As the UK lockdown prepares to ease, and a summer of live events is cautiously approaching, it’s time for touring musicians to dust off their stage attire once more.
But once they’ve packed up their instruments in preparation, what sort of touring circuit can they look forward to? One thing’s for certain, it won’t exactly look like the live music scene of 2019.
Here’s what we think will be waiting for musicians and audiences alike:
The great outdoors
With concerns around air circulation and potential contamination, indoor gigs won’t be on the bill for a little while. Open air gigs will be the first to be permitted, with some festivals such as Reading and Leeds already starting to announce that they expect to go ahead in 2021. We could also see new micro festivals popping up all over the country, taking the place of the larger festivals that still may not have enough lead-in time to get their act together for this summer. With everything being pinned on outdoor gigs, we can also expect to see some interesting infrastructure being put in place to support that. Will we see temporary amphitheatres? Outdoor heating? Fields of sofas? It could get pretty wild, so cross your fingers that the British weather holds up for a summer of sunshine.
Once we are allowed to gather again, event organisers are going to have to make their space work harder than before. Audience sizes will need to be drastically reduced at first to allow for social distancing, with this hopefully easing off before the end of the year. With that in mind, prepare to look out from the stage to see a crowd that looks like they’ve all fallen out with each other. How this might work once a few drinks are thrown into the equation we don’t yet know, but with Reeperbahn Festival pulling off a successful socially distanced festival in Hamburg in 2020, we do know it can be done.
Rapid testing… maybe
On site testing is being debated by event organisers and tech companies in advance of restarting events, but it’s not yet clear how feasible this might be. Clubs have pointed out how unrealistic it is to ask people to rock up, get a test at the door and then wait around for results before they can go in. But with ticketed gigs and festivals the appetite might be a little different, and people may be more willing to turn up earlier for something they’ve already invested in. A game-changer would be an instant and affordable test, and we’re sure there are a whole load of people working on that as we speak.
We’re still a way off from being able to zip around the world attending or playing at international events. While that might not affect you when it comes to gigs and festivals in the UK, it could affect the line-ups of gigs and festivals in this country. That headling act from Canada? Maybe they’re on the red list and can’t make it now. Do we cancel the gig? These are all questions event organisers and performers will need to address as we start to open up live events again.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that digital events are very much A Thing now. Bringing back live events won’t change that, in our opinion. Having just had a crash course in taking their work online, it’s unlikely that events, venues and artists are suddenly going to forget about everything they learned during lockdowns. Added to that the fact that reduced capacities will stop some fans from getting into events, and you’ve got a situation that’s ripe for a hybrid approach. So from now on, expect that everything you attend or perform at will include a digital element of some kind.
Above all, be prepared for everything to change very suddenly at any time. A new strain? A new treatment? A new wave? A new rule? Let’s not rule anything out. So above all else, consider every booking to be in pencil rather than in pen – at least for the moment.
About the Author
Kate is a music journalist who has written for zines, national and international publications. She’s produced video content for festivals and has travelled around the world reporting on music, tech and culture events. Alongside covering music and culture, Kate also produces live digital events and researches new technology for live performance.