Words of hope from Dayna Frank, the president-CEO of the famed First Avenue club in Minneapolis, in Variety: “After the Spanish flu of 1918-20, we had the roaring ‘20s, and that’s really what I foresee when we come out of this and it’s safe to do so. It’s just gonna be a celebration — hopefully a decade long, maybe just a few years. We just want to make sure the right people are still in business and able to make that celebration happen”.

Music manager and promoter David McLean is turning his career into film, 'Schemers', which tells the story of his early days attempting to book Iron Maiden. He shared some anecdotes with the Guardian: "I was used to promoting bands who turned up in a transit van but Iron Maiden turned up in a huge tour bus. Their tour manager said: 'Where’s the crew?' I went: 'The crew?' I ran outside, found four inebriated people standing nearby and went: 'That’s the crew'... The venue held 2,000 but we’d only sold 200 tickets because I’d forgotten to put up any posters. We took the band to the pub. When we came back, people were queuing round the block. It sold out on the door".

Dallas Observer reports on how venue-owners are coming up with ideas to be able to reopen. Billy Bob’s Texas, the "world’s largest honky-tonk", was closed since March and reopened last weekend, after reclassifying as a restaurant. It normally has a maximum occupancy of 6,000 people, but for now, they’re limiting admissions to 1,200. Temperatures were checked at the door, guests sat at tables spaced 6 feet apart, and masks were worn. Lava Cantina also reopened as a restaurant, it now hosts concerts and movies twice a day, up to six days a week. Space at Lava Cantina is limited to 250 guests compared with their normal 1,800 capacity. Table for four to see Nelly is $400.

"The movie theater business could come back on with a flip of a switch," Audrey Fix Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for the American National Independent Venue Association tells Variety. Live music is much different - "it will take at least four months for touring to be scheduled and for all the venues to be able to have a calendar, because it is such an intricate process". Livestream and socially distanced gigs aren't the solutions either: "The economics don’t work for the vast majority of it, whether it’s streaming, or whether it’s a socially distanced thing, because it costs so much in the overhead that you cannot make it".

Sam Fender played a sold-out show for 2,500 fans at Newcastle’s drizzly Gosforth Park. Socially distanced show had groups of five at 500 individual platforms set metres apart. Telegraph said the gig was "a strange affair, but in their 500 little bubbles, fans had an absolute ball". NME writes that "hometown hero lifts gloom with life-affirming, groundbreaking show". Chronicle has pictures from the show. The Libertines, Two Door Cinema Club and Supergrass will follow suit at the venue over the summer.

Music venues in England have been given the green light to reopen from Saturday, BBC reports. Music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences - venues will have to limit capacity and enforce wearing of masks, Route Note reports. New powers will be introduced to penalise the organisers of mass gatherings including raves. Nightclubs and discos will remain shut. Organisers of illegal raves will face fines of up to £10,000 under new rules. West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves, including one of up to 600 people, last weekend, while London's Metropolitan Police have said that more than 500 illegal events were organised in the city in just one month, Evening Standard reports.

Variety reports on interesting statistics published by Live Nation about fans and rescheduled concerts. Live Nation says that 86% of fans have chosen to hold onto their tickets for rescheduled shows instead of asking for refunds, “indicating a strong desire to attend concerts in the future”. The number of fans throwing their tickets for festivals into the following year is also big, at about two-thirds. There's more - tickets for next summer festivals in Europe have already gone on sale, and 19 million tickets have been sold.

The Chainsmokers held a charity concert in Southampton, New York on Saturday alongside Goldman Sachs executive David M. Solomon (aka DJ D-Sol), called Safe & Sound. Well, it turns out it was really that safe and sound - video that surfaced from the concert appeared to show attendees flouting social distancing, which prompted an investigation. Tickets for the event ran between $1,250 to $25,000, with all profits going to local charities including Children’s Medical Fund of New York, No Kid Hungry and Southampton Fresh Air Home.

First shadow concerts
July 27, 2020

First UK gig after lockdown: Enjoyable weird

"It was a new thing and there’s something in the idea of doing differently, so we’ve just got to try and embrace it" - Miles Kane told the NME after his Camden Market gig, the first UK post-lockdown concert. “We’re trucking on and we’re fighters. It’s definitely one of the weirdest gigs I’ve played, but an enjoyable weird” - he added. The crowd of roughly fifty fans stood in socially distanced sections, which were clearly marked out on the floor, while they donned compulsory face masks.

Beyond Cinema

Movie-lovers from Paris were treated to a floating cinema last Saturday as part of Paris Plages, the yearly transformation of sections of the Seine into man-made beaches, CoS reports. Parisians boarded 38 electric boats for a free showing of the 2018 French comedy 'Le Grand Bain'. A similar idea is crossing the Atlantic - starting this September, Beyond Cinema will launch 12 to 24 mini boats in 19 US and Canada cities. Movies will be projected on a large screen outdoors near the water, and patrons can pay to watch the film in comfort from one of the floating vessels. Prior to the COVID era, similar events were held in Australia. Is it time for this concept to cross over to live-music territory?

Grammy-winning artist Bill Charlap played at a storied Pennsylvania club last weekend, more than four months after his last public performance, telling New York Times - “It’s a risk for everybody, I suppose. It may be early, but it’s time for me”. The opening protocol included mandatory masks while moving through the club, widely spaced tables, temperature checks on entry, only natural ventilation supplied by open windows and fans, capacity was cut down by 75 percent to a maximum of two dozen. While playing at the Deer Head Inn, Charlap told his audience “there is no substitute for humanity and connection. I wish that I could be closer physically. But I will do everything I can to be as close in every other possible way with the music”.

German scientists are seeking 4,000 music fans to attend a concert by singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko at Leipzig’s Concert Hall on August 22, the Guardian reports. Volunteers are going to be equipped with bottles of fluorescent disinfectant and tracking devices to get a clear idea of how the spread of coronavirus can be prevented at large indoor concerts.

Miles Kane is the first musician to play the UK’s first public music event since the coronavirus lockdown began earlier this year, NME reports. Kane will play Camden Market this Saturday (July 25) to kick off the ‘Camden Unlocked’ series, which will take in eight ticketed, free open-air weekend performances until August 16, that will also see performances by Newton Faulkner, Shaun Escoffery, Stone Foundation, Sons of Pitches, John Power, Mae Muller, and The Puppini Sisters. Miles Kane has released 3 solo albums to date and is also one half of The Last Shadow Puppets with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner.

No virus farming hopefully
July 20, 2020

Festival formerly known as Herd Immunity went down fine

The three-day rock festival formerly known as Herd Immunity Fest took place as planned Thursday (July 16th) through Saturday (July 18th) outside the Q&Z Expo Center in Ringle, Wisconsin, in the US. It made headlines for its name, and for the fact that it was going to be staged in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing some bands to drop out. Despite the problems, the festival, renamed to Mini July Fest, was held with Sponge, Flaw, Saving Abel, AC/DC cover band Thunderstuck, and Static-X filling the bill. Organizers limited tickets to 2,500 in an effort to maintain social distancing, but the photos and videos from the cornfield suggest the number of attendees was considerably less than that.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled the potential return for live music in two weeks - from August 1, socially distanced audiences can return for indoor performances in theatres, music halls and other venues, IQ Magazine reports. From October, Johnson said “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events will be able to restart, subject to successful pilots around the UK. The PM warned, however, “the timetable I’m about to set out is conditional,” adding “we will not proceed if doing so risks a second peak”.

Marc Geiger, the former global head of music at talent agency William Morris Entertainment and co-founder of Lollapalooza, has said the concerts, hit hard by Covid-19, won't return until 2022. Speaking at the on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast, Geiger said “It’s my instinct, that’s going to take a while because super-spreader events — sports, shows, festivals, etc. — aren’t going to do too well when the virus is this present”. He added there are “probably 20” roadblocks that need to be overcome before live music can return. “The virus and illness being one, spacing and density” being another, he explained. A third, Geiger noted, will be insurance and liability. “With [COVID], there’s infinite liability”. he said, noting the challenge venues and promoters will face in finding an insurer willing to cover their events.

Setting the virus on fire
July 13, 2020

Great White play corona-concert with no social distancing

Veteran rockers Great White, the band notorious for the fire that killed 100 people after setting off pyrotechnics inside of a small club, played a concert in Dickinson, North Dakota last week with no social distancing or any other safety protocols. The band said "It’s one of those things where if people feel comfortable coming down and mixing and mingling, that’s their personal choice. We’re leaving it up to everybody that chooses to attend” at first, and later (kinda) apologized - "we have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement. Our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town". Several hundred people attended the concert, with social distancing or masks.

Americans are increasingly interested in returning to live events in the near future, music sales have picked up significantly as stores reopen, audio and video streaming also have rebounded following a significant dip at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, a new survey has shown. The majority of concerts-goers is willing to accept new rules at gigs - empty seats around each group, wearing masks, temperature checks, limited number in bathrooms...

Summer in the distance
July 06, 2020

New creative ways of staging shows

Lanxess Arena

Cologne's 20,000-capacity Lanxess Arena has been reconfigured to allow for live audience events while social distance rules are still in place, Pollstar reports. The Arena will feature so-called Cubes, boxes with four seats, with each box separated from the other by 1.5 meters. 1,400 people will be allowed inside the 20,000 capacity building. In Paris, 300 guests will have the opportunity to buy tickets for an extravagant picnic at the Hippodrome PraisLongchamp, where the Lollapalooza Paris festival usually takes place. Ticket holders will have access to a menu for two with a bottle of champagne Veuve Clicquot, goodies by the fashion brand Balmain, and a DJ set/concert. In Frankfurt, shopping mall MyZeil was to be transformed into a club with five floors, with guests allowed to mingle while adhering to the correct distances.

Virgin Money Unity Arena features 500 individual viewing platforms for each household of ticket-holders overlooking an outdoor stage, allowing for a maximum of 2,500 attendees. According to Evening Standard, each platform is spaced two metres apart from the next. It is to be installed at Newcastle Racecourse in Gosforth Park, and it will open from August until mid-September.

This is the perfect time to focus on outdoor or semi-outdoor events where a “concentrated plume of droplets” is less likely to hit you, Gabriel Scally, honorary professor of public health at the University of Bristol, told the Guardian about the future of shows, music or otherwise. The issue that is going to matter a lot is - how well is the venue ventilated, which spells trouble for the punk bands from the basement circuit. Nightclubs have an even lower chance of returning soon, not until there’s a vaccine - with the exception of New Zealand where they’ve basically eradicated the virus - or unless everybody dances in a certain direction!?! Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College London points to a new way of thinking: “Our focus shouldn’t be on getting back to normal, but on finding a way to adapt".

Chase Rice

Country singer Chase Rice staged a large concert in Tennessee last weekend with zero social distancing and not one face mask in sight. In the 10,000 capacity venue about 1,000 people turned out for the concert, and all attendees were given temperature checks, although organizers were unable to enforce physical distancing during the actual concert, TMZ reports. A similar case involved American Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the administration’s own coronavirus task force. On Sunday, Pence attended a near-capacity, indoor event at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas with 2,200 attendees, and a 100-person choir singing without face masks, CNN reports.

AccorHotels Arena in Paris on June 18-19 hosted the first big crowd concert in France since the country went on lockdown in March, welcoming 1,000 and 2,000 guests, respectively, Pollstar reports. Tickets for the TV production, recorded at the arena as part of the annual Fête de la Musique celebrations, were free, and the lineup was mostly French artists - Patrick Bruel, Catherine Ringer, Christine and the Queens, Crystal Murray... To ensure physical distancing, people were only allowed to come in groups of two and inside the arena, there was at least one empty set in-between the paired guests, which was easy since it is a 20,000 capacity venue. Wearing a mask was mandatory inside the building, and hand sanitisers were placed at strategic locations.

Dave Grohl, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Mavis Staples, Willie Nelson, Coldplay, André 3000, Trent Reznor, St. Vincent, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Brittany Howard, Bon Iver, Mitski, Leon Bridges, Vampire Weekend, David Byrne, Aaron Nevill are among 600 musicians and comedians who have signed an open letter to US Congress asking federal assistance to independent music venues and promoters across the United States, according to Billboard. The letter urges Congress to “remember we are the nation that gave the world jazz, country, rock & roll, bluegrass, hip hop, metal, blues, and R&B”, adding that “entertainment is America’s largest economic export, with songs written and produced by American artists sung in every place on the globe”. The signees emphasize that if the shutdown lasts six months and there’s no federal assistance, 90% of independent venues will never reopen again.

Live Nation has set up a plan for concert season 2021 that would see artists taking more risk and financial burden, as Billboard reports. Live Nation wants to reduce artist fees by 20 percent from 2020 levels. If a festival is canceled because of poor ticket sales, the giant promoter wants the artist to get 25 percent of the guarantee (now it's a full guarantee). If an artist pulls out of a fest without good reason, Live Nation wants the artist to pay a penalty of double that guarantee (now, artists owe the promoter nothing in that case).

The independent music ecosystem has historically provided an alternative to corporate labels, broadcasting networks and other consolidated organs of power - InsideHook argues in favour of indie music scene in times of no shows. But the future is not dark - while small bands and labels might currently run on the thinnest of margins, it’s possible that it is precisely this thriftiness that will benefit them in the long term.

WiZink Center in the Spanish capital, Madrid, announced they have confirmed several artists for paid livestreamed concerts that will be performed before at least some fans inside the building, Pollstar reports. The performance will be recorded with at least six television cameras, usually intended for sporting events — including stationary cameras, polecams and rail cams — that offer different perspectives of what is happening on stage. Concert industry publication also reports about recovery plans for live music sectors in Australia and New Zealand. Live Performance Australia unveiled June 4 an ambitious A$345 million plan to restart and rebuild the industry. New Zealand’s live sector applauded the government’s new NZ$175 million arts & music COVID-19 recovery package.

The World Health Organisation has issued their latest recommendations on holding mass gatherings during the current coronavirus pandemic advising that governments and local authorities can consider allowing mass gatherings to take place when it is safe to do so, Republic World reports. "Mass gatherings are not merely recreational events; they have important implications on the psychological well-being of large number of individuals (eg religious events), can play an important role in promoting healthy behaviours (eg. sports), provide employment for a great number of people, and could leave a legacy of improved assets or capacities developed as a result of hosting a mass gathering event” - WHO suggests in their latest recommendations. “Since mass gatherings have substantial political, cultural, social, and economic implications, authorities should assess the importance and necessity of an event and consider the option that it may take place, provided all associated public health risks are adequately addressed and mitigated”.

Not much space for social distancing...

Reading & Leeds Festival managing director Melvin Benn has proposed an increase in coronavirus testing in order to enable the full re-opening of music venues, NME reports. Benn advocates widespread public use of the NHS COVID-19 App, which aims to automate the process of contact tracing and spark an increase in population testing, as the UK’s leisure industries “cannot operate with the measures that are currently in place”.

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