Frank Turner: Socially distanced gigs make no financial sense
Written by brickiesonair on 26 May 2016
A gig used to trial safety measures for the return of live music “did not succeed” in providing a blueprint for the industry, according to the manager of the venue that hosted the event.
Folk rocker Frank Turner played to a socially-distanced audience at London’s Clapham Grand on Tuesday.
Only 200 people attended, compared to the venue’s normal capacity of 1,250.
Venue manager Ally Wolf said the government-backed pilot was not financially viable for venues.
“It can’t be the future for live music, it can’t be the future for venues,” he said, noting that the show did not make enough money to cover the venue’s operating costs, even before the performer’s fee was taken into account.
Live music in the UK has been almost completely cancelled since March, due to the lockdown and social-distancing regulations.
Major tours and festivals have all been called off. A tour of drive-in gigs, featuring acts like The Streets, Kaiser Chiefs, Dizzee Rascal and Sigala was also scrapped, with organisers saying the “latest developments over local lockdowns” meant they couldn’t proceed “with any confidence”.
However, some test shows have now been permitted, to explore how live music could return as lockdown restrictions ease.
Turner had previously performed a live-streamed Facebook fundraising gig “to raise cash for my touring family, who are all tough financial straits” during the lockdown.
Speaking before the show on he stressed how strange it would be to play a tour of venues that were less than one-fifth full.
“A huge part of performance is the energy exchange with the crowd and as a performer you feed off that energy that is coming back at you,” said the singer.
After the event, the singer-songwriter said he’d agreed to play for free, in order to “demonstrate willingness to try”, on behalf of the decimated industry. He also wanted “to show that both performers and audience could successfully abide by the restrictions posited by the powers-that-be”, as well as underlining “that this specific set-up doesn’t work”.
“This is not the start of a series of shows like this – that’d bankrupt everyone involved,” he wrote. “But it was, as I say, a gesture of cooperation, an attempt to feel out the situation with an eye to taking steps in a better direction.
“But most of all it was an [expletive] GIG. I have missed that, for sure. It turns out, live music really, really matters.”
Even with the recent easing of lockdown by the British Government to now allow socially distanced, live music events to take place inside, most venues across the UK still remain unable to put on gigs.
With such a reduced capacity we’d never be able to make enough revenue to cover the costs of opening the venue. We would be bankrupt within a month. Sadly until social distancing is a thing of the past – our doors will remain closed. – Charley South – ‘The Brickmakers & B2 Venue, Norwich