Music Venues In The UK To Trail ‘Health Passports’ In An Effort To Kickstart Live Music Events Safely

Image credit: You Check

The trials are to be held in London & Bristol in collaboration with You Check, Music Venue Trust and DCMS.

Music venues in the UK are set to trial a new system of digital “health passports” as a way to reopen live gigs safely. 

As we’re all painfully aware, live music has been on an indefinite hiatus since the pandemic begun, bar a few social distanced shows outside of lockdowns. The industry and punters are eager to get back to the action but naturally it needs to be done safely. It has recently been announced that a start-up company called You Check will be trailing a new digital health passport app in collaboration with MVT (Music Venue Trust). The app and trials have been approved by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

The apps original purpose was to be a ticket/ID system that would combat tours, as well as a communication tool between show audiences and fans. However, now it has been adapted to connect with the test, track and track software. 

Image credit: You Check

Speaking to Events Industry News, Fred Krefting, COO of You Check said: “We’re working, not exclusively, with Innova in terms of testing – technology that looks for a viral load high enough to be contagious with 97 per cent plus accuracy.” He continues, “With COVID the incubation period is two to five days. For the honeymoon phase after the test, it’s the shorter the better, which means you’re good to go to a show for 48 hours.”

The trials will take place at London’s infamous 100 Club and Bristols The Exchange in March. Events will be at 25% capacity with two sets of tests on the same people. The plan would be to extend this trial to other parts of the country with a hope to expand capacity. 

“You Check’s identity first solution has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk,” said Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd.

“It has a fast and thorough authentication process which enables health information to be stored against portable digital identity and Music Venue Trust is pleased to be working with You Check to explore how this technology might form part of a comprehensive process which enables us to reopen every venue safely and revive live.”

Check out our social distanced gig with King Creature here:

This app is another example of the industry trying as much as it can to open up safely as soon as possible. An impossible task is becoming more realistic thanks to the countries speedy vaccination initiative. If the vaccination targets are met then festival organisers and venues are pretty confident we could see the return of live music by late Spring and Summer. 

However, large scale events are likely  not going to be returning this year, especially with Glastonbury announcing their cancellation earlier in the year. It’s also unlikely it will be back to normal till 2022, according to some specialists. 

SXSW Online 2021 are selling tickets to the virtual festival for $249

Image Credit: SXSW

SXSW Online 2021 is taking place between March 16-20, but will anyone pay $249 for the online-only digital experience?

Usually taking place in March, last year’s annual conglomeration of parallel film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences resulted in a last minute cancellation just one week before the event was slated to take place. This came as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, making holding a mass in-person gathering impossible. The cancellation in 2020 was a huge financial blow to the organisation, resulting in SXSW laying off one-third of its full-time employees, with CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson stating the future for the event was uncertain.

As the pandemic continues to cancel gigs and festivals around the world for the second year running, SXSW are going online-only for 2021. SXSW Online 2021 will include keynotes, Conference sessions, Music Festival showcases, Film Festival screenings, world-class networking and more. Speakers announced so far include Chris Webber, Erin Lee Carr, Mark Cuban, Tim Ellis and more. 97 indie artists will be performing from their home countries, including Indigo Sparke, Darkoo, Squid and more. The entire event can be streamed on the web, mobile devices or the SXSW Online Connected TV app.

The challenge of building a new future is one that we’re excited to tackle. This has been such a year of change and we, like the entire world, are reshaping our perspective on how we connect. We’re pleased to be working on SXSW Online as part of our program for 2021, and regardless of platform, we will continue to bring together the brightest minds from creative industries worldwide.

Roland Swenson, CEO and Co-Founder, SXSW

Tickets to attend SXSW Online 2021 are on sale now for $249, increasing to $399 in March. One pass covers the entire event and can be purchased here today. Discounted passes are available for a limited number of students at $59 each and group passes are also available with the site saying “the more people you bring, the more you can save.”

Even the cheaper current amount is more pricey than we’ve seen any other online event in the last year. In 2019, the music portion attracted 159,258 festivalgoers, with the entire multifaceted SXSW 2019 seeing around 280,000 total people. Presumably this high ticket price will only attract a very select group of individuals, however it’s ease of access online will undoubtedly see attendees from around the world.

Show your love for local music venues with UK Independent Venue Week 2021

Image Credit: IVW UK

The ban on live gigs won’t stop Independent Venue Week celebrating the best UK music venues.

Looking for gigs to watch this weekend? Independent Venue Week has you covered. Taking place every year in the UK and the US, and this year the UK event runs from 25th to 31st January. The country is currently in its third national lockdown but that hasn’t stopped the event from going ahead, albeit in a different form to usual. In its eighth year, events have gone digital, and virtual shows and conversations have been taking place all week on Facebook, YouTube and the Independent Venue Week website.

Streams and videos have included IDLES sharing a live recording of the band performing ‘Carcinogenic’ in their favourite Bristol venues. Guitarist Mark Bowen commented:

Now more than ever independent musicians and the music industry at large need to unite to keep from being decimated… Independent venues are the fertile soil in which the future of the performing arts will grow. They are where your future favourite band will play, where the best song ever written will be tested out, where the new can bud and flourish.

Mark Bowen, IDLES guitarist

Close to RouteNote HQ, vital local venue Old Bakery Studios in Truro, Cornwall are releasing celebratory behind the scene interviews and performances from The Rezner, Bailey Tomkinson, Flats & Sharps, Daisy Clark, Sam Richardson and The Velvet Hands.

The event airs at 8pm on Sunday 31st via The Old Bakery’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

To help spread awareness Independent Venue Week have nominated four ambassadors to represent England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: Arlo Parks, whose debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams released today, Gruff Rhys, Amy Macdonald and Jordan Adetunji. BBC Radio 6 Music has aired archive session tracks and special guests on Steve Lamacq’s show throughout the week, and BBC Introducing hosted conversations between musicians and venue owners.

Ironically Independent Venue Week is usually an antidote to our constant consumption of music via a screen, but despite the move online the event has been a success nonetheless. It’s extremely timely, putting a spotlight on struggling venues whilst celebrating them at the same time, encouraging gig-goers to engage with their local venues even while they can’t visit in person.

The full line-up can be found here.

Luxembourg Live Music Experiment Could Pave The Way For The Return To Live Events

Image credit: Nainoa Shizuru

The Because Music Matters shows will take place at the Rockhal arena in February, social distancing and masks will be compulsory.

The Rockhal arena in Luxembourg will host five test concerts with strict health measures and restrictions in place this February. 

With live events cancelled across the world, due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, this news provides some possible light at the end of the tunnel. Some artists have come up with innovative ways to perform to fans, such as the Flaming Lips’ space bubble shows. Not to mention the wave of live streams during the first lockdown. Bandcamp also launched their own ticketed livestream service Bandcamp Live. However, venues remain closed and many are currently fighting for their survival. 

It is hoped the Because Music Matters Matters shows in Luxembourg, organised by the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a lobby group established by the European Arenas Association, could help create a model to bring live events back. 

Capacity is to be limited to 100 people per night, with masks compulsory and strict social distancing being enforced. The gigs will be seated, with fans placed around a stage. Those attending will also be tested for Covid-19 on arrival and then again seven days later, much like at PRIMACOV, the event held by Primavera Sound in Spain. 

Each night will have different genres of music, including classical, dance music and metal. 

Speaking on the shows chief executive of Rockhal and co-founder of the ARA said the shows are an “important step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our back-to-business strategies”. 

Fellow ARA co-founder Robert Fitzpatrick added that “As the advocacy platform for European arenas, the ARA is proud to provide an opportunity for the industry to come together with key EU decision-makers to prepare for a return to live events, whilst working to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities and the sustainability of our industry, which will be central to the economic and societal recovery of countries across Europe.” He continues, “Together, we can build regional and national frameworks, with international collaboration that will help us get back to business.”

The shows will take place from the 10th-14th February and will be hosted in conjunction with the national health inspection authority. 

In addition to this the ARA will also be hosting a virtual conference on 18th February which will look into how arenas and large venues across the EU will prepare for a safe and sustainable reopening. 

Even with all this in place though, it still remains to be seen if people, even after being starved of live music will be willing to participate in the strict measures to see a show. It also doesn’t take in to consideration that outside of a scientific environment controlling people will be difficult. However, this is the beginning of getting at least some form of live music back into our lives during this strange time. 

Primavera Sound’s Trail For Gigs With No Social Distancing Finds No Infection Rate

Image credit: Kieran Webber (Leopallooza Festival)

As UK festivals face uncertainty the Barcelona festival hailed a successful trail event.

It’s almost hard to imagine going to a gig, let alone a festival during the current climate here in the UK. However, recently the Spanish festival held a trail for the return of gigs and festivals with no social distancing, which saw no infection rate. This data and experiment offers a little hope to those eager to experience live music again. 

The event dubbed PRIMACOV, was organised by Primavera Sound alongside the Hospital Germans Trias in Barcelona. The trail saw 1,000 people attend an event in a 1,600 capacity venue, however, of the 1,000 participants only 463 ended up attending the concert, with 496 in a ‘control group’, with no access to the venue itself. 

All participants took a same-day antigen Covid-19 test then another test 8 days after the event. The results show that there was no positive results among the 463 people who attended the gig, and two positives in the ‘control group’. 

The authors of the study revealed that “Attending a live music concert staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections.” Adding “Hopefully this data will pave the way to save live concerts during the COVID pandemic.”

Check out the video of our time at Boomtown Festival here:

The two authors Boris Revello and Josep M Llibre concluded that rapid testing that was present at this event could easily be rolled out at other live music events as well. 

This isn’t the only test that has been undertaken to hopefully get live music industry working again. In Germany they conducted tests into the transmission of coronavirus at indoor concerts, their findings found that such environments pose a “low-to-very low” risk to attendees. Another study found that the risk of infection at a venue “through aerosol transmission can almost be ruled out”, providing that the venue has sufficient fresh-air supply and that attendees abide by a strict mask policy. 

Hopefully, these studies and the data from it can help the UK get some form of live music in place for the summer, or at the very least the autumn of 2021. However, with festivals like Glastonbury cancelling and no insurance in place to help events if they have to cancel due to covid, it’s hard to imagine. 

Following a devastating 2020, Live Nation stock back to its highest figures

Image Credit: Live Nation

Plummeting revenues that saw losses of 95% last year have not kept Live Nation down, as they now look to the future with stocks looking more optimistic than ever.

The fallout of Coronavirus is still very much resonating around the world, and a year which saw the near-total cancellation of the live events industry carries on. Though there is hope on the horizon, vaccines are being rolled out across the globe and concert logistics are being tested to see how soon we can bring back live music and manage the crowds it naturally incurs.

With the return of live events in sight once more, the industries finally have a route to recovery. This has been clearly felt by Live Nation, one of the world’s largest events companies, whose stock has returned to it’s pre-COVID levels.

This is a huge relief to the company which, in December, we reported to have lost $7 billion as their revenues dropped by 95% from a lack of business. They have been bolstered by the optimism of what this Summer holds with vaccinations in sight and regulations being worked out. Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino revealed that two-thirds of fans had held onto their tickets for cancelled events to roll them over when they return.

Live Nation’s President, Joe Berchtold, said in December: “We start to see with much greater clarity what the path to return to live is, and certainly a lot of confidence about that return to live.”

With this in mind, Live Nation’s stock prices have recovered from a massive decline in 2020 to an all time high of $76.54 per share, on Tuesday. The company started 2020 at $72 a share and dropped down to $21.70 at their worst in March last year as the effects of COVID on the live industry were only just being realised.

Live Nation’s last year of market prices at the time of publishing
Image Credit: Google

With the return of live music inevitable, it is also clear how keen many music lovers and events-goers are to see music and other performances in the flesh once more after an extended drought. By the time events return, it will have been over a year since attending a live event for most people.

On the same day that Live Nation announced their impressive stock recovery, they revealed that they had made a majority stake in Veeps. The livestream platform offers ticketed virtual events and is a great diversification for the company who has seen such a detrimental period thanks to the closure of in-person shows. This has no doubt enhanced investor confidence.

Flaming Lips socially distance gigs by putting fans inside inflatable balls

Image Credit: Thanhy Nguyen

Two Flaming Lips shows in Oklahoma featured everyone in ‘space bubbles’.

Have rock band Flaming Lips solved the problem of social distancing at live gigs? They’ve found a resourceful way to keep everyone in the crowd safe – by encasing themselves and the audience in giant inflatable balls.

The sight of singer Wayne Coyne rolling about in a Zorb ball is a familiar one to Flaming Lips fans – for years he’s jumped in a plastic bubble at their gigs to spin madly over the crowd. The idea of putting the audience in balls as well is a new one, however. The band had trialled the use of the bubbles for Covid-safe gigs back in October 2020, teased some more by playing a NPR Tink Desk concert in Zorb balls, but the pair of shows in Oklahoma City was the first time the plan had been seen in action.

Coyne told the BBC: ‘it is kind of absurd, I’d be the first to say that. I’ve been doing it as part of our theatrical freak out stuff at our concerts since I started doing it in 2004. We’re probably the only group in the world that probably would embrace this.’

Each ‘space bubble’ is big enough for three people and contained water, a cooling fan and a speaker. Audience members were armed with ‘I Have to Pee’ signs, a signal to staff that they need help exiting the ball to use the facilities, which when flipped read ‘It’s Hot in Here’, asking the staff to pump the ball with new cool air.

Flaming Lips, who formed in 1983, released their latest album American Head last September. Aside from appreciating the safety aspect, Coyne said that the band’s fans ‘like the adventure… it’s not just another concert, you’re part of this thing that’s never been done before, and they’re quite up for it being different.’

Depending on how well you cope with enclosed spaces, the prospect is either a dream or a nightmare. It depends how desperately you’re missing live music. Would you willingly trap yourself in a plastic ball if it meant that you could watch your favourite band again?

The Fate Of Music Festivals In The UK Faces Serious Doubt

Image Credit: Kieran Webber

The Conservative Government must make a decision and soon or a thriving cultural sector will be decimated.

The UK, pre-covid, was renowned for its live music and bustling festival scene. In fact some of the worlds most prestigious and popular music festivals are held in this country, the most obvious being Glastonbury. However, it’s not just large gatherings in fields that make our summer music circuit so important and successful. In-between the massive festivals there are pub festivals, ale festivals, folk festivals in beer gardens, garden fetes, retro festivals, food festivals and many more. All of which attribute to the fantastic grassroots events that make this country a hub for entertainment. Not only are these hubs for live music but life in general, they build community spirit and allow people an escape. Every year in Britain, almost 1000 festivals take place and they are currently on the brink of decimation due to the uncertainty of just when ‘normal’ may return. 

After the wipe out of last year the prospects for 2021 hang in the balance. Organisers and punters alike hope for a return to action later this year, specifically the summer. However, time is of the essence. According to evidence given to a parliamentary select committee this month, big festivals such as Glastonbury need to know this month of they can go ahead or they won’t have time to organise. Smaller events and festivals could possibly wait till March or April, but that would still be cutting it thin. 

If 2021 faces the same cancellations as 2020 then it could ruin the events sector. Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis said recently that “it would be curtains” if they were to face a repeat year of cancellations. 

Rumours of Glastonbury cancelling circled earlier in the year due to Mel B of the Spice Girls saying so during a radio interview. However, this was denied by organiser Emily Eavis who said “no news at this end”

Recently festival organisers and those involved in the music industry called on the government to introduce a government backed insurance scheme for events. The insurance would cover the sector if they needed to cancel due to Coronavirus. They argued that without this there would be no way they could financially survive the cancellation nor begin to plan without that security. This argument, and an official date after which festivals would be allowed to operate, was recently brought forward to the cross-party culture select committee. 

Such backstops exist in other countries. Last month, the German government announced a €2.5bn cancellation fund for events in the second half of 2021. The purpose is the ensure that festivals don’t get stung with upfront costs such as artist deposits and crew costs in the wake of a cancellation. 

Speaking to the select committee Anna Wade, organiser of Boomtown said: “It is a very challenging road in front of us but not impossible.” Anna has a real fear that if Boomtown cannot go ahead this year, it may not ever return. This is something that is felt throughout the whole events industry, particularly festivals. 

For a long time events have worked and gone through local government, who have given the permits, grants and support needed for festivals to thrive. Now state government must take the reins to support and aid this clearly important (for many reasons) and financially thriving industry. Time is running out and the government must act or we face one of the largest cultural destructions in modern history, but it needn’t be that way. New Zealand has managed to do it and now has live music returning to a normal capacity, most of the EU member states have put in generous fail-safes and now we all nervously watch how the UK government will act. 

Bandsintown launches premium livestream subscription service to support music artists

Image Credit: Martin de Arriba

Concert recommendation platform Bandsintown now offers exclusive online gigs from big acts for $10 a month.

As everyone well knows, musicians have suffered a heartbreaking loss of income since gigs and live tours were shelved last March. Monetising online live music performances is one way of clawing back some revenue from the grim situation, and Bandsintown’s latest venture seeks to streamline watching concerts from home. Bandsintown PLUS collects livestreams in a calendar of events that can be accessed easily, with a focus on supporting artists, in exchange for a flat monthly rate from subscribers.

After an initial free seven-day trial, your $9.99 gets you access to at least 25 concerts a month. (That’s $0.3996 a gig, mathematics fans.) The company said the new venture ‘democratises and revolutionises the live music experience, directly supporting artists in the process.’ Bandsintown PLUS has announced a debut monthly schedule for January and February that so far includes Phoebe Bridgers, Little Dragon, Fleet Foxes, Claud, and more. Subscribers will also have access to exclusive concerts on other platforms.

In 2020 Bandsintown quickly evolved from a service that pointed people in the direction of live gigs to showing where concerts were being livestreamed instead. Managing Partner Fabrice Sergent said:

Touring artists have been economically ravaged by Covid-19’s restrictions. Bandsintown PLUS is a chance to help innovate the industry, creating new sources of revenue for artists, while deepening connections with their fans.

Fabrice Sergent, Managing Partner of Bandsintown

Bandsintown is the latest company to take the next step with regards to streaming performances, with companies like MelodyVR and Apple making big investments. Launching a new subscription service puts a lot of faith in the idea that livestreaming will continue to be popular even once restrictions are lifted post-pandemic. Everyone misses live gigs so much it’s hard to imagine turning down the magical opportunity to see a band play in front of you in real life. It’s obviously a question that Bandsintown have considered though, with Sergent noting that the new service is ‘an opportunity to break the barriers of cost and location that have historically hindered live music experiences.’ If you can’t afford to get to a gig, you can watch it on your phone instead, and platforms like Bandsintown PLUS want to make it easy. As well as exclusive concerts, they also promise ‘Q+As, live chats and exclusive interviews [to] connect artists and fans’, covering more bases and offering exclusive perks to entice signups.

After an initial flurry of free streams as musicians, bored or missing their fans, flocked to Instagram Live and other platforms at the beginning of the pandemic, resourceful artists soon realised the potential and need to charge for their newfound line of work. The monetisation of livestreaming soon caught on with Bandzoogle, who aid artists in ticketing their events, noting that between April and November 2020 artists made $200,000 from ticket sales over 1,300 virtual concerts. Looking back over 2020, Billboard reported that, according to Bandsintown’s figures, back in June ticketed livestreams accounted for less than two percent of the total number of daily broadcasts but by November they accounted for more than half.

For as long as livestreaming gigs is the only option, subscription services like Bandsintown PLUS seem a solid way for musicians to make some money, even if the magic of real-life interactions with your favourite band isn’t quite there.

Full list of performers on Bandsintown PLUS so far: Adeline, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief’s first ever solo livestream, Bakai, Brijean, Bye Beneco, Chrome Sparks, Chromeo, Claud, Diamond Thug, Empress Of, Fleet Foxes (Robin Pecknold Solo), Flying Lotus, HONEYMOAN, Ian Isiah, James Hersey, Jeff Tweedy Of Wilco with a full band and rare fan Q&A, Joe Bonamassa, Little Dragon, Local Natives, Lomelda, mau from nowhere, Mindchatter, Misty Mtn, Mt. Joy, odie, Phoebe Bridgers, Poolside, Prequell, Rexx Life Raj, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sam Himself, Scarypoolparty, Sir Chloe, Soccer Mommy, Toro y Moi (DJ Set), Trevor Hall, Tycho, Wallows, We the Commas, and former Bandsintown Big Break alumni Omar Apollo with special guest Q, along with more to be announced.

New Zealand’s Biggest New Years Festival To Be Streamed Exclusively On Twitch

Image Credit: Rhythm & Vines Festival

Rhythm & Vines Will Stream To The World Exclusively Via Twitch

For many across the globe the New Years is looking a little unpredictable to say the least. Personally I am not even imagining any form of NYE celebration outside of the comfy confines of my house. However, countries such as New Zealand, who through strict lockdown measures have managed to return to life as normal. Live music is back on as normal and they live in a mask-less world, an almost alien concept for most of us. 

Many of us will be looking for some normality to cradle us into 2021, a year already looking shaky at best. Thankfully, New Zealand’s largest New Year’s Festival, Rhythm & Vines will be streaming their event exclusively via the streaming giant Twitch, which is mostly known for it’s gaming streams. 

The festival wants to give a little back, knowing that all across the world many of us haven’t been able to enjoy festivals or live music. It’s an open invite for us to join the 23,000 attendees celebrate the new year and some live music. 

Each night of the festival, that starts on December 29th we will see a number of live and pre-recorded performances from headline acts as well as a wave of independent and emerging artists. The 5 hour showcase will be filmed and edited into  highly produced spectacle, streaming from 8pm each night. In addition to this the festival will also have the New Year’s Eve countdown. 

It’s a chance for the festival to showcase Gisborne and the world class venue that is Waiohika Estate. The stream will be hosted by the popular Twitch streamer Ron Plays Games, who boasts 50,000 fans of his own. 

If you’re wanting to get the feel of a venue whilst celebrating New Years then this could be the stream for you. Lets face it, you may as well line up some indoors entertainment as there is no chance that Blighty will be out partying, nor most countries at that.