Live albums, livestreamed events and now drive-in festivals have become the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic, but what does the future hold for the live music industry? Laura Phillips spoke to Nottingham-based promoters and patrons about their opinions on whether the future of live music could be digital.
The live music industry has almost always relied on the concept of lots of people congregating quite close together in a confined space. It’s clear that this kind of entertainment will take a while to return as long as strict social distancing measures stay in place.
Parts of the industry have overhauled their approaches, taking advantage of the plethora of ever-advancing technology, with many gigs happening on Facebook livestreams, Instagram’s IGTV and everyone’s favourite new addition, Zoom.
“Watching some glitchy livestream is not a substitute for going to an actual gig at Rock City.”
DHP Family, a promotions and concerts company based in Nottingham, whose mission statement is “to make sure everyone has a f****** great time (safely)”, are clearly champing at the bit to get back to putting on live events.
“Watching some glitchy stream is not any kind of substitute for going to an actual gig at Rock City,” says Anton Lockwood, director of live at DHP.
“This stuff is all well and good, and it’s nice that it’s keeping a bit of activity going, but the industry only survives when we can re-open at proper capacity.”
He adds: “We’ve seen a reasonable uptake for things we’ve done. Frank Turner premiered his video of him live at Rock City for his 2,000th show and that went really well. But there’s nothing like actually being there in person.”
Will Robinson, MD of Nottingham-based promotions company and record label I’m Not From London, has seen success with livestream festivals. The company, which has offered early platforms to East Midlands artists Jake Bugg and Sleaford Mods, hosted the first livestream festival since lockdown that began on April 4 in collaboration with Circle of Light and Hockley Hustle.
“Jake Bugg’s manager said he had the biggest engagement that he’d ever had on a video from the Light Hustle. We had loads of people from different countries watch it, so it worked really well,” Will says. The festival has paved the way for the upcoming NottStopping festival happening this weekend (May 23-24).
Although the attempts to keep ‘live’ music going through these difficult times are appreciated, the primary problem posed to musicians and promoters, is how to make any money from it. Many musicians rely on getting paid gigs and sell their merch to make a living, alongside promotions, concert and ticketing companies who rely on the ticket sales to pay the bills.
One company has stepped up to the challenge to try to inject some normality into what is going to be a rather bizarre British summer stuck indoors instead of revelling outside in a field in the South Western wilderness. Outdoor cinema experts, Nightflix, are attempting to recreate the festival experience many of us are mourning this summer, following social distancing guidelines of course.
Steve Marson, head of marketing at Nightflix’s outdoor cinema service provider, Cinex, says that the idea to run the UK’s first drive-in festival came from the initial drive-in cinema Nightflix run in Colchester.
“We’re in the process of opening a new [drive-in cinema] on the same site as the one we’re doing the festival at in Newark. We saw a couple of people that did one in Holland and in Germany, and it was quite popular.”
The proposed drive-in festival will take place over 10 days at Newark Showground in July, showcasing live performances from some of the best tribute acts across the UK, ranging from Take That and Foo Fighters to ABBA and Madness. “It’s going to be festival-style, with a big screen up and audio will be transmitted through FM, so it will go through to people’s cars,” says Steve.
He sees little potential, though, in the drive-in-style festival once social distancing measures are over.
“The drive-in festival long term? I’d probably say no. The outdoor cinema will be around for a long time, but the festival, I don’t think so.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be like VE day, but once it is over, I’m sure people will be sick of livestreams.”
Will Robinson believes that the new methods of concert delivery could definitely be built into the current offering.
“In some ways it’s nice to kind of get an international audience. There have been quite a few people who have developed some fans that they wouldn’t have played to before.”
However, Will also says that people will be “sick of livestreams” once a vaccine for the virus is found and the pandemic ends. “I’m sure they’ll want to go out and see live music again and we’ll have proper gigs.”
Anton Lockwood agrees it could support what’s currently on offer.
“I see international touring being screwed for quite a long time. I could see someone like Enter Shikari be able to do their UK tour, but they can’t tour Australia, so you stream some UK gigs, but target it at the Australian market, you know things like that.”
Whether or not the live event industry does continue to use these new methods of concert delivery post-pandemic, one thing is clear: there is no true replacement for seeing your favourite band down against the barrier at the front of a live concert.