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Hugely popular deck chair series to tour Germany

Strandkorb Open Air, the hugely popular open-air deck chair concert series held in Mönchengladbach last summer, will tour other German cities this spring.

The 63-show series took place between July and October at SparkassenPark in Mönchengladbach last year and sold more than 50,000 tickets, according to organisers.

This spring, Strandkorb Open Air will return to SparkassenPark before touring Brita Arena in Wiesbaden, Stadthallen Stadion in Cham, St. Wendel/Bostalsee in Saarland, Augsburg exhibition grounds and Hoppegarten racecourse in Berlin.

The Covid-compliant shows will comprise up to 800 socially distanced deck chairs…hosting up to 3,200 attendees

The Covid-compliant shows will comprise up to 800 socially distanced deck chairs, each of which can seat up to four people, hosting up to 3,200 attendees. The shows will also utilise hygiene measures including one-way walkways to avoid contact with other visitors, as well as a food and drink delivery service.

Sparkassenpark boss Michael Hilgers says he is expecting around 200 shows, with more cities to be announced.

“After the season ended, many colleagues came up to me and asked if I could imagine implementing the concept with them,” Hilgers told MusikWoche. “Since I know how difficult it is for our industry at the moment and how well the concept worked and was accepted, we didn’t hesitate for long.”

Artists that have been announced so far include Pietro Lombardi, Kasalla, Daniel Wirtz, Mono Inc, Gentleman, In Extremo and Steel Age. Tickets are on sale now.

 


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Summer Sounds reveals Covid-safe ‘party pods’

The organisers behind Australia’s new festival series, Secret Sounds, have revealed the Covid-safe ‘party pods’ that are designed to keep attendees socially distanced during the events.

The festival – which is organised by Secret Sounds, the Live Nation-promoter behind Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival  – will kick off tomorrow (8 January) in Adelaide’s Bonython Park and will run until 31 January.

The format of the event will utilise ‘party pods’ which event director Daniel Michael has said are based on the socially distanced viewing platforms in the Virgin Money Unity Arena in the UK, which was built in the summer.

Tickets for Summer Sounds are being sold in groups of four or six and each party will have to stay within their pod for the duration of the concert, apart from going to buy food or go the toilet. Attendees will be allowed to eat, drink and dance within their pod.

Organisers say that the 10,000-square-metre site will accommodate up to 2,000 fans each night

Attendees are given a 15-minute window in which to arrive to avoid queues forming, and will be issued a wristband with their pod number, so every person at the event will be traceable.

Organisers say that the 10,000-square-metre site will accommodate up to 2,000 fans each night.

Summer Sounds was originally set to start on 30 December but was delayed until 8 January because of travel restrictions between New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia (SA), in response to Sydney’s coronavirus outbreaks.

 

 

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Due to the postponement of the event, organisers were forced to make amendments to the line-up.

Rapper Allday and pop-punk duo Towns will replace Jack River and Mercy, Merci for the 8 January show, while Tilly Tjala Thomas has been added to the 9 January lineup with Bernard Fanning and Something for Kate.

Fanning, a headline act, has been granted an SA Health exemption to travel from Byron Bay for the festival, as SA currently has a hard border closure with NSW.

Other artists performing through the series include Mallrat, Ruel, Cub Sport, Lime Cordiale, Baker Boy, The Chats, Spacey Jane and Ball Park Music.

 


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The Flaming Lips trial inflatable bubble shows

American rock band The Flaming Lips have proved that there’s no need to wait for the pandemic to bubble over to return to live shows.

Last week, the band performed to some 100 people at The Criterion in their hometown of Oklahoma City, using huge inflatable bubbles to protect themselves and the audience from Covid.

As well as the band members playing from within inflatable bubbles, each audience member was also encased within individual plastic spheres of their own, wearing a face mask and gloves.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGSil1hp97Z/

 

The show – which was part concert, part music video shoot – was the first to trial this orb concept which facilitates live music while adhering to social distancing safety guidelines.

The idea was born out of a sketch drawn by The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne during the early days of the pandemic and has since been used by the band for appearances on The Late Show with Stephen ColbertThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; and NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts.

The band have previously incorporated orbs into their stage shows.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CF5dxp2pAnC/

 


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Germany’s picnic concert series draws 30k visitors

Germany’s picnic concert series (Picknick Konzerte), which took place throughout the summer across multiple cities, has attracted more than 30,000 visitors.

The series, which was organised by Landstreicher Booking in cooperation with Kingstar, Prime Entertainment and Vagrant Cultural Productions, took place in Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Leipzig and Münster between July to September.

The 30-show series saw visitors sit on assigned, socially distanced blankets to watch performances from artists including Milky Chance, LEA, Faber, Joris, Helge Schneider, MoTrip, Giant Rooks, Provinz, Meute, Kasalla, Mine, Die Höchst Eisenbahn, Dota, Antje Schomaker and Mia Morgan.

Despite many sell-out shows in the series, the organisers stressed that the concerts are not economically viable and that picnic concerts are not a substitute for concerts with regular conditions.

“Nevertheless, the shows in this series offered an unforgettable, relaxed and beautiful live experience for the first time in months, whether in front of, on or behind the stage,” Landstreicher told MusikWoche.

“The shows in this series offered an unforgettable, relaxed and beautiful live experience for the first time in months”

Martin Vejmelka, managing director at Vagrant cultural productions (Dresden and Leipzig) said: “We are proud that our teams in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin, in cooperation with the colleagues from Kingstar in Münster and Prime Entertainment in Cologne, were able to develop attractive venues in a very short time, have developed hygienic concepts that can be approved and have created impressive productions.”

“Together with our tour partners, we were able to put a diverse program on the stage and, contrary to expectations, enable many people to have a few touching live music experiences in summer 2020.

“We are particularly pleased that with the picnic concerts we were able to provide our long-term production partners with a tiny ray of hope in a time full of rejections.”

Picknick Konzerte is one of many innovative, socially distanced concert formats trialled by German organisers, along with the deck chair concert series, Strandkorb Open Air, and Back to Live, which launched earlier this month and will run until 2 October.

Last month, the German government announced that all major events that don’t adhere to social distancing measures and hygiene protocol will now be banned until at least the end of the year.

 


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Prague festivals combine for big open-air event

Praha září (Prague September) in the Czech Republic is combining some of the capital’s leading cultural festivals for a large scale event that’s expected to be the last of its kind before a lockdown.

The open-air event is taking place between 8–28 September at the Výstaviště exhibition grounds in Prague-Holešovice and includes programming from music, theatre and film festivals.

The 17th annual multi-genre festival United Islands of Prague took over programming last weekend, presenting Czech, Slovak and Austrian artists.

While Metronome, which was scheduled to take place in June featuring artists such as Beck, Underworld and Skepta but was cancelled, presented a mini version of its flagship event during the week.

“In light of the expected development of the pandemic, it is likely that Praha září will be the last large event not just in the Czech Republic, but also in surrounding countries,” says Metronome Prague and Praha září head of programme Barbora Šubrtová.

“That’s why we’d like to invite all music fans to come and enjoy the final live shows of this year in a safe open-air environment where we can ensure greater social distancing and a reduced risk of infection than on your morning commute to work.”

“In light of the expected development of the pandemic, it is likely that Praha září will be the last large event”

In compliance with the government regulations, Praha září divided the grounds of Prague-Holešovice into four sectors with a maximum capacity of 1,000 people each so visitors can maintain social distancing.

Visitors are required to register with the festival organisers, read the Ten Commandments of a Responsible Guest before entering the event and wear a mask at all times.

Last Tuesday, the BBC noted a new record for Czech Republic after the country recorded 1,677 Covid cases.

Hospitalisation, intensive care and deaths are also on a sharp upward trajectory, and heading towards the numbers seen in March and April.

IQ recently announced a partnership with the Czech Music Office to showcase the best of the Czech Republic’s thriving live music sector to the world.

Listen to the SoundCzech x IQ playlist, which features artists including FVTVRE, I Love You Honey Bunny, MYDY, the Atavists, Ba:zel, Tea Sofia and Hellwana, here.

 


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New festival formats: Who dares wins

This year, many greenfield festival organisers were faced with two choices: adapt or perish. With ever-changing legislation, capacity restrictions, lack of cancellation cover and low financial viability to contend with, many chose the former – pivoting to virtual events or pledging to return next year with a bigger and better event.

As this year’s festival season draws to a close, IQ looks at some greenfield festivals that dared to adapt their IRL events, taking the restrictions in their stride and seizing the opportunity to go back to the drawing board in order to deliver to their fanbase.

Electrisize in Erkelenz, Germany, is one such event. Rather than compromising its brand with a socially distanced spin-off (a concern expressed by many organisers during the Interactive Festival Forum), the festival decided to scrap its three-year-old model altogether.

The organisers chose instead to use coronavirus measures as a framework on which to build a brand-new event, rather than a set of limitations that would diminish the experience its fans had come to expect.

While outdoor events in Germany were restricted at the time of planning, campsites with attractions were permitted to open.

“At first we thought, that’s unfair,” says executive director Raphael Meyesieck. “But the longer we thought about it, the more we understood that we had found a loophole for the event industry.”

Thus Electricity was born and its “cake-shaped campsite” concept was conceived, planned and built within five weeks.

“Eeverything that was installed because of the corona regulations didn’t feel like a limitation or disruption”

The campsite, located on the grounds of Hohenbusch House, was divided into six camping sectors – or “cake pieces” – and featured a 360-degree stage at the centre which could be seen from each sector.

Each sector had several demarcated areas in front of the stage for up to ten people, in order to observe social distancing measures.

And the 100-capacity sectors were colour-coded, with corresponding wristbands to ensure festivalgoers stayed within their allocated sector.

Bars, food tents and “sanitary clusters” lined the border of each sector (thus serving two sectors at once), sewage collectors came to dispose of the waste and generators provided power. But Meyesieck says that the key to the corona-compliant campsite was simple: space.

However, it seems that flexibility was also an important trick Meyersieck kept up his sleeve. The director says the event hired spare staff for any unpredictable event and were prepared to adjust the capacity of sectors should coronavirus guidelines change.

Fortunately, the event went undisrupted for four weekends and only a few minor tweaks to the opening times of the amenities and the check-in welcome routine were necessary.

“All told, it was perfect. We had an inspection by the authorities during the first evening of the first weekend and they were overwhelmed at how good the concept worked,” says Meyersieck.

“We asked ourselves: how could we offer our audience a taste of Deer Shed whilst adhering to social distancing rules”

Meyersieck says the event was such a huge success because there were no comparable offers for festivalgoers at the time.

Deer Shed in the UK had similar ideas to Electricity, using camping as the focus of its socially distanced family camping weekender, Base Camp.

The “camping weekender” took place between 24–27 July at Deer Shed’s usual home of Baldersby Park in North Yorkshire.

The site comprised 320 15×15-metre pitches, each with its own portaloo and space to park a car. Families were contained within their own square, thereby maintaining social distancing, but could request to be allocated a pitch next to friends.

The festival provided some food and ice-cream vendors but families were encouraged to bring their own food and drink to minimise Covid risk and to make the festival more economically viable.

However, the masterstroke of Base Camp’s concept was broadcasting live music through an FM channel so families could listen on their own radio at their own pitch.

The programme included performances from artists including The Howl & The Hum, Shadowlark and Low Hummer, as well as spoken word, comedy, a Sunday paper review, bedtime stories, DJ sets and pre-recorded shows.

“The genius part of Electricity is that it’s the first and only concept that makes a virtue of necessity”

“We asked ourselves: how could we offer our audience a taste of Deer Shed whilst adhering to social distancing rules?” said Deer Shed director Kate Webster at the Interactive Festival Forum.

“The creative aspects, delivering the essence of Deer Shed, and managing expectations of our audience took a lot of thought.”

Initially, the festival put the feelers out to see if its regular festivalgoers would be interested in a socially distanced camping weekender and according to Webster, people were supportive from the off.

Like Electricity, Base Camp was unaffected by changing legislation around Coronavirus; however, Primavera Sound wasn’t so lucky with its project Nits del Fòrum.

In the absence of its flagship festival, the Spanish promoter organised a series of outdoor concerts throughout the summer specifically designed to comply with all social distancing regulations, capacity and hygiene rules.

The 70-show series was launched at the end of June, taking place from Tuesday to Sunday each week at Primavera’s Barcelona home of the Parc del Fòrum outdoor amphitheatre, and will close on 20 September.

The series has featured performances from the likes of Hinds, Mala Rodríguez and Dorian.

With all things considered, cancelling a small portion of a 70-show series takes little away from organisers’ triumph

Alongside programming from Primavera Sound, local promoters and organisers including Caníbal (Sala Apolo), Arte por Derecho, Somoslas and Churros con Chocolate, also helped with the billing and to make the event as diverse as possible.

All gigs are seated and guests are assigned a demarcated spot on the tiered amphitheatre, 1.5 metres from the next.

Similar to Electricity, the organisers accounted for a flexible capacity, designed to be adaptable to the changing health regulations of the local government.

However, a spike in infections in the region brought the series to a grinding halt between 18–31 July. The festival resumed on 1 August, with some shows rescheduled and others cancelled altogether. But, with all things considered, cancelling a small portion of a 70-show series takes little away from organisers’ triumph.

Deer Shed reported similar success with Base camp, with tickets selling out immediately. And though Webster says the turnover was only 8% of what they would’ve taken in an average year, she says it went some way to making up for the losses in 2020.

With Electricity 2020, however, Meyersieck and his team seem to have landed on a model they could build on post-pandemic.

The director reported that the festival was economically sustainable and the team is even thinking about adopting the new features for the Electrisize festival campsite when things are back to normal.

“The sectors, the cages and everything that was installed because of the corona regulations didn’t feel like a limitation or disruption – they were a feature.”

“The genius part of Electricity is that it’s the first and only concept that makes a virtue of necessity,” he says.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Ally Wolf: ‘No one chooses our industry for a normal life’

Ally Wolf first started working in events aged 18, when he was at university in Southampton.

A massive music fan, he formed the uni’s record label and booked live shows for local acts that the label signed to support releases.

When he graduated, he began running a small indie DJ club and bought a PA with his student grad loan, as well as building a stage, so he could book bands.

Those acts included the likes of The Maccabees, The Kooks and Maximo Park, before they had deals, but the bands stayed loyal to Wolf when he became a full-time promoter.

A move to London saw Wolf crash landing in Nambucca alongside Frank Turner, Beans on Toast and The Holloways, among others, with whom he formed lasting friendships, as he expanded his promoting skills.

Tours on barges to Oxford followed with an unsigned Mumford & Sons, Bastille and Kate Tempest, and many amazing times were had.

“Unfortunately, Nambucca burned down, and I took over a pub a mile down the road called The Old Queens Head, programming it and a few other venues for The Columbo Group until I caught the Bingo bug and took Rebel Bingo round Europe, America and the UK, selling thousands of tickets a night,” says Wolf.

“Whilst on the hunt for a magical new home for Rebel Bingo in London, I discovered the sleeping giant that was The Clapham Grand, which was, at the time, in a transitional stage of programming.

“So I moved myself and a new team in to revert it back to its original purpose – a grand palace of variety – but with a modern twist, and it also became the proud host of The Grand stage at Mighty Hoopla, the festival I founded and co-own with the teams from Sink The Pink, East Creative, Guilty Pleasures and Bugged Out.”

Wolf says his highlights from working at The Grand are simple. “Pre-Covid: getting the diary to the point where we have a constant weekly [schedule] of varied events, which cater for so many people to give them an incredible night out – from drag, to comedy, live music, bingo, cinema and clubbing.”

“We’ve created a blueprint for a business model when we reopen, of a hybrid between live and streamed”

Wolf continues, “We are like the Royal Albert Hall held together by gaffer tape, or the Barbican, for a tenner. It’s affordable, well-produced, pop-culturally referenced entertainment for people who want a great experience-led night out, but can’t afford the bigger venues, or want somewhere a bit more relaxed to let their hair down in.”

Post-Covid, Wolf and his staff have used their creativity to engineer a successful crowdfunding campaign that gave the venue’s supporters live-streamed shows, produced to a TV-standard, whilst also supporting other communities and organisations like Save Live Comedy and the Save Our Venues campaigns.

“We’ve created a blueprint for a business model when we reopen, of a hybrid between live and streamed,” he notes.

“In order to make the venue work, financially, we have to execute multiple events in the same day, which can be incredibly complex, organisation-wise. But with great forward planning and an excellent production team, we’ve been able to execute,” continues Wolf.

“There have been many occasions when we’ve looked at the auditorium before doors and wondered where the hell are we going to put all the flight cases and equipment, but as with life, we always find a way.”

One of the major challenges that Wolf is having to tackle during the enforced venue lockdown is the threat of The Clapham Grand’s permanent closure.

He explains, “Our landlord is still charging full rent during lockdown, and we currently haven’t been able to get a CBILS loan, so we were left in a position of having to crowdfund to cover our rent.”

That support, says Wolf, has secured the venue’s future until the end of August. “We are now applying for the various Arts Council grants that have [be]come available,” he adds.

“This isn’t normal, it’s just life. It’s thrown us a massive curveball and now we just need to work our way through it”

Wolf says the operation to reconfigure The Grand for the 28 July, Grand Aid Live – which featured long-time friends Frank Turner, Beans On Toast and Ciara Haidar – was a real test for venue staff.

“Turning a 1,250-capacity Victorian theatre into a 200-cap tabled space, with one-way systems, staggered arrival times and drinks service, was not easy, but we managed it. It all just requires greater planning and more cost, but it can be done.

“People understood the complexity of the situation and were just happy to work with us on making it happen.

“We had clear communication to our customers, artists and staff to talk them through the process in advance, and a great customer service attitude to facilitate any questions, etc, during the event.

“The product itself was still a great night out, which means we can invest in it moving forward. It didn’t feel like an experiment or an alien experience.”

With the threat hanging over The Grand ramping up the pressure during what is already an unprecedented period of stress, Wolf is remaining upbeat and shares some helpful thoughts for artists and industry colleagues around the world who also find themselves dealing with uncertainty.

“Just show positivity when coming back to see shows,” he says. “Work with venues on the rules and guidelines, be respectful of staff and, more than anything, have fun.

“Everyone is working overtime to get the industry back, and, most importantly, give customers what they have been missing, which is a great night out.”

He concludes, “This is not the ‘new normal.’ This isn’t normal, it’s just life. It’s thrown us a massive curveball and now we just need to work our way through it. No one chooses our industry for a normal life, let alone a new normal life!”

 


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Netherlands builds socially-distanced venue

A temporary purpose-built, socially-distanced theatre is opening at Jaarbeurs exhibition and convention centre in Utrecht this autumn.

The Scala Theater is currently being built in two halls of Jaarbeurs and will remain in place from 25 September until 31 December.

The temporary construction consists of three floors with 129 boxes, separate staircases and walking paths. The venue can cater to up to 1,050 guests, who will be seated above, below and next to each other around the stage.

The design and layout, which includes spacious entrances, exits and reception foyers, comply with all National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) guidelines, according to organisers.

The temporary construction consists of three floors with 129 boxes, separate staircases and walking paths

The concept for The Scala Theater originated from a collaboration between Jaarbeurs, Coreworks, Mertens AVR, IINII and Fraai Projecten, as well as AT NEXT and Senf Theaterpartners which will be responsible for programming.

André Hazes will perform on The Scala Theater’s opening night and artists including Crook, Nick & Simon, OG3NE, Rolf Sanchez, Tino Martin and Waylon will also deliver concerts in the new construction. The venue will also host comedy, family shows and special performances.

The temporary venue model follows that of the UK’s Virgin Money Unity Arena (cap. 2,500), which will host 29 events in 26 days.

The Netherlands relaxed its coronavirus regulations from 1 July, removing the capacity limit for seated indoor and outdoor events, provided fans have undergone health checks before entry and a 1.5 metre distancing rule is observed.

Last week, the Netherlands announced a second rescue package for cultural businesses which includes €150m to be allocated towards music venues and theatres.

 


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The perfect storm: Inside the UK’s only live shows

Selling over 72,000 tickets for a concert series that began when live shows in the UK were – strictly speaking – not allowed, is no small undertaking. But then neither is building a new outdoor arena for shows at a time when strict social distancing rules are in place.

All the things that could have gone wrong would’ve gone wrong on the opening weekend but they didn’t,” says Jim Gee, a director at Manchester-based production company, Engine No.4.

Gee and his team have spent the last few months working tirelessly on the launch of the UK’s only major summer concert series of 2020 at the country’s first socially distanced arena in Newcastle. And it’s a remarkable story in a time of lockdowns, postponements and cancellation.

The Virgin Money Unity Arena is set to host 29 events in 26 days, featuring artists including Supergrass, The Libertines and Maximo Park.

Sam Fender opened the series on 11 August with a sold-out show, which Gee deems were an enormous success despite the high stakes. We went from never having done this kind of event before, straight to a full-capacity for the first show but it opened with a bang,” he says.

“We went from never having done this kind of event before, straight to a full-capacity for the first show”

The 2,500-capacity shows are the vision of SSD Concerts boss Steve Davis, with whom Engine No.4 worked on Newcastle-based festival This Is Tomorrow.

Having one pandemic project under their belt already – the UK’s first socially distanced dining concept, Platform 15, at Escape to Freight Island at Depot Mayfield, Manchester – Engine No.4 was the ideal choice for Davis and SSD, and the team set to work on finding the perfect site for the concert series they’d dreamt up.

We looked at various places around Newcastle and the Racecourse ticked all the boxes. We needed a big car park capacity, a big arena capacity and a big capacity in between those sites for walking and socially distanced queueing,” explains Gee.

The site features 500 viewing platforms each accommodating up to five people. Attendees were given 20-minute slots in which to arrive, though Gee says that was the only aspect that didn’t quite go to plan on the first night.

Avoiding queues was one of the key factors in the event running smoothly, along with space and sanitation

“The thing that slightly caught us off guard was how quickly people arrived. They were raring to get in ahead of their segmented times so we ended up having slightly longer queues getting into the event than anticipated, but we tweaked that after the first night,” he says.

Avoiding queues was one of the key factors in the event running smoothly, along with space and sanitation, says Gee. And the rest is “purely common sense and over-speccing things”.

“Over-speccing things” meant equipping the arena with 150 hand sanitizer stations; eight food operators; more bar frontage; and approximately four times more toilets than an event of that size would usually require.

But of course, over-estimating facilities is just one of the factors driving up costs for an event like this. “Holding an event for 2,500 with facilities that could normally take 35-40,000 people clearly isn’t a brilliant financial model,” he laughs.

Gee notes that for events like these, commercial support from sponsors like Virgin Money is crucial. He also says that although the financial model of socially-distanced events like this one isn’t sustainable, it is a step closer towards a viable model.

“There was a lot of stakeholders working together in the perfect storm”

“I think you can mitigate those costs in some way with the length of the run,” he says. “What we’ve done here is a bit like the venue model. If you can create a temporary venue and put enough shows into that venue then at some point you might start to break even and maybe make a bit of money but to try and do this for a weekend or a festival or a week doesn’t make sense,” he adds.

The desired time frame was another crucial consideration when choosing the site, says Gee, but the Racecourse was able to provide the licences and planning permission required for the event.

However, the success of the event wasn’t just down to right place, right time. “There was a lot of stakeholders working together in the perfect storm,” says Gee, crediting the enthusiasm of Newcastle City Council, the emergency services, Virgin Money and the artists who have to “buy into the concept”.

According to Gee, the series has been such a success so far, Newcastle City Council has been approached by a number of other local authorities asking for pointers. On top of that, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and Public Health England has accepted an invitation to view the systems in place.

“A lot of hoops have had to be jumped through to make this work and it isn’t particularly economically sustainable but what we’ve managed to create could be used as a model going forwards,” says Gee.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Covid-safe shows take off in major live markets

Socially distanced shows, both in venues and in parking lots, are slowly becoming a new reality for music fans the world over, as the live industry finds a myriad of creative and innovative ways to keep the live experience alive despite the Covid-19 crisis.

From virtual shows and in-game concerts, to fan-less performances and “to-go” concert services, new kinds of shows that allow fans to adhere to social distancing measures while putting a spin on the traditional live experience are becoming more and more common.

More recent examples of drive-in gigs and socially distanced shows in real-life venues are allowing the live experience to be recreated in ever-more realistic ways.

The first-ever socially distanced concert took place at a venue in Arkansas, USA, last night (18 May), as venues in some US states are allowed to open their doors once more. Initially due to take place on Saturday, the owners of venue Temple Live ran into licensing difficulting with state governor Asa Hutchinson, who had decreed that venues were only permitted to reopen from Monday, and with a capacity of 50 people.

The show did go on, however, with 229 people – a fifth of Temple Live’s full capacity – watching Bishop Gunn’s Travis McCready perform live, while sitting 1.6 metres apart from those not in their households in pre-appointed ‘fan pods’, or clusters of seating for two to 12 people.

The venue almost sold out, with tickets priced at $20. However, at 20% of its full capacity limit, the show made a loss. Lance Beaty, president of the company that owns Temple Live told the New York Times that, while “clearly not a financial decision”, the show offered “hope to a lot of people” and acted as “an experiment” for a burgeoning socially distanced show model.

As countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain give the go-ahead for live shows to return – subject to stringent restrictions – in the next few weeks, live music behemoth Live Nation is already preparing to launch its first series of socially distanced shows in New Zealand, a country which is widely regarded as having kept the Covid-19 crisis at bay.

“It is an opportunity for us to unite and celebrate the power of live with some of the country’s first socially distanced shows”

Live Nation New Zealand’s Together Again concert series debuts next weekend (29 to 30 May), with shows by singer-songwriter Hollie Smith and comedian Urzila Carlson at Auckland’s the Tuning Fork.

Capacity will be limited to 100 people, with temperature screening and contract tracing in place. Staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and all food and drink orders must be made via an app.

“We are excited to be welcoming back live events in New Zealand,” comments Live Nation New Zealand chairman Stuart Clumpas.

“[The Together Again series] is an opportunity for us to unite and celebrate the power of live with some of the country’s first socially distanced shows.”

Tickets for the first too Together Again concerts go on sale on Wednesday (20 May) at 12 p.m. (NZST), priced at NZ$25 (€14).

In neighbouring Australia, which began to emerge from lockdown at the beginning of the month, live music is returning in the guise of drive-in concerts, following a format that has already been introduced in the United States, Germany, Denmark and Lithuania.

Drive-In Entertainment Australia has teamed up with local councils to set up eight Covid-proof venues across New South Wales and Victoria, which will hold 600 fans each. A free drive-in concert will be trialled at the Robyn Webster Sport Centre in Sydney on Thursday, with a performance by Australian singer Casey Donovan. The full programme will roll out across venues from 18 July.

“Entertainment is what keeps the light on in times like this, we want to keep Australians hopeful and keep entertainers employed”

As well as receiving live audio through their car radios, fans will also have an option to livestream visuals from the shows via video-conference platform Zoom, providing an opportunity for artist interaction.

“We, like most people in the entertainment industry, were left devastated when our gigs evaporated overnight,” comments Drive-In Entertainment Australia managing director Samwise Holmes.

“Rather than let it defeat us, we sought to innovate. Entertainment is what keeps the light on in times like this, we want to keep Australians hopeful and keep entertainers employed – while adhering to strict health regulations.

Under stage three of Australia’s lockdown exit plan, set to be put in place in July, gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted, but “that is not sustainable for most live performances”, says Holmes.

“With the Drive-In Hubs, performers will have the ability to entertain up to 300 cars. And that’s a lot of people having a great night out – safely!”

Elsewhere, in Europe, Serbia’s Exit Festival hosted the first official post-lockdown event in the country, as restrictions were eased earlier this month. The invite-only event saw DJs play to just 50 people at the festival’s Dance Arena at the Petrovaradin Fortres, which usually accomoodates 50,000 daily visitors.

“Our festival started as an exit from the isolation and civil wars that former Yugoslavia had in the 90s, but now the whole world needs to be united in order to exit from this huge crisis,” comments Exit Festival founder Dušan Kovačević.

A special “Fortress Stream” will be broadcast on the Exit Festival Facebook page in coming weeks.

 


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