Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Live or let die?

For musicians, the return of live music evidently can't come soon enough. The same goes for us fans. And thankfully the prospect of that happening doesn't look quite as distant as it did. But unfettered optimism is misplaced - in reality, the picture still looks horribly bleak, as the Guardian's Katie Hawthorne has underlined.

First and foremost, there are the enormous challenges posed by social distancing restrictions, likely to remain in place in some form for a good while yet. The owners of large venues and the promoters who book their shows are warning that reduced-capacity crowds will make their businesses unviable, while grassroots spaces face the additional logistical headache of ensuring that social distancing is even possible. To those problems you can add gig pile-ups and having to continually reschedule tour dates.

And that's not even to begin to consider the absolute clusterfuck that is Brexit, the consequences of which would have been devastating even if we weren't trying to crawl our way out of a pandemic. British artists are finding themselves in complete limbo, left in the dark, unable to make plans for European tours with any degree of confidence or to understand what financial and logistical hoops they might need to jump through to play in each country. As John Robb puts it, "On a business level it's a nightmare, but on a cultural level it's a disaster".

The solutions to the current crisis are as obvious as they are urgently required: clear guidance and financial support. But given that responsibility for providing both falls on this despicable, venal, catastrophically incompetent Tory government, the likelihood of a comprehensible and properly resourced roadmap for the recovery of the live music sector seems slim.

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