Covid-19 music industry update: Gigs impossible in top two local lockdown tiers, European venues report, and more

Covid-19 music industry update: Gigs impossible in top two local lockdown tiers, European venues report, and more

Music Week is monitoring the impact of the Covid-19 spread around the globe on the biz.

The outbreak has wreaked havoc on the live music sector, leading to widespread festival and tour cancellations and the announcement of the government's £1.57 billion arts emergency fund.

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Concerts seemingly impossible under top two tiers of new government local lockdown measures 

Gigs, socially distanced or otherwise, have effectively been banned in areas of England placed under a "high" and "very high" alert level.

The Prime Minister announced a new series of tiered local lockdown measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in the House Of Commons today (October 12), and while live music was not mentioned directly, households and support bubbles subject to the strongest two levels of restrictions will no longer be able to mix indoors from Wednesday making gigs impossible. 

Additionally, in areas under "very high" restrictions households are also banned from mixing in private or in gardens while pubs and bars must also close.

Areas under the medium level of restrictions will remain subject to the current rule of six and a 10pm curfew for hospitality, so with socially distant concerts taking place under these rules recently gigs could, presumably, continue. 

So far it has been confirmed that Merseyside – including  Liverpool – will be placed in the "very high alert" category.

European venues’ 70% slump in performances

According to the European body Live DMA, most of the 2,600 live music venues and clubs it represents are in “survival mode”.

Due to government regulations, music venues and clubs had to cancel or reschedule all their events. ? 
The study estimates that 2,600 venues will programme around 664,000 fewer artist performances this year (a 70% decline). That will result in €369 million (£337m ) less spent on programme costs, most of which is artists fees.

According to the report, only 17 million audience visits will happen instead of the 70 million visits planned for 2020, leading to an estimated €1.2bn (£1.1bn) loss in audience income for the 2,600 music venues, while fixed costs such as employment and housing costs remain.

NI live music ban

The Musicians’ Union has expressed its concern about the decision by the Northern Ireland Executive to introduce a range of restrictions, which will effectively ban live music in the region.

Caroline Sewell, MU regional organiser, said: “The MU is deeply concerned about the effective ban on live music in Northern Ireland which was announced in the last few days. Musicians have suffered acutely throughout this crisis with their livelihoods completely disappearing in the vast majority of cases. We are keen to hear from the Executive and to gain an understanding of the evidence that has driven this decision.”

Dave Webster, national organiser for live performance, said: “It’s hard to understand why, with the correct social distancing measures in place, live music can’t take place in Northern Ireland. We don’t recognise the reasoning for such damaging restrictions and it seems unfair to penalise musicians further in these already difficult times.” 

Tom Kiehl, acting CEO of UK Music, said: “Live music is incredibly important to Northern Ireland. It sustains thousands of jobs and in a normal year would generate millions for the local economy. UK Music asks the Northern Ireland Executive to reconsider this ban and support actions that will aid music’s eventual recovery.”

Camp Bestival back in 2021

Camp Bestival will return to Lulworth Castle on July 29 to August 1 next year.

The line-up includes Fatboy Slim, Friendly Fires, Tim Burgess, Groove Armada, Becky Hill, Kelis and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. 

Camp Bestival co-curators Josie & Rob da Bank said it aims to be “the best family festival you’ve ever witnessed”.

UK Council Of Music Makers

The UK Council of Music Makers (CMM) - comprising the FAC, The Ivors Academy, MMF, MPG and the MU – has called on the government to urgently implement a sector-specific funding package to support individual workers of the music industry

In an open letter, the trade body wrote: “As the united voice of music creators and performers, CMM writes to you in consideration of preserving the workforce, the highly-skilled foundation of the music industry. While we welcome the provisions in the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan - VAT reduction, Bounceback Loan payback extension, extension to SEISS and the Job Support Scheme - these measures do not go far enough for our industry. 

“Events, arts and culture industries have three times more the national average of workers on furlough and the music industry has freelance workforce of 72% (a portion of some 190,000 jobs), many of whom continue not to qualify for support under such schemes. The implication that the occupations of many in this world-beating music business are not ‘viable’ does not marry with its large-scale contribution to the economy.”

The letter added: “In addition to other restrictions, as we look to another business quarter with no live music, and nowhere in sight for it to return in full, we urgently need support to avoid the decay of our industry, the hardship experienced by our workforce and the mass exodus of highly-skilled individuals, which will result in irreparable damage to lives, businesses and the world-class standing of the UK music industry.

“We call for a specific and robust financial support package for the workforce of the music industry and look forward to working with you on finding a solution with the utmost urgency. As much of the workforce faces further redundancies, financial devastation and irreparable damage, we need action now before we lose our talent and economic value for good.” 

Curfew concerns

The Night-Time Industries Association has reported on the impact of the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England

Michael Kill, CEO, NTIA, said: "Feedback from over 300 night-time economy businesses on Thursday and Friday night across the country reported a catastrophic drop in trade, showing on average 62% down on previous weeks, believed to be solely due to the implementation of the new restrictions.”

He added: "Many business operators reported that customers were unwilling to allow the curfew to limit their evenings, and that many were seeking alternative locations to continue there social experience. It is very clear that the systematic closure of businesses at the same time has been counterproductive, culminating in overcrowding on public transport and dispersal routes.

"The sector has been very explicit in its feedback to the government regarding the impact of a 10pm curfew on the night-time economy, but we are yet to see the scientific evidence to substantiate the decision to implement this and we feel the sector has been unfairly targeted."

NTIA and MVT react to government curfew

The government has introduced a 10pm curfew for pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England. Rules on face coverings have been expanded, while fines for breaking the rules have increased to £200 for the first offence.

People are now being urged to work from home where possible to help curb the spread of Covid. It follows a recent campaign encouraging people to return to the workplace

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation in a live broadcast tonight (September 21).

Johnson said: "Today I set out a package of tougher measures in England - early closing for pubs, bars; table service only; closing businesses that are not Covid secure; expanding the use of face coverings, and new fines for those that fail to comply; and once again asking office workers to work from home if they can while enforcing the rule of six indoors and outdoors - a tougher package of national measures combined with the potential for tougher local restrictions for areas already in lockdown."

Mark Davyd, CEO, Music VenueTrust, said: "Closing night-time economy spaces is a serious measure with very significant impacts upon people’s businesses, jobs and livelihoods. Closing them during their most economically rewarding hours, 10pm to 1am, is an equally serious measure which will have precisely the same impacts.

"If it is required to be done for the protection of public health, then it should, we regrettably agree, be done. In the event of a 10pm curfew being required on the basis of scientific evidence, HM Government must recognise that this is a decision that must be made for the benefit of the country, and that therefore the country has a responsibility to the businesses and people impacted by that decision.

He added: "Businesses impacted by this decision must have the full furlough scheme extended immediately, and a financial support package must be created and provided to ensure such businesses survive this crisis. Since the beginning of this crisis, Music Venue Trust has been committed to reopening every venue safely. That remains our goal. We invite HM Government to sign up to this aim by providing clarity around their statement, and by ensuring that any relevant financial support required is made available, to guarantee it remains achievable."

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, said: “This announcement of a 10pm curfew for hospitality is yet another devastating blow to the already beleaguered night-time economy, struggling to survive and in desperate need of sector-specific financial support from the government. This curfew will lead to the demise of many of our most beloved cultural and entertainment venues.

“Businesses in the night-time economy are both shocked and disappointed by the government’s continued targeting of restrictions on late-night venues and bars, partially open at a fraction of their capacity, when they have admitted that the majority of transmission takes place in households. As a result of this measure, we foresee a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot beds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues”

Sound City confirms 2021 dates

Sound City is to return on April 30 to May 2 in Liverpool. Venues in the city will host new and emerging acts.

The line-up includes Rejjie Snow, Red Rum Club, Working Men’s Club, Jamie Webster, The Snuts, The Murder Capital and The Mysterines. 

Managing director Rebecca Ayres said: “It brings me great joy to announce the first names and details for Sound City 2021. In an incredibly tough year for all of us in the music and events industry, it’s now more important than ever to support live music and new exciting music - something we’ve lead the way on for nearly 14 years. 2021 looks set to be our biggest Sound City to date, with incredible names like Rejjie Snow, Working Men’s Club and The Murder Capital, as well as unmissable local talent in Red Rum Club, The Mysterines, Louis Berry and Jamie Webster to name but a few, with more still to announce. 2020 may have passed us by, so it looks like we’ll have to pack twice the amount of fun into 2021.”

Sound City is once again the UK’s lead festival partner for Keychange, a global movement focused on the restructuring of the music industry to achieve gender equality. 

Musicians Union reports ‘devastating’ impact

A third (34%) of musicians are considering abandoning the industry due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. New research from the Musicians’ Union, reveals nearly half (47%) of its members have already been forced to seek work outside of the industry, with seven in 10 (70%) unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work. 

With furlough schemes coming to an end, 87% of musicians who were covered by the schemes say they will be facing financial hardship, and a third (33%) didn’t even qualify for any of the support available. As a result, nine in 10 (88%) believe the government has not done enough to support musicians during the pandemic.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “These figures are devastating and show how many musicians are struggling financially and at real risk of leaving music for good. In better times, our members drive a £5bn music industry with their talent. One artist’s gig will create a domino effect of jobs – from lighting technicians to ticket sellers. If one musician is out of work, you can be sure many others will be affected too. 

“We appreciate all the government has done to support our members through the furlough and self-employment income support schemes so far, but they must not abandon musicians now. With social distancing measures still in place, venues can only sell at around 30% of usual capacity. We are calling on the government to implement a seat-matching scheme, which would take venues’ potential revenue to 60%, providing a lifeline to musicians and the wider industry.

“Getting musicians back to work is the priority. However, this is simply not realistic for so many of our members while social distancing remains in place. We strongly urge the government to recognise the unique situation that our members are in and to provide sector specific financial support for musicians.”

Royal Albert Hall appeal

To coincide with the Royal Albert Hall giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee on the viability of performance venues to open adhering to social distancing rules, the venue is launching a plea for public donations to help ensure its survival.

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Hall to close its doors on, it lost 96% of its income overnight. In the six months since then, it has forgone £18m in income and had to refund over £6.5m of ticket sales. 

Despite recent fanfare regarding the Government’s £1.57bn rescue package for the arts sector, the Hall is not eligible for an emergency grant, but has instead been advised to apply for a loan.

Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, said: “Six months on from enforced closure, and circa £18m down in lost income, we are not eligible for any of the government’s emergency grants. This leaves us in an extremely perilous position, with no way of replacing our lost income, apart from a government loan which may or may not materialise. 

“We raised concerns months ago about the potential for independent, unfunded organisations such as the Royal Albert Hall to miss out on government support, and especially having been held up by government as a ‘crown jewel’ that must be saved. With millions of pounds of essential building work called to a halt owing to Covid we had hoped to be eligible for a capital grant but have been informed that, as we are not a portfolio of nationally spread sites, we are not eligible for this scheme.

“We are fortunate to have supportive members and private donors who have given generously, but unfortunately, the ‘Rescue Package’ fanfare has given many potential donors the false sense that we are being sufficiently supported elsewhere. The Royal Albert Hall now faces a bleak future unless it can secure not only a repayable government loan, but also urgent donations to plug our current £20m shortfall.” 

BMI London Awards

The BMI London Awards is to stage a virtual event on October 5.

The digital tribute on and social media channels will recognise the Song Of The Year, the UK and European songwriters and publishers of the most performed songs last year in the US, and the BMI Million-Air winners.

The ceremony is not going ahead as an event because of the pandemic.

Encore Live

Encore Live has lined up Kane Brown as the latest artist to perform for its drive-in concert series.

Brown will air his new show for one night only on September 26 at drive-in and outdoor cinemas across the United States and Canada as part of the Encore Drive-In Nights events.

“We are so humbled by fans’ response to Encore Drive-In Nights following the recent success of our Metallica and Blake Shelton events,” said Walter Kinzie, CEO of Encore Live. “We are excited that Kane Brown, who is such a great artist, has joined our initiative. Our team has been working incredibly hard to provide people with fun and safe enjoyment this year and so far we’ve entertained more than 730,000 fans all over North America. Kane’s upcoming show is further proof that people are really into the drive-in concert experience.”

Southbank Centre announces new season of events

The Southbank Centre has announced that from September 17-December 30, it will present Inside Out, an autumn season featuring events across the arts.

There will be 30 orchestral concerts including the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2020 Vision series. There will also be 10 of these concerts broadcasted live on BBC Radio 3.

Musicians such as Tasmin Little, Víkingur Ólafsson, Roderick Williams, Alina Ibragimova and Pekka Kuusisto are also set to perform as well as an appearance from Kae Tempest for a literature event.

The event will be streamed online throughout with more details to come later this month.

Director of Music and Performing Arts at the Southbank Centre, Gillian Moore, said: “We are delighted to welcome back our Resident & Associate Orchestras this Autumn to launch their 20/21 season, alongside some of the greatest authors, writers and thinkers of our time, exploring some of the most urgent issues of the day.

“The Royal Festival Hall needs to reverberate again and we are so grateful to all our partners who will be helping us bring it back to life, allowing us to reconnect with our audiences through streaming and radio broadcasts. We need the arts to make sense of the world: they show us how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go. Never have we needed them more.”

Music Industry Trusts’ Award postponed

The annual Music Industry Trusts’ Awards have been postponed until November 1 2021.

Held at Grosvenor House, this year would have marked its 29th year and supports the BRIT Trust and Nordoff Robbins charity, sponsored by Hipgnosis, PPL, SJM Concerts and Spotify.

Chairman of the MITS Award committee, David Munns OBE, said: “It is with great regret that we have decided to postpone our highly-anticipated ceremony. Right now our number one priority is the health and safety of our guests and like many other charitable organisations we have had to make the difficult decision to reschedule the ceremony until a more suitable time. We are incredibly grateful to Grosvenor House for their ongoing support and for hosting us each year. We look forward to announcing the recipient and celebrating at next year’s ceremony.”

Amsterdam Dance Event confirms speakers for virtual conference

Electronic festival, the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), is set to go digital-first for its conference from October 21-25.

The first speakers have been confirmed for the ADE Pro conference including James Blake in conversation with mental health expert Jennie Morton, Deborah Mannis-Gardner on music clearance and panels with Bandcamp’s Aly Gillani, VFX specialist Angelo White, VEVO’s Claudia de Wolff, BBC Radio 1 DJ Jaguar and industry entrepreneur Merck Mercuriadis.

Virgin Money Unity Arena

Frank Turner, Jack Savoretti and the Lighthouse Family are the latest acts to be announced by Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle. Turner will play the socially distanced outdoor venue on September 7, followed by Savoretti (September 18) and the Lighthouse Family (September 19). 

Festival organiser Steve Davis, of SSD Concerts, said: “We are delighted to add further shows to what has been an amazing and uplifting project for the North East’s Music Industry. The new additions add further quality to what is already an amazing line-up of talent.

“It’s amazing to see show after show customers are complying with the guidelines and enjoying this safe outdoor arena. We hope to return to normal as soon as possible but for now, we offer the best alternative in the world to a live gig experience.”

Signature Brew live

East London-based brewery Signature Brew is launching a live music series.

Launching this week, Signature Brew will host a raft of live music, from Jamie Lenman and Rob Lynch, ending the week with an exclusive album launch for DRS & Dynamite MC’s latest record, In the Dark, including an album playback and music from DJ Zinc.

From September 7 to 11, DIY Magazine will be taking up residence at Signature Brew's Walthamstow venue for a week of live music, DJs, a retrospective photography exhibition and more to celebrate the magazine's 100th issue.

Taking place in an outdoor, Covid-secure space, the week will kick off with an invite-only exhibition private view with special guest DJs. From Tuesday to Thursday, DIY will then be putting on three intimate gigs headlined by magazine regulars, including Matt Maltese, Black Honey and Spector. Sports Team will DJ at a closing party on Friday, September 11.

Last Night Of The Proms

Last Night Of The Proms will be staged without an audience at the Royal Albert Hall on September 12. It will air live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC One. 

Despite reports that this year’s edition will not feature certain songs because of associations with colonialism and slavery, the BBC has confirmed that orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory will be performed.

Clubbing crisis

A new survey shows that 58% of businesses within the night-time economy fear they will not survive longer than two months without further government support. 

It would put an estimated 754,000 people’s jobs at risk, according to the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA). It comes as 71% of businesses surveyed are already set to make more than half of their workforce redundant in a matter of weeks.

The NTIA surveyed its members, who operate nightclubs, pubs, bars, live music venues, to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. One third of responders reported that they have been able to re-purpose at a typical cost of around £10-30,000 and with a dramatic negative impact on profitability.

Michael Kill, chief executive of NTIA, said: “These results feel like the final catastrophic blow to the Night-Time economy. These businesses cannot fight for their survival for much longer. The Night-Time Economy employs 1.3 million people in the UK and contributes £66bn to the UK economy per annum. Near enough every single business is on a dangerous cliff edge. These are the darkest of days for the night-time economy. 

“Without immediate additional help and clear indication of when we can re-open we are facing financial armageddon. This will result in the loss of one of the main cornerstones of Britain’s diverse arts and cultural tapestry. I implore the government to act on this data. Give us a clear roadmap on when businesses can reopen and reassurance that the financial support will be there to keep businesses financially afloat in the coming months.”

The NTIA is also part of a consortium that has launched a report, supported by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which examines the science behind Covid-19 and how to mitigate the spread of the virus. It calls on the government to allow for the reopening of clubs across the UK, and provides a roadmap for late night venues, including nightclubs, to do so safely and within government guidelines.

The report suggests that the safe operation of these venues can be assured by implementing a range of mitigating measures, many of which are already in place, including ID scans upon entry, temperature checks, contactless payment and crowd control.

Grassroots venues fund

Grassroots music venues across England are the first recipients of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. Click here for the full story.

Deborah Annetts, CEO, Incorporated Society Of Musicians, said: “While we welcome this funding for a limited number of venues, many musicians will not be able to fully return to work until performance venues can safely reopen without social distancing. Unless more grassroots venues are supported to address the challenges raised by recent government coronavirus research, many are likely to remain closed and freelancers will not be able to earn a living through live performance.

“However even with further funding, there will still be virtually no work for the vast majority of musicians. This announcement follows the open letter coordinated by the ISM and Equity, which called for an extension of financial support for freelancers until the Spring of next year. Signed by over 120 organisations from across our sector and published in The Guardian earlier this week, we asked the Chancellor to prevent an exodus of talent as many freelancers have had no work since March.” 

Singing study

According to a new study on the spread of Covid-19, singing does not produce substantially more respiratory particles than speaking at a similar volume. However, the results vary depending according to how loud a person is.

Responding to the results of the PERFORM trial, the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ CEO Deborah Annetts said: “While we welcome this research, there remains cause for concern that musicians will not be able to fully return to work until performance venues can safely reopen without social distancing. The government must produce clear, evidence-based guidelines to address the challenges highlighted by this study around the volume of vocalisations, the number of participants and the duration of the activity. This is essential to enable more of our members to transition safely back to work and help rebuild the music industry.” 

The study follows the open letter coordinated by the ISM and Equity, which called for an extension of financial support for freelancers until the Spring of next year.

“Unless venues are supported to address the specific problems relating to ventilation raised by this research, both small, grassroots and world-renowned heritage venues will be disproportionately impacted,” said Annetts. “With many venues likely to remain closed as a result, freelancers will not be able to earn a living through live performance.”

Life Stream festival

Exit festival is staging Life Stream as a one-off event at the MTS Dance Arena from September 3-6. 

Life Stream brings together global and regional artists to draw attention to a project implemented by EXIT in collaboration with the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organisation.

The line-up will be led by artists including Charlotte de Witte, Adam Beyer and Ben Klock; plus digitally, via a special screen, Carl Cox, Nina Kraviz and Paul Van Dyk. 

Life Stream will be available online around the world, as well as a limited number of visitors at the Petrovaradin Fortress site. During the artists’ performances, video materials and messages will be broadcast pointing out the topics of environmental protection and the famine crisis.

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