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Tamsin Embleton: ‘We need to reimagine the way we tour’

The last few months have seen an unprecedented number of artists pull the plug on tours, citing the detrimental impact of touring on mental health.

SantigoldArlo ParksShawn MendesSam Fender, Russ, Wet Leg and Disclosure are just a handful of artists who scrapped outings, with many referencing the gruelling reality of touring via public statements.

Tamsin Embleton, a psychotherapist and the director of Music Industry Therapists Collective (MITC), called the mental health crisis in the artist community “startlingly widespread” but says many mental health crises are preventable.

In advance of the publication of her new book, ‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual‘ (due 23 March 2023), Embleton shares tips for identifying and coping with the various psychological difficulties that can occur during or as a result of touring.

 


What’s leading the rise in the number of tour cancellations due to mental health?
As my fellow MITC therapist Jodi Milstein points out, burnouts, breakdowns and relapses have always happened on tour but we used to use euphemisms for it, like ‘exhaustion’. Researchers in the UK and the US have been waving the red flag about the vast number of artists who suffer psychological difficulties when working in the music business since the 1980s, but it’s taken the latest wave of research around six years ago headed up by a paper from Gross and Musgrave and Help Musicians to catalyse substantial change in the industry.

Attitudes have changed a lot since the 80s. We have a greater mental health literacy so there’s less need for euphemism. This is partly down to wider societal trends but also thanks to artists who have publicly disclosed their struggles in the press. This encourages others to reflect, identify problems and seek help. Teams need to be careful that they don’t view an artist’s mental health difficulties as their USP though. Discussing sensitive issues in the press can be distressing – if it happens too early in recovery it can set progress back. And, of course, once it’s out there, it’s out there, and might be probed for years to come. Artists need support in figuring out what they feel comfortable disclosing, what is just theirs and what should remain private.

Touring is intensively stressful from a biological, psychological and social perspective. Stress accumulates on the road – and as it does so it degrades mindset, morale, optimism, tolerance, immunity and every system in the body. It makes it hard to get restorative sleep, and so the cycle continues. Some artists are sent out on the road with schedules they aren’t physically and psychologically able to withstand. Chronic stress can create psychological and physical problems and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions.

For some touring professionals and artists who were grounded during the pandemic, their capacities have changed for better and worse. There might be more awareness of the hidden costs of touring in terms of mental, physical and relational health. The pandemic meant lost earnings and opportunities for many, and there are other issues (low streaming revenue, inflation, the weak pound etc), adding financial pressure and resulting in extra dates being added.

“Touring is a high-stress situation where environmental conditions expose you to rely on unhealthy coping strategies”

What kinds of mental health issues are touring artists prone to currently?
Depression, anxiety (general, performance, social, flight), addiction, dependency and substance misuse problems (alcohol and substance, sex, porn), stress and burnouts, mental health crises (psychosis, self-harm, etc), conflict and anger management difficulties, eating disorders… the list goes on. Touring is a high-stress situation where environmental conditions are changeable and challenging, and the touring lifestyle encourages you to rely on unhealthy coping strategies such as excessive alcohol drinking, indulgent food, smoking, illicit substances, sex etc.

What causes these issues – where are the pressure points?
Touring is stressful to mind, brain, body and relationships. Firstly it takes you away from the people and practices that usually keep you stable (maintaining relationships at home is hard when you are physically and psychologically in different places). You are constantly thrust into unfamiliar spaces like venues and hotels which can be a source of stress in itself. Then the pressure is ramped up – to meet the expectations of a wide number of people (audiences, teams, press, local crews etc). You’re always ‘on’ – expected to deliver to exceptionally high standards night after night, no matter what role you’re in – and that’s hard to maintain.

There are great soaring highs (when performances go well) swiftly followed by lows – a rollercoaster people are rarely adequately prepared for. It starts off as very exciting, but as Nile Rodgers said to me it can be gruelling. The stress levels make it hard to get good quality, restorative sleep and exhaustion add to the cumulative stress. It’s hard to switch off when you’re always gearing up for the next show, which makes it hard to be present and enjoy your surroundings. There’s very little privacy and solitude. Often people talk about loneliness on the road, which is about not feeling connected to people or understood.

“Record labels, managers, and promoters have a duty of care toward artist”

Who is responsible for an artist’s mental health?
The artist has personal responsibility towards their own health and their teams have a duty of care towards their health too. A duty of care is the legal duty of people in positions of trust, power or authority to exercise reasonable care toward those they manage or assume responsibility for. It protects the health, safety and welfare of clients and employees while they carry out their work duties. So, record labels, managers, and promoters have a duty of care toward artists (i.e. anyone who employs the artist to fulfil work, or those who are employed by the artist to make career decisions on their behalf). Artists also have a duty of care toward their touring parties and managers.

Are there more services that artists and crew can reach out to now?
Greater numbers of artists and music industry workers are recognising that they need support and reaching for help. We have many excellent services and charities in the UK serving the community – Help Musicians UK, Music Support, BAPAM, Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC), Tonic Rider, and grants available from PRS for Music fund, Royal Society of Musicians, StageHand (run by PSA) and others. Majors like Sony, Warners and Universal are offering greater levels of support. There’s a huge number of passionate, highly skilled people working to change things for the better.

“I think all artists could benefit from mentorship and coaching”

How can touring be made sustainable for artists?
That’s a big question and not one that’s easy to answer succinctly! We do need to reimagine the way that people tour. It’s not one-size fits all – capacities vary. Some people are more vulnerable than others.

Some changes can be implemented for free with a little bit of effort like providing ‘dry’ (alcohol free) dressing rooms, signposting to specialist mental health services, local 12-step meetings, green spaces, sports facilities, and ring-fencing time so that they are able to meet with therapists, coaches or sponsors. Others, such as changing the schedule and having sensible routing, have cost implications and raise questions about who pays for the shortfall. There’s a chapter in [‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual’] that addresses this.

What kind of support should artists be provided with?
It depends on what they’re dealing with but it’s helpful to set off feeling prepared. Adequate rehearsal time helps people feel a sense of mastery over the repertoire (which in turn can reduce performance anxiety).

Depending on the individual they might need to visit their GP or psychiatrist for a medication review ahead of the tour. I think all artists could benefit from mentorship and coaching, whether that’s ADHD coaching, vocal or performance training or career coaching. Skills building through psychoeducation, developing an understanding of mind-body connections and finding healthy ways to relax such as self-hypnosis for performance anxiety, meditation and mindfulness etc is important too, which is why we have tried to cover as many bases as possible in the book with chapters on all of these topics.

Then there are a number of psychological therapies that can help people to intercept unhelpful thought patterns, or reflect on their self-perception, formative past experiences and relational dynamics. Artists need to understand the risks to mind and body (including RSI, vocal strain issues like nodules, hearing issues etc) and have the right equipment, such as custom-fitted ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones for those who struggle with sensory overload.

“We have to be flexible and anticipate life transitions that might cause stress or mean people need to adjust their way of working”

What do artist teams need to remember about artists and their mental health?
Even with the very best of intentions, over-functioning fosters dependency and reduces resilience and tolerance (think: helicopter parents). Try not to dismiss protests or expressions of suffering (verbally or musically) – it means something, so take it seriously. Educate yourself on the warning signs of poor mental health and illness. Think: prevention rather than cure or crisis response.

The industry is highly stressful, and the artists you work with will need to find ways to vent, blow off steam and make sense of it all. Encourage healthy behaviours and model self-care. Put in boundaries around communication and when some time is blocked off in the diary, don’t tempt the artist into working during their time off. It’s important they (and you) have some semblance of a life, and relationships outside of work. Social support is a vital source of stress relief throughout life, so we should try to help people stay connected to loved ones whilst out on the road.

Pre-order ‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual’ here. Contact David Stock for bulk buys: [email protected]

 


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Music events called off following Queen’s death

A number of music events have been cancelled or postponed as a mark of respect in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The UK’s longest-serving monarch passed away yesterday afternoon aged 96 at the royal residence in Balmoral, Scotland, following a 70-year reign, with the throne immediately passing to her eldest son, King Charles III.

A period of National Mourning has now started and will continue until the end of the day of the State Funeral – expected to be held in Westminster Abbey on Monday 19 September.

The Queen’s death was announced at 6.30pm, prompting that night’s Mercury Prize ceremony – held at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London – to be cancelled with guests already in the venue. Eleven of the 12 nominated acts nominated for album of the year, including Little Simz, Sam Fender and Self Esteem, had been due to perform at the event, which was set to be broadcast live on the BBC.

Elsewhere, Thursday evening’s Proms at the Royal Albert Hall was called off 30 minutes before it was due to start, and the BBC has announced Friday and Saturday’s closing concerts of the eight-week classical music series will no longer take place.

The public service broadcaster has also cancelled BBC Radio 2 Live in Leeds, which was scheduled to take place from 17-18 September with artists such as Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers + Chic, Tears for Fears, Kaiser Chiefs and George Ezra.

The Cabinet Office says there is no obligation to cancel or postpone events… or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period

Arcade Fire’s show at The O2 in London went ahead as planned, although a boxing event due to be held tomorrow night is now being rescheduled for October. The English Premier League and Football League have also postponed this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Despite the cancellations, the Cabinet Office says there is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period, with the decision left to the discretion of individual organisations.

“As a mark of respect, organisations might wish to consider cancelling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the State Funeral,” states the official guidance. “They are under no obligation to do so and this is entirely at the discretion of individual organisations.

“If sporting fixtures or events are planned for the day of the State Funeral, organisations may want to adjust the event timings so they do not clash with the timings of the funeral service and associated processions. As a mark of respect, and in keeping with the tone of National Mourning, organisers may wish to hold a period of silence and/or play the National Anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures, and players may wish to wear black armbands.”

Multiple live music organisations including UK Music, the Music Venue Trust and the Association of Event Organisers have paid tribute to the Queen in the wake of her passing along with venues such as Wembley Stadium, The O2, AO Arena Manchester and OVO Arena Wembley.

Rod Stewart, Queen + Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys, Hans Zimmer, Ella Eyre, Craig David and Mabel were among the artists to perform at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in June.

 


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Moscow’s Park Live festival decimated by cancellations

Moscow’s Park Live festival has been called off following a raft of cancellations from international acts.

Placebo, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, Biffy Clyro, Iggy Pop, Deftones, Royal Blood and The Killers have all pulled out of the festival in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With only a handful of acts left on the bill, the annual international music festival will no longer take place at Luzhniki Olympic Complex in June and July.

“Y’all already understood that Park Live festival won’t be happening this year,” reads a statement from the organisers, posted on Facebook. “The picture of current circumstances does not provide the opportunity to fit our [festival] into it for legal, logistic, or for simple human reasons.”

“The picture of current circumstances does not provide the opportunity to fit our [festival] into it”

Park Live was launched in 2013 by Moscow-headquartered promoter Melnitsa Concert Agency, with the aim of bringing international artists to Russia.

The promoter, which also has offices in Kyiv, Minsk and Tbilisi, is considered one of the leading live music organisers of international and domestic acts in the ex-USSR territory.

Alongside Park Live, the company’s stable of festivals includes UPark in Kyiv, Ukraine, which has also been called off due to the conflict.

As more events are called off in Russia, the country’s live music association is proposing a moratorium on ticket refunds to prevent “the collapse of the industry”.

Other acts that have cancelled performances in Russia include Green Day, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson, Yungblud, Franz Ferdinand, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Bring Me the Horizon.

 


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Ukraine biz: “No concerts until 2023, at best”

Executives from the Ukrainian live music business say that concerts – both international and domestic – will not take place until 2023 at the earliest.

International artists including Bring Me The Horizon, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson and Jethro Tull have already cancelled shows in Ukraine, in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of its eastern European neighbour.

At the time of writing, major acts such as Iron Maiden, Billy Talent, Black Veil Brides, Pixies, Disclosure, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Roisin Murphy, King Krule, Elderbrook, The Neighbourhood and Pete Doherty still have Ukraine concerts planned, though local promoters are doubtful whether they’ll take place.

Ihor Samosud, COO at promoter Virus Music – which owns Ukraine’s largest ticket seller Concert.UA and Kyiv concert venue Bel Etage Music Hall (cap. 1,000) – says there were “hundreds” of international shows scheduled in the next two years but “everything is now cancelled or postponed until 2023 at best”.

“We were looking forward to Iron Maiden’s first visit to Ukraine (promoted by Virus Music) and the second visit of Imagine Dragons (for which Concert.UA is the exclusive ticket seller), who are a favourite in Ukraine,” Samosud tells IQ.

According to Samosud, the company is currently helping clients and promoters communicate with ticket buyers until money can be refunded for cancelled shows.

Continuing a trend that started in the pandemic, the firm is also enabling clients and promoters to offer ticket vouchers as an alternative to cash refunds.

Samosud says he hopes this will help soften the financial blow for promoters, who were already out of pocket due to the pandemic.

“All Ukrainian promoters already have large financial losses associated with cancellations,” he says. “And this process will continue for a long time. Even after the end of the war, we will need a lot of time to restore our industry.”

Sergii Maletskyi, general manager and talent buyer at Kyiv-based promoter H2D, also believes that shows in Ukraine will be cancelled or postponed until 2023 and that many announcements are yet to come.

“I’ve said to all management not to make cancellations public at this stage because it will cause panic and we don’t need it at the moment,” he told IQ yesterday. “I’ve asked them to give us a week or two to focus on our safety. After that, we will be ready to manage cancellations, postponements and everything else.”

The conflict will not just impact shows in venues, with a summer schedule of outdoor events on sale across the country. Atlas Weekend, the largest festival in Eastern Europe, is due to take place in July at Kyiv’s Expocenter with headliners Twenty One Pilots, Placebo and Alt-J.

While Upark, scheduled for June and July at Sky Family Park in Kyiv, had previously confirmed a raft of western acts including Pendulum, Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, Gorillaz, Deftones, Iggy Pop, Slipknot and Frank Carter.

Venues, however, have been quick to post messages on social media, announcing closure until further notice, as well as information for ticket holders.

Caribbean Club, in Kyiv, posted on Facebook: “Due to the military invasion in Ukraine, we temporarily suspend work. We hope to return to normal life as soon as possible and our warm meetings at the Caribbean Club.”

Bel Etage Music Hall, also in the capital, posted on Facebook: “War. All concerts and events are postponed until victory. The tickets are valid. Glory to Ukraine!”

Though stages in Ukraine have fallen quiet, a number of venues are devoting time and resources to the military.

Arena Lviv, a 34,000-capacity stadium in western Ukraine, has tasked its catering team with cooking food for the country’s troops and have already prepared and delivered more than 2,000 dinners.

The stadium has also opened a centre for migrants who have fled their homes and need assistance finding a temporary residence.

 


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NZ faces ‘staggering’ number of event cancellations

A ‘staggering’ number of major events across New Zealand have been cancelled and more are expected, following the country’s recent move to red in the Covid traffic light system.

As of 11:59 pm on Sunday (23 January), indoor and outdoor events across the country are limited to 100 people and the use of vaccine passports is mandatory.

The new restrictions prompted a fresh wave of cancellations including music, food, and wine festivals, sports tournaments, arts events, and a wide array of summer festivities scheduled for February and March.

The latest casualties include the sold-out Splore festival, which would’ve taken place between 25–27 February at Tapapakanga Regional Park in Orere Point.

In a statement, the organisers said the country’s move to red “doesn’t leave any room for ambiguity”.

Organisers said the country’s move to red “doesn’t leave any room for ambiguity”

Elsewhere, The Others Way festival, which was scheduled for next Saturday (29 January) in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, has also been pulled.

Anthonie Tonnon, Carnivorous Plant Society and Coolies were scheduled to perform at the event, promoted by Flying Out, 95bFM and UTR Presents.

Other cancelled events include Auckland Pride Festival (1–27 February), New Zealand Fashion Week (7–12 February, Auckland), Great Kiwi Beer Festival (23 January, Christchurch), Warbirds over Wanaka (15–17 April) and the Bluff Oyster Festival (21 May).

Outfields music festival (Auckland), Rhythm and Vines (Gisborne) and Northern Bass (Northland) have already been postponed.

At the time of writing, no decision has been made on major upcoming festivals including Electric Avenue Music Festival, Urban Polo in Christchurch, South Island Wine and Food Festival.

Only cancelled events or postponed events with more than 5,000 vaccinated attendees can make use of the government insurance scheme, announced last year, which covers 90% of unrecoverable costs.

The move to red in the Covid traffic light system comes after a cluster of nine Omicron cases were recorded.

 


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UK faces “devastating loss” over cancellations, no-shows

The UK live industry is contending with up to 50% audience no shows and widespread cancellations due to Omicron, a snap industry survey has shown.

The survey, conducted by LIVE, found that 70% of organisers were forced to cancel shows due to take place last week. Jessie Ware, Steps, Paul Weller, Coldplay and Lil Nas X are among the artists forced to cancel due to the virus.

Among the major artists that have this week cancelled remaining shows for 2021 are also The Charlatans (five dates), Supergrass (three), Stereophonics (two), Deacon Blue (two), Del Amitri (three), The Libertines (two) and Amy Macdonald (one).

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February– some as many as 10 each – and more expected to follow, according to LIVE’s survey.

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February

MØ and Brockhampton are among the artists that have already cancelled or postponed UK/EU tours scheduled for 2022 as a result of concerns around Omicron.

The trade association says that the widespread cancellations, alongside a high rate of audience dropouts, are leading to a “devastating” rise in lost income for the live music industry.

These losses are compounded by drastic falls in tickets sales, with expected ticket sales for 2022 live music falling by over a third in the last few weeks, the association adds.

Lucy Noble, National Arenas Association chair and artistic director at Royal Albert Hall, says ticket sales for the London venue have “fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”.

“Ticket sales have fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”

“We have already had a £20m loan from the government but we don’t want to accumulate any more debt,” she tells IQ.

Mark Davyd, CEO of The Music Venue Trust, warns that the position of the industry is taking “a dramatic turn for the worst”.

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months,” he tells IQ. “We are currently organising the sector to make applications for all available funding, but more than 50% of grassroots music venues across the UK do not meet the criteria to qualify for the funding currently available.

“The government needs to act on VAT, business rates, retail, hospitality & leisure grants and additional restrictions grants without delay. None of this is new; the government did an excellent job of preventing music venue closures in the last 23 months. We simply need that support reopened to deal with the latest phase of the pandemic.”

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months”

Commenting on the snap survey, a spokesperson from LIVE said: “These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it’s absolutely vital that the government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and a Christmas of Misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work.

“We also face a double-whammy as next year’s sales take a nosedive, meaning organisers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss.”

LIVE, on behalf of more than 3,100 businesses in the sector, is now calling for urgent financial support from government, including:

 


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Tomorrowland eyes third festival weekend for 2022

The organisers of marquee Belgian festival Tomorrowland have officially submitted an application for a third festival weekend in 2022 “out of economic necessity”.

According to organisers, the third weekend would help compensate for six cancelled festival weekends, including four in Belgium (Tomorrowland 2020 and 2021) and two in France (Tomorrowland Winter 2020 and 2021).

According to Het Laatste Nieuws, the two consecutive cancellations of the Belgian festival alone caused a financial blow of “no less than €25 million”.

“We really have to do this to cushion the financial hangover,” Tomorrowland spokesperson Debby Wilmsen told the Belgian newspaper. “Before Covid, there were no plans to start organising three weekends.”

In order for the one-off extra weekend to go ahead, permission is required from the Antwerp region, as well as the municipalities of Boom and Rumst, where the 70,000-capacity festival has taken place since 2005.

“We really have to do this to cushion the financial hangover”

Tomorrowland has taken place across two weekends since the tenth anniversary

On the tenth anniversary of Tomorrowland, two festival weekends were held for the first time instead of one. It was then the intention to do this only in jubilee years, every five editions, but organisers got a permit to hold the festival two weekends a year.

A third weekend would be held one week before the dates already announced, on Friday 15, Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July 2022.

A public inquiry on the application will be open until Tuesday 24 October and public objections can be made.

A decision will be made no later than 13 January. As it stands, the proposed weekend is likely to get the backing of Antwerp, Boom and Rumst, who have all indicated that they are not opposed.

In the meantime, Tomorrowland is busy preparing for two weekends of Tomorrowland Winter in the Alpe d’Huez ski area in March 2022.

Tomorrowland isn’t the only festival extending its duration for 2022 – Spain’s Primavera, Croatia’s InMusic and Germany’s Summer Breeze are all expanding next year to celebrate anniversaries.

 


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UK acts cancel Spanish dates: “Brexit is the next major threat to live music”

ATC Live has warned that Brexit is “the next major threat to live music” after two of the agency’s British acts were forced to pull out of Spain dates due to Brexit-related visa issues.

Earlier this year, 19 out of 27 EU member states reached an agreement with the UK government to award free work visas for 90 days, so that artists and their crew can travel freely during that period.

No such agreement was reached with major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

For that reason, ATC-repped acts Squid and Black Country, New Road were each forced to pull out of several Spain dates on their respective European tours due to bureaucratic and financial hurdles.

“Not being able to play territories that are essential for growth is devastating for acts on the up and means a loss of earnings for everyone”

Sarah Joy, ATC Live, agent for Squid, tells IQ they worked hard with dedicated partners in Spain to “make every effort for the band to perform”.

“Unfortunately there were two major hurdles. Firstly, the cost of the visas makes mid-level venue touring untenable with a tour party of this size. Each member and crew would need a working visa and the costs stack up high against budgets.

“Secondly, the increased red tape including passports being submitted to embassies and long wait times for appointments made these dates completely unviable in the timescale.

“We hope with time that this process will be slim-lined and the costs reaccessed. Not being able to play territories that are essential for growth and reaching fans is devastating for artists on the up and means a loss of earnings for everyone involved. Now we are able to operate in the post-pandemic landscape, Brexit is the next major threat to live music.”

“We hope with time that this process will be slim-lined and the costs reaccessed”

Clemence Renaut, ATC Live, agent for Black Country New Road, adds: “We got clear information about the Spanish visa process and costs only recently, and the Spanish dates being right in the middle of the tour, it became too risky to try to get the visas on time, and too expensive for the band.

“It is a real shame for the band, the fans, the promoters and venues, as they were their first headline shows in Spain following their first album release this year, before coming back for Primavera in 2022. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem feasible to reschedule these shows in the near future because of other commitments, and also because we always try to tour Spain as part of a tour to avoid fly-ins. We all hope for an agreement to be reached very soon!”

Squid would have played in Barcelona (28 October), Madrid (29 October) and Vigo (30 October), while Black Country New Road were due to perform in San Sebastian (29 October), Madrid (30 October) and Barcelona (2 and 3 November).

Barcelona festival Primavera, which has booked both bands for its 2022 event, says that the cost of such cancellations due to visa issues could be “the final blow” for the Spanish market, which is still largely closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The lack of progress to solve this problem is leading us dangerously close to a point of no return”

“We are suffering the cancellation of tours that were already programmed and for which money had already been invested, whilst those tours which should now be closed for next year are still up in the air. In a very delicate climate due to the Covid crisis, with promoters who have been unable to programme for the last two years and bands unable to tour internationally for the same amount of time, these costs could the final blow for an industry on which technical teams, venues and festivals depend, as well as of course the artists from one of the countries with a huge presence on our stages.

“The lack of progress to solve this problem is leading us dangerously close to a point of no return. In the meantime, and respecting the “principle of reciprocity” which was promised by the EU, the Spanish artists and creators have indeed already been granted temporary UK visas for creative / artistic performances, free of charge. In short, if practically the whole European Union has been able to find a solution to this problem, we should be able to do the same in ours. And with the utmost urgency.”

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) previously said it is “actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring” has made formal approaches to them “to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa”.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry,” says DCMS in a statement. “We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

 


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Covid puts the brakes on big US recovery

A swathe of concerts, festivals and tours in the US have been cancelled or postponed in the last week amid concerns over the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was officially cancelled on Sunday 8 August “as a result of the current exponential growth of new Covid cases in New Orleans and the region and the ongoing public health emergency”.

The AEG festival, which would’ve taken place between 8–17 October 2021, typically attracts around 500,000 attendees across the seven days.

The 2021 edition was rescheduled in January to October, from its traditional spring dates of 22 April – 2 May. The festival’s lineup included Dead & Company, Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Buffett, Lizzo, Demi Lovato and more.

Artists including Michael Bublé, Limp Bizkit, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have exercised similar caution, postponing or cancelling late summer and early august 2021 dates due to uncertainty surrounding Covid.

“I do not want to put my fans, band or crew at risk by putting them in a situation that could possibly affect their health”

Last week, Michael Bublé announced the postponement of a string of August shows in the US, citing the current surge in new Covid-19 cases in the country – which are at the highest rate since early February, according to a New York Times database.

The August shows have now been rescheduled to take place in the second half of October. For now, Bublé’s September shows in the US are still going ahead as planned.

“I do not want to put my fans at risk, nor my band and crew, by putting them in a situation that could possibly affect their health and therefore their friends and family. It is better for me to reschedule these shows to a time when all of us are confident that we can relax and enjoy the show,” he said in a press statement.

Rock band Limp Bizkit has also announced the cancellation of their remaining August tour dates, citing concern over the rising tide of Covid-19 infections.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of the band, crew and most of all the fans, the Limp Bizkit August tour is being cancelled. Refunds are available from your point of purchase,” a statement from the tour said.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of the band, crew and most of all the fans, the tour is cancelled”

Affected dates include eight shows in August, including performances at Stubbs BBQ in Austin, the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, and Irving Plaza in New York.

Canadian rock legends Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have followed suit, announcing that the US leg of their ‘Together Again – Live In Concert’ tour has been cancelled, again, due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Slated to start 1 September at the Foellinger Theatre in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the tour was scheduled to run through the rest of the month before finishing at the Smith Centre in Las Vegas on 24 September.

“While Randy and Burton have been looking forward to reuniting for their fans throughout the United States, they extend their love and appreciation to all of the fans that were planning to come to these shows, and they cannot wait to see you all again when things are more predictable in terms of travel in and out of Canada.”

The growing concerns about artists’ health and safety while gigging during the pandemic have been validated by a slate of cancellations due to touring members testing positive for Covid-19.

Counting Crows pulled out of their Boston show mere hours before the show after a touring member tested positive

On Sunday (8 August), American rock band Counting Crows pulled out of their Boston show mere hours before they were due on stage after a member of the band’s touring party tested positive for Covid-19.

The band were forced to postpone the concert at Leader Bank Pavilion, as well as their gig in Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, Ohio, two nights later.

In a post on social media, they noted that the entire band and crew have been vaccinated and have been taking precautions to be as safe as possible.

Similarly, rock stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd postponed four upcoming performances on their current summer tour after the band’s longtime guitarist Rickey Medlocke tested positive for Covid-19.

Affected shows include 9 August performance at Tom Beson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio; 10 August at the Jackson County Fair in Jackson, Michigan; Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood in Atlanta on 13 August; and Rock The South in Culman, Alabam on 14 August.

The US is averaging more than 124,000 new virus cases each day – the highest rate since early February

Sebastian Bach also announced he had tested positive after several shows and days earlier, Fall Out Boy pulled out of their spots on the ‘Hella Mega’ tour (with Green Day and Weezer) in Boston, New York, and Washington DC.

The US is averaging more than 124,000 new virus cases each day, more than double the levels of two weeks ago and the highest rate since early February, according to a New York Times database.

As the Delta variant tears through the US, more key players from the country’s live sector are implementing mandates to keep staff and artists safe.

Yesterday (9 August), Live Nation announced it is allowing artists performing at its US venues to require all attendees and staff to be fully vaccinated or to show a negative test result to gain entry, where permitted by law.

While New York became the first major city to require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show – reinforcing similar requirements already set by venues such as Madison Square Garden.

 


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Dutch festival organisers dealt another big blow

Only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer, the Dutch government has announced.

From 14 August, events with a maximum of 750 attendees can take place provided they meet a series of restrictions.

Attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from infection within the past six months, or present a negative test from Testing for Access. Visitors are also asked to take a test five days after the event. The events are not allowed closed festival tents.

Multi-day festivals with overnight stays are not allowed until at least 1 September, after the government last week extended the ban.

Events that cannot meet the aforementioned restrictions will not be covered by the government’s guarantee fund.

In addition to the measures for the event sector, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also announced that those who get the Janssen jab will not be considered fully vaccinated until four weeks after, rather than two.

“[The government’s decision is] a bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long”

The Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) has reacted to the news: “Unfortunately, we conclude that the government is once again imposing a major restriction on the events today. As a result, the event industry is again faced with serious disappointment.

“After the multi-day festivals with camping last week, many one-day festivals and multi-day festivals without camping are now also deleted from the summer calendar. A hard decision and of course another big blow, a very sad observation and bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long.

“We will soon resume talks [with the government] for the period after 1 September. With the further increase in vaccination coverage and the insights from the Fieldlab Events studies, the Alliance is committed to a responsible, full opening of the planned events.”

Initially, the government was due to give a decision on one-day events without overnight stays on 13 August but the date was brought forward at the request of the events sector.

It’s like that the summary proceedings that promoter ID&T filed against the government also played a role in bringing the decision forward.

The event organiser – which has been forced to cancel events including Mysteryland – and 44 industry peers have filed a lawsuit against the government because they believed a decision on 13 August would be too late. The preliminary relief proceedings have been temporarily adjourned pending today’s decision.

The lawyer representing ID&T and co-claimants has contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s advice and the substantiation of the decision. ID&T will consider these documents and decide within two days whether the summary proceedings will be continued.

 


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