption to rail services over the summer.

It goes without saying that many of those who have booked tickets will have been relying on getting the train home from their show. The last thing they will want to do is have to make alternative arrangements, especially if they are going to add significantly to the cost of their day or night out.

But even more of a concern for promoters and event organisers is how much impact the ScotRail dispute and the level of cuts imposed in its new temporary timetable will have on future ticket sales if it drags on indefinitely.

Audiences expect, demand and deserve better than being left abandoned on railway platforms, having to cram into overcrowded carriages or forced to fork out for an overnight stay or an expensive taxi home. A summer of discontent for many lies ahead unless there is a swift resolution.

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