Live music – The Pilot and The Science


It will be a long time until the UK’s live music sector returns to what it was pre-pandemic. The MIA continue to support and work with our friends and partners at organisations such as PLASA and Music Venue Trust. Our own part of the music industry depends on Britain’s globally renowned live music scene.

There has been much reported in the press about the new future of live music, and here are 2 articles that will update you on the sector. 

The Pilot 

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. 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.

You can read more in this BBC News article: Frank Turner’s socially distanced trial gig ‘not a success’

Indoor performances with socially-distanced audiences in theatres, music and performance venues were allowed from last weekend, 1st August. There will clearly be challenges to over-come, such as how audiences will socially distance and how venues will make money when they can’t sell to full capacity.

The Prime Minister said:

“We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia, with a view to wider reopening in the Autumn.”

We will keep you updated on the outcomes of further pilots.

The Science

Declan Costello, an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant whose speciality is the treatment of singers is conducting a study. It looks at the amount of aerosol and droplets generated in a variety of different vocal activities, including speaking, breathing, shouting, singing and playing wind and brass instruments. The study aims to compare all of those things with each other and work out whether more aerosol droplets are produced in singing and when playing brass than in, for example, shouting

The classical music website ‘Bachtrack’ has written an article which explains the study in full.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In the UK government’s June 23rd guidance which permitted the reopening of pubs, there was a bitter and unexpected blow to musicians: all live performance remained banned indefinitely. The ruling seemed cruelly unfair: how could it have been OK for pubs to reopen with people in close proximity talking in loud voices, when playing a musical instrument or singing at a distance of many metres from the audience was still banned?

The arts world desperately needed some science to back up its case and a group of choral directors found the ideal person to turn to: Declan Costello, an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant whose speciality is the treatment of singers – he styles himself “The Voice Doctor” – and who is himself an accomplished professional tenor.

Costello came up with a proposal for a rigorous scientific study that would establish the necessary facts: he and colleague Natalie Watson found the right contacts in the UK government to get the study approved and funded – a process that happened remarkably quickly…”

Read the full article here: The science for restarting live performance: Declan Costello

Finally, here’s a message from our friends at colleagues at PLASA, the association and community at the heart of the events and entertainment technology industry:

Join the effort to amplify our industry’s voice and gain meaningful government support. Watch and share this video to shine a light on the incredible live events sector and the devastation caused by COVID-19. Our message to government: Don’t let events go dark! #WeMakeEvents