The UK music industry remains one of the cultural sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. After a booming year in 2019, with the music industry adding a record £ 5.8 billion (about $ 8 billion) to the UK economy and hitting an all-time high in employment, 2020 was a sharp jolt.
According to a “Music By Numbers 2020” report commissioned by UK Music, the sector lost around 85 percent of its live income after cancellations over the course of the year, while the musicians themselves suffered losses of up to 80 percent of their forecast income. These canceled events have also made waves in the music magazine industry. Q, Crack, Loud and Quiet and others have missed out on valuable paid advertising, usually guaranteed during festival season, and contributed to their breakdown. And of course, almost every music festival scheduled for 2020 was postponed and rescheduled before it was canceled. The economic impact was devastating for the organizers.
The Association of Independent Festivals – an organization representing 65 festivals across the UK – reported that the cost of canceling their events in 2020 is putting the majority of their clients in serious financial trouble. The cancellations have resulted in refunds of up to £ 800 million (approximately $ 1 billion), while non-refundable overheads averaged £ 375,000 (approximately $ 510,000). While many of the bigger festivals are able to weather such damn financial successes for at least a year, many others are not so lucky and are about to close if they haven’t already. Even the most iconic festival in the country faces its uncertain future.
Now, however, a vaccine and subsequent roll-out plan at the end of the COVID tunnel has seen a light and, for many, a ray of hope. Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci at an Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference that he believed festivals could return “some time in the fall of 2021” in the US, with an earlier date and at least 14 million vaccinations slated to arrive across the UK by February. This ambitious roll-out is already in full swing. The government even admits they are “hopeful” that the country can have a “Great British Summer”.
While vaccinations remain the main concern of the festivals taking place this summer, social distancing and similar preventive measures will most likely remain in place, which is expected to result in a whole new festival experience for everyone.
John Giddings, who runs the Isle of Wight Festival, took to Twitter last week to offer his services to ensure vaccinations stay on track. He tweeted: “Dear Boris Johnson. We are the music business – we have thousands of professionals who can run events and empty theaters / clubs / arenas. Will you give us the vaccines and we’ll work 24 hours a day to sort them out? ”
“I think you would probably need 50% of the audience to get vaccinated and 50% to get a test in a very short time.”
While many found the tweet lighthearted, Giddings himself confirmed that he meant business and was interested in helping where they could to save the UK music industry. “I was in bed last night thinking, why don’t I do anything instead of waiting for people to tell me what to do?” He said in a recent interview with NME. “I sent a tweet saying I have thousands of people who know what they’re doing and hundreds of empty venues.”
Despite the efforts made, many festivals across the UK such as Parklife and Mighty Hoopla have already postponed their events to a later date in the year in hopes of increasing the odds with the possibility of further cancellation that could potentially be fatal.
“I think you would probably need 50% of the audience to get vaccinated and 50% to get a test in a very short time,” Giddings continued. “I don’t think that’s unrealistic. The Isle of Wight Festival is six months away, it’s not tomorrow. I just want to help speed up the process. ”
George Pritchard, Head of Events and Talent at Defected Records, believes we need to learn from other countries and how they run their own events. The London-based record label is behind the popular Defected Croatia, which takes place annually in the south of the country – an event they believe will happen this year.
“We are very confident that it will continue,” he told HYPEBEAST. “It’s all outside. Croatia had a few events last year, all within COVID restrictions, so they’re doing something right. Even though it didn’t happen last year, we survived. Two years in a row will be very detrimental to us as a brand and to those who follow us. ”
“A great number of festivals are independent and when they get into tough times they are ultimately lost.”
Another country leading the charge at COVID-safe festivals is Spain, which hosted a testing event in December that saw over 1,000 people attending the Barcelona-based trial. PRIMA-CoV, as organized by the company behind the famous Primavera Sound, ensured that attendees had to pass a rapid COVID test upon entry before being taken to designated areas to dance and stand, as well as socially distant refreshments and refreshments Toilets. While this approach resulted in none of the attendees testing positive for the virus within 14 days of the festival, the question that arises is how well it can scale.
Regarding the consequences this could have for the UK festival industry, should the virus lead to another year of cancellation, said Jamie Tagg, one of the organizers of the London-based festival Mighty Hoopla: “It will do the industry with less harm in the long term with Live -Options for the audience. This will put a lot of pressure on the supply chain for those who survive. A large number of festivals are independent and if they get into tough times they are ultimately lost. ”
While there are ways to live alongside COVID, recent vaccine announcements have given music lovers a glimmer of hope that festivals don’t need to change. Events like Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds have yet to make a decision about the fate of their events in 2021. Many are waiting for updates on the launch of the vaccine. If everything goes as planned, a multitude of major events have a great chance of happening this summer. However, if it doesn’t and we face further cancellations, it could spell the end of some of the UK’s most exciting independent events, and the UK Summer as we know it.