Live music events – where do we go from here? Nick Tearle, managing director of E1 Media Agency, asks the question…

Glastonbury, Creamfields, Reading, Leeds… and the rest. We should be just about to kick off another classic British festival season. But thanks to coronavirus, the list of those postponed and cancelled encompasses every single iconic date in the calendar. It’s not just festivals either. Live music events of all kinds have been confronted with the same fate. It’s caused devastation for both loyal fans and promoters.

But an industry that’s famed for its energy can’t be expected to give up that easily. So where do we go from here and what can we expect to see as we plan for 2021 and beyond?

Visually appealing content production

During the pandemic, good production value is more valuable than it used to be, as people now realise how difficult it is to produce something at home that mirrors what consumers are used to. It takes practice and understanding of different platforms. There are many steps and layered elements to making an event visually appealing, and if you want to put an event on that will actually stop people scrolling on their devices, it needs to be properly produced.

Facebook recently announced some new live-streaming features, including the ability to add “donate” buttons, watch Instagram live-streams on a desktop and an “audio-only” viewing option for slow Internet connections. This is excellent news for content managers, creators and musicians alike, and whilst live-streaming has become a massively popular format during the pandemic, until now there has been no simple way to monetise it. However, none of this will never truly beat the feeling of a live event.

The rise of winter shows

Whilst we’re faced with the fact that we can’t gather under the trees or dance with friends in a field listening to our favourite artists, fans and event producers have had to say goodbye to the unrealistic dream of a festival-filled summer.

In response, event companies have had to think on their feet to save their shows and their businesses. These “pivots” were not a knee jerk reaction. For most (including myself and my clients) the crisis happened in slow motion, as the realisation that events were being postponed or cancelled became a reality, we started to formulate strategies to respond.

But! There is a light at the end of the tunnel: that being (surprisingly) the winter season. We Are FSTVL is planning a New Year’s Eve party in Amsterdam, as well as a winter spin-off event for early 2021 in the mountains, hoping to serve consumers’ demand for a party. An event far away enough in the calendar that is likely happen is a compelling offer, giving festival organisers something to work towards and fans a party to look forward to.

Looking ahead

Postponements are complicated. Many businesses will be unable to recover ad spend or deposits from 2020, meaning they’re up against it just to survive this year. And next year won’t necessarily be any easier, as there will be more time to market but less money to work with. It’s been a kick in the teeth, especially for the smaller, independent festivals, such as Noisily. We’ve been helping the brand in its venture to save the future of the festival, encouraging people to donate their ticket from this year towards the production of Noisily 2021.

As we prepare for a new normal, music events will have to follow new rules, including hygiene and social distancing policies, and it will depend on the progress of diminishing coronavirus that will allow music events to get back into action. The future of our industry may be unknown, but what we do know is it will be back with a bang when it’s able to.