All Mass gatherings are now cancelled until September 2020 at the earliest. What does this mean for the live music industry?

We don’t need reminding about what the Coronavirus has done to our healthcare system and our society – and in that order.

But in the last couple of weeks, talk has started to turn to the fate of our economies, as people and businesses are trying desperately to come to grips with what has happened. There are over 1 million Irish citizens now on some form of state income support.

Each industry has it’s story of loss and we are all too familiar with a less than rosy story of what is to come over the next year as we try to ‘re-boot’ our economy and build our businesses back up. If we can re-open them at all.

A very different landscape

But one things is for sure. The future of large crowds at live events is likely to be dramatically changed. All concerts and live events have been dropped, one by one for the summer months and the ones still technically on schedule for the autumn, face almost certain cancellation also. For the punter and the festival reveller, this is unfortunate and disappointing. But they will get over it. In the grand scheme of things, getting to EP doesn’t really seem to be a life or death scenario.

But, for the musicians, the story is a very different tale. We have known for sometime, that record sales have been in decline. Artists simply don’t make money selling albums anymore. Yes, they will receive a tiny percentage from iTunes or Spotify for their songs, but these amount to nothing and most musicians certainly could not survive on these alone (of course, the bigger the artist or band, the higher the volume of streams and therefore, the more cash they receive).

Bands need to tour. It is the only way that they can make a living now. The larger ones need to pack arenas 5 times over, right across the world and the smaller ones need to rely on takings at live performances. If they are lucky and talented, they will move from local gigs to these larger arenas.

Gerry Cinnamon, started his live  performances here in The Academy (which MCD  referred to as a ‘crazy demand’), he went on to pack out the 3 Arena and is scheduled (at this time) to play Hampton Park in July. This trajectory all happened inside of 18 months and proves the importance of live performances to artists like this. Performing live to fans has been how musicians and artists have been able to make a living for the past number of years.

And now it’s gone.

Is this the end for Live music events?

The future of gigs, large and small seems to be bleak, at least in the short term. Our new reality of social distancing has seen to that. It simply is not feasible to fill a venue and expect people to properly maintain a 2 metre distance from each other. It’s neither practical, nor economically viable. People have been coming up with some suggestions and ideas about how it might be achievable, but they are riddled with potential problems. And how can you possibly police them successfully?

As one of the first industries to be hit by the impact of Covid-19, with mass gatherings shut down almost immediately, it seems that our gigs (along with other live events, like sports) will also be amoung the last to recover. And for an industry that generates over $12 billion annually, it is difficult to see how that can ever be recouped. Live Nation are reported to have lost almost one third of their value at one point because of the pandemic.

Obviously, there are many very successful, very comfortable bands and artists out there that have already made enough money to see them well into retirement. But, we need to also consider the thousands of backstage staff and the hundreds of crew employed at these events…because they face this future also. How are they supposed to make a living now?

And of course – the smaller acts, the new-comers just launching what looked like a hugely promising career, need support now. These are the bands playing venues across the country, like Whelans in Dublin, The Roisin in Galway, Limelight in Belfast. The bands that love performing almost as much as they need the money from the door.

Staying optimistic

It is hard to see where we can go from here, or what a recovery for this industry will look like. But it is devastating to think about a life without our concerts, or what might become of the artists we desperately want to support, but can’t. Because, there are very few (legal!) things that we can enjoy more than a decent live music gig.

At an AC/DC concert a few years back, the one thing I remember was how many guys were there with their kids. Bringing them along to watch a band that they had clearly seen many times before and would see many times again. And hopefully, now their kids would too. It seems frivolous perhaps to talk about the importance of such events at a time like this, but I do think that gigs and festivals bring people together.

I recently played a Metallica song on the radio and received a text from a listener to tell me that his daughters were thrilled. He attached a photo of himself with his four daughters, ranging from (I’m guessing) aged 3 to 9 years old. Each of them wearing a Metallica T-Shirt. Music for all 🙂

We hope that our musicians will not lose heart while this pandemic plays out. We hope that a vaccine will come along even quicker than the experts are hoping for. And we hope that the future of our music gigs has been simply paused – for a short while.

We will bring you more information here, as soon as we have it!

In the meantime, support your favourite artists any way that you can. And stay safe!
Greg G

(Header Image courtesy of Teddy@Pexels)