Cruel summer: How will the music industry cope without live music this festival season?

Reading Festival

It was the final, inevitable cancellation of Reading & Leeds Festivals that did it for me.

That was the definitive signal that this summer is a write-off as far as live music is concerned. Whatever happens, we won’t be having that last backstage pint after Rage Against The Machine on Sunday, as we wave off another glorious season of incredible outdoor shows.

We won’t be looking back at Taylor Swift proving herself the greatest pop star of her generation at British Summer Time. We won’t be remembering Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer destroying the London Stadium with pop-punk joy on The Hella Mega Tour or Guns N’Roses levelling Spurs’ new ground with sheer rock power. There will be no Glastonbury, no Download, no Isle Of Wight, nor any of the smaller, yet equally essential events that make the UK outdoor gig season the envy of the world.

We'll be missing out on those moments that can unite a field of total strangers into one joyous, communal mass

Music Week

Beyond the headliners, we'll also be missing out on those smaller, but equally significant moments. The new acts smashing into the public consciousness on the smaller stages and the mid-tier bands taking a great leap forward in a mid-afternoon slot. Those secret sets at one of Glastonbury's far-flung stages or the surprise guest appearance that can unite a field of total strangers into one joyous, communal mass.

Missing out on such transcendental occasions will affect countless careers, while we’ve been robbed of a summer of wonderful memories. But, as the long weeks of lockdown tick down, I find I miss the more mundane live moments almost as much. The Monday night showcases, the midweek treks across town to check out a buzz band that may turn out to be all-hype, no-substance – or might just change your life.

I can’t wait for someone to tap me on the shoulder and ask if they can stand in front of me for a better view. I long to be buttonholed at the bar by a music biz hustler keen to push a new project, and for over-refreshed moshers to stand on my foot on their way to the pit. And I look forward to our only worry being whether to run for the tube or stay at the aftershow and get an Uber home instead.

So let’s make a vow now. One day, when we’re on the other side of this, let’s savour every incredible moment that live music brings us, and never fail to appreciate the cast of thousands that bring us those moments. And, this August Bank Holiday weekend, let’s raise a glass and look forward to all the great gigs to come, not back, to the summer that never was.

* To read our cover story on how the music industry is planning for no festival season, click here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.


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