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Road to recovery: A timeline of pilot projects

In August 2020, Germany paved the way for live music pilot projects with Restart-19, an experiment which saw thousands of volunteers to take part in a concert at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig with singer Tim Bendzko.

Since then, similar experiments have popped up across the globe. From Spain to Singapore, test events with as few as 50 participants and as many as 5,000 have taken place to prove to authorities (and the world) that when it comes to safety and security, the live music industry knows what it’s doing.

Below is a timeline of the pilot projects that have taken place since late summer 2020 – all of which have proved, in one way or another, that the live entertainment sector can reopen safely under certain measures – as well as the tests that are on the horizon in 2021.

August 2020

When: 22 August 2020
Where: Quarterback Immobilien Arena, Leipzig, Germany
Who: University Medical Center of Halle
What they said: “[T]he contacts that do occur at an event do not involve all participants. Therefore, events could take place under specific conditions during a pandemic.”
Participants: 1,500

November 2020

Konzerthaus Dortmund (study)
When: 2–3, 20 November 2020
Where: Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
Who: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute Goslar, ParteQ
What they said: “Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection. […] With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”

December 2020

When: 12 December 2020
Where: Apolo, Barcelona, Spain
Who: Primavera Sound, Germans Trias Hospital, the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation
What they said: “A live music concert, staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for Sars- CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections.”
Participants: 1,047

Philharmonie de Paris (study)
When: 16 December 2020
Where: Philharmonie de Paris, France
Who: Dassault Systèmes
What they said: “The combination of face masks with a fresh-air supply built into every seat gives the indoor Philharmonie a similar profile to that of an outdoor space, with a very limited risk of spread from one side [of the venue] to the other.”

Back to Live (SG)
When: 18–19 December 2020 Where: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay, Singapore
Who: AEG Presents, Collective Minds
What they said: “[T]he outcome of such pilots will be critical to our ongoing efforts to allow events of a larger scale to resume in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Participants: 500

February 2021

Because Music Matters
When: 10–14 February
Where: Rockhal, Luxembourg
Who: Rockhal
What they said: “Building confidence among all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important.”
Participants: 100 per night

Back to Live (NL)
When: 15, 20, 21, 28 February & 6, 7, 20, 21 March 2021
Where: The Netherlands
Who: Fieldlab Evenementen
What they said: “We can now show that we can organise events in a very safe way. […] We hope this can lead to a tailor- made reopening of venues.”
Participants: Varies between events

March 2021

Love of Lesbian
When: 27 March 2021
Where: Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona
Who: Festivals per la Cultura Segura
What they said: The event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed.
Participants: 5,000

The Berlin Philharmonic
When: 20 March 2021
Where: Chamber Music Hall, Berlin
Who: Pilotprojekt, Berlin department of culture
What they said: ‘Zero infections among the 1,000 people who attended the show is further proof that events can be organised safely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.’
Participants: 680

April 2021

Jonathan theatre performance
When: 26 April–9 May 2021
Where: Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS), Belgium
Who: KVS and Belgium’s Ministry of Culture
What they said: “An important observation is that the CO2 value and the relative humidity have barely increased. We saw the figure increase from 500 ppm to 600 ppm, while the maximum permitted value is 1200 ppm. This is of course only a first indication.”
Participants: 50–250

May 2021

Events Research Programme
When: April/May 2021
Where: Sefton Park and Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool, Brit Awards in London, The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and more
Who: Festival Republic, Circus, BPI, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and more
What they said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing. We will be guided by the science and medical experts but will work flat out to make that happen.”
Participants: 300–21,000

TBC 2021

Denmark Trials
When: TBC 2021
Where: Denmark
Who: Dansk Live, Divisionsforeningen
What they said: “This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many great concert experiences across the country in 2021.”

Paris test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Accor Arena, Paris
Who: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, St Louis Hospital, Prodiss
Participants: 5,000

Marseille test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Dôme, Marseille
Who: The city of Marseille, Inserm, Béatrice Desgranges (Marsatac, SMA)
Participants: 1,000


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Primavera Sound hails successful PRIMACOV trial

Organisers have hailed as a successful the PRIMACOV clinical trial, which took place at Barcelona’s Sala Apolo on Saturday (12 December) after a two-month delay.

Originally organised for October, PRIMACOV – organised by Primavera Sound in association with Hospital Germans Trias in Barcelona and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation – welcomed 1,042 people to the 1,608-capacity venue for a clinical study designed to show whether rapid testing could hold the key to staging concerts without social distancing.

Everyone who was allowed into the show, which featured performances by local artists including Marta Salicrú, Unai Muguruza, Mujeres and Renaldo and Clara, had had to first test negative for Covid-19 using rapid antigen tests – the results of which were available in 15 minutes – as well as traditional PCR tests.

“The objective of this study is to validate these kind of tests … to be able to carry out events without social distancing”

“That was, precisely, the objective of this study: to validate these kind of tests as an extremely useful tool to be able to carry out any type of event, whether musical or not, without social distancing,” explain the PRIMACOV team.

The show followed a similar trial in Germany, dubbed Restart-19, which found that live shows could take place safely under “specific conditions during a pandemic”. Several ‘Back to Live’ pilot events will also take place in the Netherlands, with the government’s backing, in January.

The results of the PRIMACOV trial will be released in mid-January, according to Primavera Sound, although the festival warns that the results will only be completely accurate if all 1,042 attendees have a second PCR test, on Sunday 20 December.

PRIMACOV is part of Primavera’s Back on Track initiative, which is supported by Live Nation, Universal Music Group, Ticketmaster, Sony Music, promoter Last Tour and collection society SGAE, among others.


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Spanish venues prepare for ‘The Last Concert’

Music venues across Spain are preparing for a livestream event dubbed ‘The Last Concert?’ to highlight the severity of the situation facing the country’s cultural facilities, due to ‘lack of action and political will’ from the government.

Next Wednesday (18 November), over 90 venues including Barcelona’s Apolo Hall and Madrid’s Café La Palma will come together and livestream performances from a host of artists, yet to be announced, for free from 8 pm.

The event is part of a wider campaign called #ElÚltimoConcierto (The Last Concert) which saw iconic Spanish venues post photos on social networks with the hashtag, as well as its year of foundation and the year 2020 with a question mark to suggest that the crisis may mean the closure of these spaces.

“We unite to celebrate what could be the last concert if the administration does not take the necessary economic and political measures to avoid the disappearance of this network of cultural facilities that are essential for the development of artists and cultural life of our territory,” the manifesto reads.

“As one of the sectors most affected by the crisis, with most spaces not yet able to open their doors, we need attention proportional to our degree of affectation if we want to avoid the impoverishment and cultural desertification of our territory, which unfortunately would be irreversible.”

“We unite to celebrate what could be the last concert if the gov does not take the necessary economic and political measures”

According to the campaign group, 25,000 concerts in Spain will have been cancelled this year, causing a total loss of €120 million for concert halls. These spaces employ almost five thousand direct workers, whose jobs are at risk.

At least 15 music venues have permanently closed already, according to AP Musicales.

Last week, prime minister Pedro Sánchez and his cabinet declared a six-month state of emergency, set to remain in force until 9 May, with periodic reviews.

The decree will allow Spain’s regional governments to order an overnight curfew to run from 11 pm to 6 am, or to begin and finish an hour earlier or later.

Promoters including Live Nation Spain, Doctor Music, Madness Live and Producciones Animadas have commented on the new wave of measures for IQ.


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Spain to host 1,000-cap pilot gig for clinical study

Following in the footsteps of Germany’s Restart-19 project, The Apolo hall in Barcelona will host a pilot concert with over 1,000 participants that will serve as a clinical study.

Organised by Primavera Sound, the Fight Against Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation, and the Germans Trias hospital in Barcelona for this October, the pilot will aim to establish the effectiveness of conducting rapid coronavirus tests at a live music event in a closed environment.

The study will require each attendee to undergo a rapid antigen test, which detects coronavirus in minutes, on the same day of the concert. Only those with negative test results will be permitted to attend the gig.

Then, before the doors of the venue are opened, a PCR test will also be carried out on half of the participants to evaluate the effectiveness of rapid tests as a screening strategy in large events.

During the concert, participants will have to wear a protective mask at all times, except when consuming beverages, and use disinfectant gel. The day of the concert and the artist(s) who will perform have not yet been confirmed.

The pilot will aim to establish the effectiveness of conducting rapid tests at a live music event in a closed environment

Eight days after the concert, a second rapid antigen test will be carried out on all attendees and a new PCR will be carried out on the participants who have already been tested on the day of the event.

The objective of the study is to test different formulas that can guarantee the creation of a safe environment for the realisation of live events in closed spaces in times of Covid-19.

The Spanish pilot event is a smaller-scale version of Germany’s Restart-19, which saw 1,500 volunteers spent ten hours inside Arena Leipzig on 22 August as part of a scientific experiment that aimed to show how coronavirus travels at indoor events.

The study comprised three concerts by singer Tim Bendzko: one with no social distancing at all, pre-coronavirus style; one with “optimised hygiene measures”, such as more entrances/exits and some distance between concertgoers; and one with full social distancing, with attendees seated 1.5 metres apart.

The results from Restart-19 will be revealed on the 22 October.


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