Download Festival 2021 going ahead as Pilot event

Image Credit: Download Festival

After being cancelled in March, Download Festival is back on – as a government pilot festival to monitor Covid-19 transmission.

Moshing is back. In March, Download Festival announced that it was calling off this summer’s event, another musical casualty of the ongoing pandemic. The festival’s 4-6 June scheduling meant it would have taken place too early for the next stage of lifting the UK lockdown due on 21 June. But festival-goers can now rejoice – Download is back on, except this year as a trial to monitor the spread of coronavirus at large-scale events.

With a reduced capacity of 10,000, the one-off Download Pilot could well be the planned 10,000-capacity trial festival with camping which was announced by the UK government last month as part of its Event Research Programme. In a normal year, Download Festival usually has room for 111,000 people.

The significantly reduced capacity allows for revellers to be tested for Covid before entry. Ticket holders will need to take a lateral flow test at home, and take a PCR test beforehand too, but will be refunded if the result is positive. Five days after the festival, another PCR test will need to be returned to complete the research.

All the scientific hoop-jumping means that festival-goers can act like any other year at Download – camping, hugging, and of course moshing, all without wearing masks. The second phase of the government’s research programme comes after the news that the previous pilot events, including a day festival in Liverpool, returned no detectable spread of coronavirus. Only 15 people tested positive for Covid-19 out of 58,000 at the series of pilot events in May.

Download Pilot will take place at the festival’s usual home of Donnington Bridge from 18-20 June. Artists booked to perform include headliners Enter Shikari, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, and Bullet For My Valentine. Tickets went on sale today, Thursday 3 June.

Live Nation has already booked more concerts for next year than it did in all of 2019

Image credit: Kieran Webber

Although 2021’s live music prospects hang in the balance Live Nation are confident that 2022 will be an explosive year.

According to reports, the massive booking agent Live Nation has booked nearly double the number of shows for 2022 than it did in all of 2019. 

Among music fans, there is a lot of pent-up demand which is clearly replicated by the artists too who are looking to replace lost income. Not to mention wanting to experience the magic of live music. As 2021 is uncertain, most artists are looking to 2022 as the year that the live music industry finally returns in full form. 

However, with this many tours from bigger artists planned for 2022 it may have a negative effect on smaller shows.

Speaking about the intensity of their schedule for 2022 Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said: “Around the world, people are showing the need to get out and socialize once again which reinforces our expectation that a return to concerts will be the logical progression as vaccines are readily available to everyone who wants to get one.” He adds: “This is generally already the case in the U.S. where we are confidently planning our reopenings, particularly for outdoor shows, and we expect many of our other major markets will follow this summer.”

Rapino also commented: “We are already seeing confirmed major tour dates for 2022 up double digits from the same time pre-pandemic in 2019 for 2020. Many of these artists will have multi-year tours, spanning the U.S., Europe and often either Asia or Latin America, setting us up for a strong multi-year growth run.”

New exclusive virtual concerts from Spotify

Image Credit: Spotify

Spotify has announced a new virtual gig experience, featuring performances from The Black Keys and girl in red.

Spotify have announced the broadcast of ticketed virtual performances, to be released over the next month. Leon Bridges and The Black Keys are among the five artists playing the pre-recorded online concerts.

The shows, recorded in venues chosen by the artists, are intended as a gift from Spotify for those in countries where pandemic restrictions on live events haven’t yet been lifted. They’re also for everybody who isn’t quite ready to get back into a crowded space again.

The performances, made by Spotify in partnership with Driift, will be in different venues around the globe – intimate gigs with a runtime of between 40-75 minutes which fans will need to tune in at the scheduled time to watch.

The five livestreams are:

  • 27 May – The Black Keys in Mississippi at the Blue Front Café
  • 3 June – Rag’n’Bone Man from the Roundhouse in London
  • 10 June – Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff on a city bus journey from Brooklyn, New York, to Asbury Park in New Jersey 
  • 17 June – Leon Bridges in Los Angeles at the Gold-Diggers Hotel
  • 24 June – girl in red, performing in Oslo

Tickets are priced at $15 plus tax. Fans will of course need to create a free Spotify account to buy tickets. Spotify’s intuitive targeting ads will ensure users who are already fans of the artists are made aware of the gigs, with The Black Keys fans beginning to be notified from 19 May.

The Black Keys said: “The past year has been tough for musicians and fans alike, so we wanted to find a way to share this live performance of songs from our new project, Delta Kream, from a place we love, the Blue Front Café, the oldest active juke joint in America. We’re excited to be a part of this new initiative with Spotify that will give fans a great way to connect with their favourite artists.”

Spotify also announced it would be “integrating concerts into the overall listening experience by making performances easier to find,” so that listeners can better track events by their favourite artists.

Tickets for the virtual concert series are available here.

UK festival with 10,000 capacity and camping planned for June

The UK government’s live events coronavirus research programme continues with a large three-day event with camping being organised, to assess how to deal with an outbreak at festivals.

A festival with 10,000 people camping is being organised for June, as part of continuing research into how to reopen live events safely as pandemic restrictions ease in the UK.

According to the Managing Director of live music organisers Festival Republic, the three-day festival will be a scientific study focusing on how to handle an outbreak of coronavirus at a festival.

Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn told IQ the plans are a follow-up to trials such as the audience at the BRIT Awards and the event in Liverpool that saw 5,000 music lovers gather at Sefton Park for a one-day festival. Those events were organised to lend confidence to the government’s planned roadmap of all live events resuming on 21 June. A larger scale event would present scientists with further data to analyse before the festival season kicks off.

Benn said: “The camping event, because it’s three or four days, will actually be about testing the protocol of how to deal with anyone that might have Covid at the event. It’s about testing the protocols around using Covid certification on the NHS app, and it’s also around testing the protocols of what the SAGE scientists here in the UK want, which is at-home testing for all attendees that don’t have the vaccination and that are not immune.”

Benn also reasoned that the UK government consider public transport as more of a worry for spreading the virus than live events themselves. It’s a fair thought – stringent safety measures will presumably be in place at venues, but movement of punters before and after the events is something far harder to keep under control.

The fate of festivals in the UK this summer are still very much up in the air – many organisers are waiting on confirmation of insurance cover as reassurance that full-scale planning can commence. Whilst festivals like Glastonbury and Boomtown have cancelled, events like the Reading and Leeds, Truck and Wireless festivals are due to go ahead and have revealed their lineups.

Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan Announces £6 million Campaign To Bring Back Live Music In London

Image credit: Kieran Webber

The re-elected Mayor of London has vowed to pour £6 million in funding to bring back live music to London.

The re-elected London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has vowed to put £6 million in funding to bring back live music in London. 

Before the pandemic, London was a cultural hub, especially for live music. Unfortunately, the pandemic struck a massive blow to the cities live music sector and other cultural sectors. For over a year the live music sector has been on a temporary hiatus with minimal support and at times, no idea when they can reopen. Thankfully the UK government’s roadmap out of lockdown has provided a timeline as to when they can return, with this in mind Khan wants to get London up and running. 

The Labour politician has revealed a new campaign called ‘Lets Do London’, which focuses on jobs and getting Britains capital back into action. In a recent interview with Time Out, Khan said: “Let’s Do London is the biggest tourism campaign our city has ever seen. The reason it’s so important is that the last 15 months have been incredibly tough for us.” Adding: “But I also recognise not just the intrinsic enjoyment we get from retail, culture, and hospitality, but that one in five jobs in London are in those areas. We’ve got to make sure that we bounce back as quickly as possible to avoid mass unemployment, leading to a massive recession.”

Due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, tourism to the city was reduced by 90% in 2020, with figures set to be similar this year. “This will probably be the only year in our lifetime when there won’t be international tourists in London” Khan commented. Adding: “So Let’s Do London is about bringing all the key players in London together: the Globe, the National Theatre, the Southbank, the V&A, the O2, great chefs, great artists like David Hockney, great live music venues, pubs, bars, and restaurants. We want to make sure that this summer is the best summer we’ve ever seen.”

Twitch and Wasserman Music partner for free indie music livestreams

Image Credit: Wasserman Music

New Twitch channel “There is Light” will focus on indie bands and musicians, with a lineup of free livestreamed gigs.

A new channel devoted exclusively to live indie music, There is Light, has launched on Twitch. The livestream channel, the result of Twitch teaming up with Wasserman Music agency, will host a series of free concerts by indie musicians.

The livestreamed gigs will take place in venues in the US and UK with full professional production and multi-camera shooting. There are 20 shows planned, the first having already taken place on 4th May with Perfume Genius streaming from the Lodge Room in Los Angeles.

Featured indie musicians include Orla Gartland and Jade Bird. Each show will have a 30-minute support act, and an artist Q&A.

Will Farrell-Green, Head of Music Content at Twitch, said: “Independent artists have created some of the strongest and fastest-growing communities on Twitch. These artists deeply understand the impact of building and connecting with a loyal fan base. Our partnership with Wasserman Music will give indie artists a dedicated home on the service where they will have the opportunity to introduce their music to Twitch’s global audience and interact with fans on a more personal level. We are thrilled to offer new ways to support music artists as well as the reopening of several prominent indie venues.” 

For now, the gigs will have to remain as livestreams but there’s the possibility for live audiences should local coronavirus restrictions lift. Music views on the livestreaming platform have ballooned in the past year, with music channels on Twitch seeing year-on-year growth of 428% in January 2021.

Trey Many, Senior Vice President at Wasserman Music, said: “Twitch is such an exciting platform for live music, and they’re the perfect partner for There is Light. Fans will tune in to see these shows happen, live in real time. They’ll get to interact with each other and with the artists.

“They’ll get to see some amazing established bands, along with some super exciting new acts. Immediacy, community, discovery, and hope are all the things we want our There is Light channel to embody, and we can’t wait to share these shows with the world!”

Each 90 minute concert will air on Tuesdays in the US at 8pm ET / 5pm PT and on Sundays in the UK at 8pm, running from now until 28 September on the exclusive Twitch channel.

There is Light headliners announced so far:

May 4             Perfume Genius        Lodge Room             Los Angeles
May 11           Best Coast                 Lodge Room             Los Angeles
May 18           Two Feet                    Lodge Room             Los Angeles
May 25           JPEGMAFIA            Lodge Room             Los Angeles
June 15           Porches                      Sultan Room             New York
June 27           Jade Bird                    Lafayette                    London
June 29           Cautious Clay           Sultan Room             New York
July 25           Creeper                      Lafayette                    London
August 1        Orla Gartland            Lafayette                    London
August 8        The Snuts                   Lafayette                    London

More Than A Quarter Of UK Music Festivals Have Been Cancelled Over Insurance Fears

Image credit: Kieran Webber

AIF finds that the UK Government’s inaction on event insurance has lead to more than a quarter of festivals cancelling.

More than a quarter of UK music festivals that were to take place this year have been canceled as a result of Government inaction on event insurance, research has found. 

According to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), which has tracked that 26% of all festivals with a capacity of more than 5,000 people have been canceled by organisers. 

The AIF has projected that more than three-quarters (76%) of the remaining festivals could be canceled if action regarding insurance policies of large-scale vents is not reviewed, something that Boomtown organisers have been calling for since early this year. 

Also worth noting is that 72% of AIF members have also said that if their festivals do not take place this year, they will require financial support if they are to return in 2022. 

Large-scale festivals such as Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair, Download, and BST Hyde Park have all canceled due to insurance uncertainty as well as operating before the government roadmap easing dates. However, Reading & Leeds, Boardmasters, Bestival, and a few more are currently going ahead. Although the AIF had previously warned the government that festival organisers will need assurances to financial help, as events taking place on the cusp of the easing dates (which are subject to review) will need to commit to non-refundable costs by the end of May. 

Speaking on the situation the Chief Executive of AIF, Paul Reed said: “For months now, we have been warning the government that the UK’s 2021 festival season would be quickly eroded if they failed to back their own roadmap out of lockdown and act on Covid-related cancellation insurance. That danger is now coming to pass, with over a quarter of festivals having canceled already this year.” Adding: “Without a safety net, independent promoters cannot begin to confidently invest in their events. They currently have no protection should a Covid-related issue result in the cancellation of their festival. If government-backed insurance is off the table, festival organisers deserve to know what government proposes as an alternative to prevent the widespread collapse of the festival season.”

Recently there has been a series of pilot events ran by the Government in Sefton Park, Liverpool, which saw Blossoms play to a crowd of 5,000 people. These events will lay down the groundwork for events to go ahead throughout the summer and beyond.  

A spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “As part of our roadmap for reopening all sectors in a phased and safe way, we held an outdoor test event for live music at Sefton Park in Liverpool last week to explore how we can reopen festivals.” Adding: “We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity for live events and are exploring what further support we may provide.”

No rise in infection from Barcelona concert without social distancing

Image Credit: Reuters

5,000 person indoor Barcelona gig with rapid tests and masks but no social distancing saw no rise in coronavirus infection rate, according to officials.

Remember last month’s gig in Barcelona, which experimented with 5,000 concert-goers wearing masks but not social distancing? The trial has now been hailed a success, after results showed no sign of a rise in infection rate.

Safety measures at the Love of Lesbian indie-rock concert saw attendees taking a rapid test beforehand, and upon receiving a negative result being allowed to enter the Palau Sant Jordi arena. FFP2 masks were required, with improved ventilation and queueing measures for the toilets and bar, but once in the crowd there was no requirement to social distance. The photos are almost like a normal gig – save for the white masks.

The results of the experiment seem to show that mass concerts can be safe – if covid-safe measures are taken to reduce the risk of transmission. From the 4,592 attendees who consented to analysis, only six positive coronavirus results were detected. Crucially, four of those six were not infected at the gig, and the other two unconfirmed.

After 14 days results “did not suggest any impact on the transmission of covid during the concert,” and the positive incidence was lower than in the general population.

Researcher Josep Maria Llibre of the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital said: “In summary, a live music concert in a covered enclosure with the correct measures and ventilation is a safe activity.”

The gig was reported to be the largest European concert since the pandemic began. Who would’ve thought we’d be in a world where 5,000 people watching a gig would seem an incredible event. Measures like rapid testing, venue ventilation and mask-wearing appear to be key to letting gigs resume with some semblance of normality.

Live Nation tackles concert sustainability with Green Nation Touring Program

Greener gigs – Live Nation Entertainment has launched a Green Nation Touring Program to lead artists towards environmentally friendly concerts.

Live Nation Entertainment has formally launched its Green Nation Touring Program. The plan will focus on improving sustainability once concert tours resume. Live Nation intends to lead the live entertainment industry by demonstrating green habits for live gigs.

The Touring Program is the latest part of Live Nation’s charter dedicated to climate action. The program will encourage artists to focus on helping the planet, by reducing the environmental impact of touring and providing more low-carbon options at shows. The initiative follows Live Nation’s global sustainability study, in which 82% of concert attendees said they try to keep a lifestyle that’s environmentally sustainable.

Live Nation, which in a normal year hosts 40,000 shows and over 100 festivals in 40-plus countries, has laid out a four-point plan to address the issue. The sustainability drive will focus on planning, production, sourcing and community.

Tour planning will evolve, with eco-friendly venues and the most efficient travel routes and transportation options prioritised to cut live touring emissions; stage designs and power essentials will change, and sourcing of merchandise and catering will be more responsible. There’ll also be better dialogues for green education between every group involved in the tour including fans, crew, and local partners.

Michael Rapino, President and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment, said: “Live Nation has the opportunity and the responsibility to provide artists and fans with live music experiences that protect our planet. We’re inspired by artists who are continually pushing for greener options, and as we develop those best practices the Green Nation Touring Program will help make them standards in the industry so collectively we can all make the biggest impact possible.”

New tools and resources aim to kick-start climate action in the live entertainment wider industry. To help push along the changes Lucy August-Perna, who has been leading measures like reducing waste and improving energy efficiency across Live Nation’s venues, has been made Director of Global Sustainability. A venue survey will measure the sustainability of third party venues. Green Nation has also teamed up with Julie’s Bicycle, a UK-based non-profit creative consultant, for a green tour certification scheme.

With the hoped-for opening up of live events edging closer in some parts of the world, the rush back to touring will hopefully be accompanied by more planet-friendly practices in the live entertainment industry as a whole.

UK Music support vaccine passports to bring gigs back

UK Music and figures in the industry have shown their support to the British government for vaccine passports if it allows a return for the live industry.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Kier Starmer, and other MPs, the British organisation representing musicians – UK Music – has stated their approval of the proposed COVID vaccine passports. The potential scheme would provide people with proof once they had received vaccines that they would be able to use to visit certain places and attend certain events.

However, the institution and its backers haven’t expressed a blanket approval of the scheme. In their letter they outline that their understanding of the passport would allow for proof of either vaccinations, a negative COVID test, or an antibody test for access to venues. They also state that this must not solely be used for proof of vaccination – meaning that non-vaccinated persons couldn’t attend – and that it must be a temporary measure and not a long term solution.

They go on to state that their approval is reliant on a lack of discrimination via the passports, that privacy should be protected, and that the government needs a clear exit criteria. The music body outlined their guidance for re-launching the music industry back in January, and recently hoped that the easing of lockdown measures would lead to a potential return for the live industry this Summer.

At the moment, whilst restrictive measures in the UK are being slowly lifted there is no guarantee for music venues or events organisers. With no insurance in place to ensure that hosts and organisers won’t lose out in the event of tighter restrictions or even another lockdown later in the year, many are having to cancel future events already under the uncertainty.

COVID passports provide a potential solution to safely getting people back into venues, but at the moment there is no confirmation of the plan.