The winners of the live music categories at the 2020 Music Week Awards have spoken out on how the embattled business can rebound next year.
SJM Concerts won Promoter Of The Year for the third time in five years and Primary Talent's Craig D'Souza was named Best Live Agent, while Festival Republic's Reading & Leeds took Festival Of The Year for its stellar 2019 edition, which starred the likes of Foo Fighters, Post Malone and Billie Eilish. In addition, See Tickets won the Ticketing Company award and The Forum in Tunbridge Wells claimed the Grassroots Venue: Spirit Of The Scene crown.
While the traditional awards ceremony was unable to go ahead due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all of the winners were interviewed and celebrated in this week's special edition of Music Week.
Reflecting on an extraordinarily challenging period for the business, SJM senior promoter Matt Wooliscroft said: “It’s been dismal. Undoing and redoing tour routes with no guarantee when the shows might happen, missing the rest of the staff, missing the audiences, artists, venues that make up our way of life. Our hopes for 2021? That we get to put on shows again. And good health for everyone."
For 2021 and going forward, I am actually very positive
Melvin Benn, Festival Republic
Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn described the past six months as "brutal", but said he was feeling "optimistic" about the industry's prospects for next year and beyond.
"It has been so difficult for everyone involved in the industry – artists, crew, fans, staff, everybody. It really has been nothing like anybody has seen before," said Benn, who cited mass testing via the incentive-based Full Capacity Plan as being key to the restart.
"For 2021 and going forward, I am actually very positive," said Benn, speaking in this week's magazine. "The Full Capacity Plan that I published in June, based on everyone being tested in advance of entry to a show or a festival, appears to be a route the government is taking. The testing capability and efficiency appears to be improving and I remain optimistic that as human beings, we will adapt and survive as we always do.”
D'Souza, agent for acts such as Stormzy, Dave and J Hus, described his Music Week Awards triumph as "bittersweet". "On one hand I feel incredibly proud, not least because of the other agents I was nominated alongside and the list of past winners, but then very quickly that pride is overrun with sadness for what the live music industry and the world is going through right now," he said.
”I’ve tried to retain composure and not lose sight of the long-term vision and goals for my artists. Staying on track to achieve those targets is key, so along with my artist managers, we’ve continued to focus not on what others are doing and when, but what we will do and what is right for our artists.”
On his main hopes for 2021, he offered: "That as much of our industry can survive what we’re going through currently and that there are brighter days ahead for everyone who works so hard within it."
Tunbridge Wells Forum co-owner Jason Dormon said his venue, like many others in the grassroots sector, has had to be adaptable during the pandemic and find solutions in adversity.
“Being a nimble team, we’ve quickly changed our business model and become a merch store, coffee shop and online community hub during closure," he said. "The community has responded and we’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by their support. Another real positive has been how many UK grassroots venues have come together via the Music Venue Trust. New lifelong collaborations and friendships have been forged that will make us all stronger going forward.
"Looking forward to 2021, we just hope to reopen. This could happen in spring when the party is going to be colossal and probably last for weeks and months to come."
PHOTO: James Bridle