The Impacts of Covid-19 on the Live Music Industries: A Sample of Academic Projects Taking Place Across Europe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

This was a symposium I curated for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music - UK Branch. The detail regarding the symposium is below

Introduction

The social and cultural value of live music is widely accepted in musical territories around the world, bringing not only enjoyment and meaning to our lives, but also promoting regional and national cultures and identities. Going to see live music also of course generates significant income for cities and nations more broadly. For example, in the UK, according to a recent UK Music Report (2020), the UK live music industries were reported as generating £1.3 billion to the UK economy. However, as with the vast majority of musical territories around the world, all of this changed with the emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, with the UK live music group reporting in May 2020 that as much as £900 million could be wiped out of future live music income—a forecast that does not seem unrealistic. Similar bleak scenarios are predicted throughout Europe, with a recent report from Live DMA outlining audience restrictions and limited support from governments as one of the primary reasons (Live DMA 2020). Within this constantly emerging context, this seminar outlines a sample of some of the academic work that has been taking place both regionally and nationally across Europe since the pandemic emerged, investigating factors such as specific national and local government policies; economic and social impacts of the pandemic on specific sub-sectors; the effectiveness of ‘virtual performances’; impacts of local music ecologies and the sustainability of the sector post-covid. Featuring academics based in the nations of Wales, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and England, the seminar provides a snapshot of the work that has taken place thus far, investigating commonalities and providing a forum for sharing good practice.

Outline of Seminar

4.00 – 4.10 Introduction: Paul Carr

Panel 1

4.10 – 4.25: Playing In: Exploring the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on music makers across the Liverpool City Region. Mathew Flynn and Richard Anderson (The University of Liverpool)

4.25–4.40: Birmingham and the (international) business of live music in times of Covid19

Adam Behr (Newcastle University), Craig Hamilton (Birmingham City University), Patrycja Rozbicka (Aston University)

4.40–4.55: “To be announced – how long can German live music venues survive the lockdown?”: Exploring the Economic Impact of Covid-19 on live music venues in Germany. Niklas Blömeke (Paderborn University), Katharina Huseljić Heinrich-Heine-University), Johannes Krause (Heinrich-Heine-University), Heiko Rühl (German Live Music Survey), Jan Üblacker (EBZ Business School).

4.55–5.10: Questions



Panel 2

5.10–5.25: The Welsh Music Industries in a Post Covid World: Reflections on a Report Written for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. Paul Carr (University of South Wales)

5.25–5.40: Music Missionaries: The Dutch live music sector’s responses to the pandemic. Martijn Mulder (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

5.40–5.55: The Effects of Covid-19 on Norwegian Sound and Lightening Engineers: a look behind the scene. Daniel Nordgård (University of Adger)

5.55–6.10: Questions and Closing Comments



Abstracts

Playing In: Exploring the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on music makers across the Liverpool City Region

Mathew Flynn and Richard Anderson (The University of Liverpool)

On March 23rd, 2020, the UK population began an effective ‘stay at home’ directive as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst lockdown measures were gradually reduced from early May, restrictions remained in place which prevented live music performances or nightclub events taking place. This paper reports on the results of an online survey of 175 music makers from the Liverpool City Region (LCR) undertaken August 2020. The analysis of quantitative and qualitative data responses focused on five key areas: the financial and social impacts arising from the curtailment of live performance; how musicians engaged with live streaming; how being ‘locked down’ affected creativity when unable to physically collaborate with other musicians; the ways in which musicians maintain online engagement; and the effectiveness of available economic support. The data findings demonstrate that the unparalleled and abrupt cessation of an entire cultural sector’s activities had a profound impact on musicians in the LCR. We demonstrate how internet services have, to some extent, provided a form of respite, however, the study concludes by emphasising the vital importance of being in-the-room-together for virtually all musical activities. Without this sociability, music’s inherent social and economic value is severely curtailed.

Birmingham and the (international) business of live music in times of Covid19

Adam Behr (Newcastle University), Craig Hamilton (Birmingham City University), Patrycja Rozbicka (Aston University)

This paper discusses the context of, and presents findings from, a project examining the live music sector in Birmingham. This research is set against the backdrop of the broader socio-political impact of Covid19, and links it to the national and global contexts. We explore the live music ecology of Birmingham and highlight the interdependencies between the various musical and non-musical stakeholders in times of the pandemic – including the venues where live music takes place – and how stakeholders are responding to the crisis. This paper asks how an urban geographical area tied into national and international mechanisms, can work to sustain its musical ecology in the face of uncertainty of the post-Covid19 era, and underlines the interconnectedness of live music ecologies and wider economies.

“To be announced – how long can German live music venues survive the lockdown?”

Exploring the Economic Impact of Covid-19 on live music venues in Germany

Niklas Blömeke (Paderborn University), Katharina Huseljić Heinrich-Heine-University), Johannes Krause (Heinrich-Heine-University), Heiko Rühl (German Live Music Survey), Jan Üblacker (EBZ Business School).

Contemporary live music venues are an important component of the value chain of the live music industry and of a city’s cultural and social life. But due to the pandemic and the need for a reduction of physical contact, most German music venues have been closed since March 2020. Subsequently the shaky economic foundations of live music venues are eroded. Although they can apply for aid payments (“Corona-Soforthilfen and Überbrückungsgeld”), many venues are currently fighting for their existence. Are they able to survive the external shock of covid-19?

Against this background our contribution is dealing with the following questions: How existential is the crisis? What does that mean for the employees? How many venues have been granted the aid payments? Does the pandemic lead to a shift of live music venue programs? To answer these questions, we conducted a full census of all German live music venues in fall 2020. Our findings indicate that the revenue reduction is substantial but not all venues cope with this in the same way: Although more than a quarter of all clubs are in an existential crisis one third of the venues are in public sponsorship and therefore not endangered until 2022.

The Welsh Music Industries in a Post Covid World: Reflections on a Report Written for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

Paul Carr (University of South Wales)

This presentation will reflect upon an extensive report written for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, submitted in November 2020, on the impacts of covid-19 on the music industries of Wales. With a particular focus on live music, the intension of the report was to outline the emergence of private and public sector support; critique the various ‘roadmaps out of lockdown’; overview emerging academic research; consider what can be learnt from the practices of other nations, before developing a set of recommendations for the committee to consider—with the hope that some will be taken forward to Welsh Government and ultimately actioned. Although these actions are currently still being considered, this presentation will consider some of the challenges of writing the report, before examining some of the recommendations, which from the author’s perspective, are non-negotiable.

Music Missionaries: The Dutch live music sector’s responses to the pandemic

Martijn Mulder (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Live music and nightlife are among the worst affected sectors during the current pandemic. This has also been the case in The Netherlands, one of the most important and progressive music festival countries in the world. With over a thousand festivals annually – before the pandemic – it’s arguably one of the countries with the highest festival density in the world (Festivalatlas 2019, Martín-Corral et al. 2015). The Netherlands has the oldest consecutively held pop music festival in the world (Pinkpop by Mojo Concerts), has for decades been leading in innovations in dance festivals (e.g. ID&T, Extrema, Q-Dance) and in festival production (e.g. Ampco Flashlight, Mojo Barriers). As I have stated in previous research (Mulder, Hitters & Rutten 2020; Mulder & Hitters 2020), the music festival sector is characterised by both its flexibility and complexity. In this paper I argue that both this complexity and flexibility have become more manifest during the covid-pandemic. Paradoxically, the live music industry was one of the hardest hit sectors but at the same time proved to be an extremely resilient sector. And despite the high complexity of the music festival industry, organisers proved to be extremely flexible. Based on several case studies, this paper aims to map and better understand the resilience of the live music sector in The Netherlands during the current pandemic.

The Effects of Covid-19 on Norwegian Sound and Lightening Engineers: a look behind the scene

Daniel Nordgård (University of Adger)

This presentation is two-folded. It provides an overview of Norwegian developments and actions following Covid-19 and it presents a specific case by looking at Norwegian sound- and light engineers and how this group of cultural workers have been affected by the pandemic. The latter focus builds on a recent research project based on two rounds of surveys conducted in May and September 2020 to assess the effects of Covid-19 on Norwegian sound- and light engineers. The project is first of its kind, in both establishing an overview of work-conditions for this particular work group, as well as being able to describe important effects from the pandemic. The presentation addresses the short- and long-term effects from Covid-19 and demonstrates how a prolonging of the shut-down may affect motivation and hence the potential for critical competence and experience getting lost in this extreme crisis. Based on the findings and the more general assessments of developments in the Norwegian markets, I will also discuss what it will mean for the sector if these resources are lost and what it will take to reestablish them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Association of the Study of Popular Music UK Branch
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Covid and Welsh music Industries
  • Popular Music Covid

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