The First Socially Distanced Indoor Concert in the UK Was “Not a Success”

Headliner Frank Turner called it a "strange" evening, while the venue manager said it was an unsustainable financial model

Frank Turner UK socially distanced concert coronavirus show live music gig COVID-19, photo by Philip Cosores

It’s not just the US having challenges with socially distanced concerts. This past Tuesday, Frank Turner played the first socially distanced indoor gig in the UK to a respectful crowd, but organizers for the event have unfortunately declared the show as “not a success,” reports BBC.

The concert took place at London’s Clapham Grand as part of a government-backed pilot program. Only 200 people attended the 1,250 person capacity venue and everyone followed safety guidelines: arrive at staggered intervals, get a temperature check, abide by the venue’s one-way path routes, and watch the show from distanced seats. However, the show did not make enough money to cover the venue’s operating costs — and that was before the artist fee was even deducted.

Venue manager Ally Wolf said that while Turner put on a “great” set, the pilot itself was “not a financial model that the industry can remotely rely upon to get to be sustainable” and could legitimately damage smaller venues due to income loss. “It can’t be the future for live music,” added Wolf. “It can’t be the future for venues.”

As for Turner, he said the whole experience felt like a “strange, emotional evening.” While he’s eager to perform live again, Turner explained that he accepted the offer just to show that “both performers and audience could successfully abide by the restrictions posited by the powers-that-be.” However, he did so knowing that there was a chance “this specific setup [wouldn’t] work.”

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“This is not the start of a series of shows like this — that’d bankrupt everyone involved,” Turner wrote in a statement. “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 a fucking GIG. I have missed that, for sure. It turns out, live music really, really matters.”

“I feel very grateful to have attended what am sure will be a legendary gig,” said one fan in attendance. “I hope that the government will loosen the restrictions and support independent venues financially so that more people can get back to enjoying live music again.”

Turner’s show and the pilot program as a whole were scheduled in anticipation of August 1st, when indoor concerts will finally be permissible in England. It will be interesting to see what social distancing restriction changes will be made by the government following these initial trial runs.

It’s technically still pretty early in the coronavirus pandemic right now, which explains why there’s not yet a universal standard for throwing concerts — although, some scientists are looking for the solution. In the meantime, the safest option is sticking to drive-in shows, tours, and raves while soaking up the music from the comfort of the driver’s seat.

Editor’s Note: Stay safe no matter where you are by picking up one of our custom face masks. A portion of the proceeds will benefit MusiCares’ COVID-19 Artist Relief fund supporting independent musicians.

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