Working in the music business last week felt like being in the first 20 minutes of a disaster film. You knew something bad was coming, it was just a question of when.
And then rapidly, the dominoes started falling: South By Southwest, Coachella, MUSEXPO, C2C, Big Weekend, Record Store Day, countless live shows, big and small. All postponed, with varying degrees of fallout for organisers and participants.
As I write, the UK has yet to enact a formal lockdown, although it may well happen soon enough. But everywhere you look, the potential impact of the pandemic on almost every aspect of the music business is already looking very serious indeed.
On the financial markets, companies from Live Nation to Vivendi have seen billions wiped off their market cap. Indie acts and labels have had their 2020 plans and finances thrown into disarray by the loss of SXSW. The loss of footfall will hit physical music retailers hard.
For many, live music remains a high-stakes gamble and the coronavirus crisis stacks the odds against them
But it’s the live business where coronavirus could really cause problems. America’s ban on travel from Europe and country-wide lockdowns in Italy and other places will make world tour routing logistically impractical and financially unviable, even if artists, crew and audiences were still up for it. No wonder the live biz's biggest players have formed a taskforce and announced the suspension of most major tours until at least April.
In recent years, many have looked to touring as a surefire bet. And maybe at the top end – the big promoters, venues and agencies, the most popular artists – it has been. But for the independents and smaller players in the sector, live music remains a high-stakes gamble, and this situation stacks the odds against them.
With office closures growing across the biz, many people reading this are no doubt preparing to work remotely for at least a couple of weeks. But while it's important to observe the social distancing protocols, really, this is a time for the industry to work closer together, not self-isolate.
A lot of people in this business are going to need support in the coming months. Music Week stands ready to help in any way we can. Join us.