How has Covid-19 affected the music industry?
Like a lot of people, I was looking forward to spending the summer after graduating watching some of my favourite bands in a rainy field. Festival season is something that many plan for throughout the year, avid festival-goers spend months anticipating line-ups and meticulously selecting the artists that they’ll see over the weekend. As the months grew closer to summer, the festival groups that had laid dormant on Facebook began to stir.
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Glastonbury, one of the largest festivals hosted in the United Kingdom released the first half of their line up in the beginning of March. Huge names like Diana Ross and Paul McCartney were expected to grace the Pyramid stage as part of the Legends. Bands such as Glass Animals, Fontaines D.C and The Jesus and Mary Chain were also meant to perform over the weekend to the thousands of customers that attend that magical festival each year.
A few weeks later, the familiar buzz of excitement circulated once more. The second half of the line-up was set to be released. Online forums were filled with the educated guesses of music lovers who wanted nothing more than to see their favourite bands play at Glastonbury. Unfortunately, the anticipation felt by many festival goers was short lived and, on March the 18th, Glastonbury was cancelled.
The ever-growing Coronavirus pandemic affected many industries during the national lockdown. Pubs and schools were shut down. Supermarkets ran out of basic necessities and could only operate on a limited capacity. Students, as well as myself, were left in the dark about whether our exams would go ahead or if we would be able to access the necessary resources to complete our assignments. The holidays people had planned to go on were all cancelled, and no one knew how long all these measures would last for.
An industry that was often forgotten about was music. The rise in cases and the growing deaths across the globes meant that hosting a music festival would be too much of a risk and slowly, each UK festival got cancelled. Some festivals, in a bid to quell the anxious minds of their customers, announced that their festivals would be taking place in September. Shindig, a festival that normally takes place in May was one of the few that decided to take this approach but that was still a short-lived fantasy.
As the pandemic worsened and the recently promised September festivals were also postponed, customers were then offered the opportunity to roll their tickets over to next year. This meant that people had a guaranteed place at the same festival and didn’t run the risk of losing their money. For the Glastonbury ticket holders, this was an offer they couldn’t refuse especially since its notoriously hard to get tickets. The rollover also meant that festivals could retain some of their income.
For other festivals, the ticket rollover was not quite enough. Boardmasters had been cancelled in 2019 due to the high winds across the Cornish coasts. This meant that the Festival Directors had already promised a ticket rollover to 2020. Due to this, a festival that had already lost a huge chunk of its revenue from the first cancellation had now lost another chance at gaining back lost money. These festivals rely heavily on ticket purchases to build stages, hire security and pay the performing artists. Another cancellation would mean that the smaller festivals would lose the chance of hosting another year because of a lack of funds. In cases like Boardmasters, this is concerning as ticket holders run the risk of losing both the festival and the money they had invested in tickets.
Some other festivals, such as 2000 Trees in Gloucestershire, came up with inventive ways to gather donations from the public. They began to offer rewards based on the amount of money donated to their JustGiving page. A donation of £50 would get an A3 laminate picture of your face plastered on the door of a portaloo. This donation would also mean that you could skip to the front of said portaloo, a perk that many of us would appreciate when you think about the state some festival toilets are left in. On the upper end of the scale, a hefty donation of £10,000 would give you the opportunity to become a main stage sponsor and have your name associated with both the stage and festival programme.
During the height of the lockdown, many festivals also hosted online events. This showed to many that, whilst the public couldn’t attend in person, people could still have all the festival fun from the comforts of their own homes. Boomtown put on a weeklong event over Facebook that featured a mixture of DJ sets and circus acts, performed from the artists very own gardens. Glastonbury teamed up with BBC iPlayer to show never televised before sets and for a moment, the festival bug was satisfied.
My family and I spent the months of May and June watching these festival live streams, creating our own lockdown festival. We set up tents in the garden, my dad painted miniature concrete Glastonbury letters. Our weekends were spent drinking, listening to music and cooking vast quantities of barbecue food. Whilst none of us could attend the festivals we had spent the first half of the year pining for, we still had a good time and part of us seemed to forget all the things that Coronavirus had stopped us from doing.
Written by Music & Events Editor: Alfie Pritchard