Scotland's biggest concert promoter warns full-scale gigs unlikely to return without coronavirus vaccine

Scotland’s biggest concert promoter has revealed that live concerts and festivals are unlikely to make a proper comeback until social distancing restrictions are lifted completely.

DF Concerts and Events stage the annual Summer Sessions concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
DF Concerts and Events stage the annual Summer Sessions concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

DF Concerts and Events has warned that full-scale gigs are unlikely to resume until a coronavirus vaccine is discovered.

The Glasgow-based company claims that cutting the current two the limit to one metre rule in half is unlikely to make live concerts any more viable because of the reduced capacities which will have to remain in place in venues.

The Glasgow-based firm says major acts are unlikely to want to head out on tour again until the second half of 2021 due to uncertainty over the virus’s “long-lasting impact.”

DF Concerts and Events say the logistics involved in staging socially-distanced shows at venues like Hydro are 'quite phenomenal.' Picture: Andrew Milligan

DF, which stages the annual TRNSMT festival and the Summer Sessions outdoor concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, has also raised concerns that live music events are being “demonised” as unsafe during the pandemic lockdown.

It has warned that the Scottish music the industry, which is worth more than £430 million to the economy and supports 4,300 jobs, will be left “on its knees” without significant government support in the near future or venues securing permission to operate at full capacity with a full “test and trace” system in place.

Music venues were forced to close their doors in mid-March after the Scottish Government announced that mass gatherings should be cancelled indefinitely. All of Scotland’s major summer festivals have since been either cancelled or postponed.

The Scottish Music Industry Association has estimated that £18.5 million worth of losses have already been racked up. Its early research into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis has found that around 2,800 jobs are at risk across the sector.

The SMIA has previously warned it would be “near impossible” for any venues to reopen while the two-metre social distancing rule is in place.

Last week bosses at the Hydro arena in Glasgow signalled that it was likely to remain closed for another year if social distancing is still in place because staging scaled back shows in the 14,300-capacity arena would be financially unviable due to its reduced capacity and the extra costs involved in bringing in new hygiene measures.

Speaking at a session on the future of live music in Scotland as part of the annual XpoNorth creative industries convention, which was staged online for the first time, DF’s business support manager, Fiona Ellis, cast further doubt on whether any of its live gigs would be able to go ahead with a one-metre rule in place.

She said: “For me, having one metre social distancing is definitely not back to business in any way, shape or form.

“With one metre social distancing you could get more people into your venue but it would be just such a hard thing to manage logistically.

“Most people, if they were given space, would probably be able to stand about a metre away from each other. But it would be hard to stop people stepping out from their bubble. How would security manage that without encroaching?

“One one metre is just as difficult as two metres unless you’re talking about seated concerts, but a lot of venues aren’t set up for that, which reduces capacity even more.

“For a 2,500-capacity venue you may only get around 800 people in, but that impacts on lots of different things.

“The fees you are going to pay for an artist are probably to be reduced, they’re probably going to bring a production with them that is not on the same level for that size of venue and that then affects the whole supply chain of people that are normally on tour.

“If you look at something like the Hydro, the logistics of having to space everyone out are quite phenomenal.

“They have said that they would only get 40 per cent of capacity at one metre. But the production is not going to be of the quality that people are used to and that the quality that artists are going to want either.”

Asked whether any live performances are likely to be viable while social distancing is in place, Ms Ellis said: “No, I don’t think so. That’s the short answer.”

She added: “I can hear conversations happening now that this could be lasting into the middle of next year.

“Artists that are now coming forward are considering just booking into the latter part of next year. I feel this is going to have a long-time impact on the industry. I think we’re really going to have to get to the point of having a vaccine before we’re going to be back up and running fully.

“There is a concern that music might be getting demonised as unsafe right now. We’re going to have to do a lot to ensure there is public confidence that it will be as safe as possible when they do come back.

“We have 87 per cent of our 110 staff on furlough. It’s very worrying from a mental health point of view, that they’ve now been on furlough for 13 weeks.

“We’ve tried to keep in contact with them as much as we possibly can, as well as with the complex supply chain that supports the industry.”

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