Live execs talk restarting the UK's concert business

Live execs talk restarting the UK's concert business

As plans to restart the UK concert business gather pace, live executives have spoken to Music Week about how the industry can recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

The latest issue of Music Week takes an in-depth look at the future of the industry, with the help of leading promoters and agents such as AEG Presents' Jim KingCAA's Emma BanksDHP FamilySolo Agency's John Giddings and ATC's Alex Bruford, along with National Association Arenas chair Lucy Noble

Noble said the sector was hopeful of getting back in action without the need for social distancing.

“With all the doom and gloom stories of not being able to open for quite some time, we’re hoping we won’t have to go down that road and it might be a bit more positive,” she said.

Noble, who is also artistic and commercial director, of the Royal Albert Hall, pointed to the example of South Korea, where an effective coronavirus tracing system along with other measures had enabled The Phantom Of The Opera stage production to reopen in Seoul.

“We would be looking at how we could do things along similar lines, with government and scientific guidance,” she said. 

Earlier this week, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn outlined details of the Full Capacity Plan a national campaign aimed at restarting the leisure economy at full capacity via an incentive-based testing scheme. Benn warned that proceeding with reduced capacity shows would be a "financial disaster" for the industry.

The domestic industry has been at a standstill since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but speaking in this week's magazine, Dan Ealam, director of reigning Music Week Awards Promoter Of The Year DHP Family, said there was a growing confidence that gigs could return sooner than initially feared. 

“The [most pessimistic] suggestions were autumn 2021 as being the first point you might see an arena show, and I think a few people have started changing their minds on that,” he said. “I’ve noticed a few venues being much more optimistic about being able to be open in January, for example, over the last week and we’re looking at big outdoor events for next year.”

Whilst many are focused on the 'vaccine or cure then let's get back to business' mantra, there is a strong possibility there may never be a vaccine or it could take years to make

Alex Bruford

ATC Live


Ray Winkler, CEO of entertainment architect Stufish, which has worked on productions by the likes of The Rolling Stones and Elton John, said much would depend on when a coronavirus vaccine can be developed.

“If we are lucky enough to find ourselves with a vaccine before the year’s end, then the reset button is going to be much gentler than if it happens 24 months from now, because a lot of the supporting industries will probably have gone out of business [by then],” he said. 

However, ATC Live's Alex Bruford, agent for acts such as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Metronomy, suggested the industry should not be pinning its hopes on a potential cure.

"The last two months has taught us making predictions is impossible, but in my opinion it will be about learning to live with the virus and managing the risk," he said. “Whilst many are focused on the ‘vaccine or cure then let’s get back to business’ mantra, there is a strong possibility there may never be a vaccine or it could take years to make.

"South Korea have proven how effective track and trace can be. The UK government are trialling a Covid test that gives results in 20 minutes. More than six million Australians have downloaded the tracking app. These are major steps forward and we have to work towards using the data, technology and science to allow society to effectively manage the risk and give people the choice to safely attend live events.”

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PHOTO: Stufish

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