Coronavirus: Will the North East’s live music scene survive?

By Rachel Sharp

What matters to you the most? Where do you go in times of fear? When we were all ordered to avoid “all non-essential contact”, to help contain the spread of Coronavirus, it led me to question what was essential. You and I are aware that fear is spreading across the country almost as fast as the virus. I know I have turned to my own comforts to feel slightly better about the situation – my cooking skills have improved by 500%! The meaning of ‘non-essential’ is ‘not absolutely necessary’, but for many businesses, social contact is necessary to survive. For me, social contact feels necessary to survive.

Social distancing has left the music industry devastated when live events are the “lifeblood of music artists and venues”. After searching the o2 Academy Newcastle website for updates on the future of a few gigs I was hoping to attend later this year, I found that all events have been cancelled up until the end of March. Similarly at The Cluny, live shows have been
cancelled, and temporary closure of both venues have been extended to at least the end of April. It is much more than fans and artists ‘just losing out’ due to the outbreak, it is also a scary time for both music venues and promoters too. This Is Tomorrow, one of the North East’s most popular festivals, has been forced to reschedule 3 months after the original date.
Thankfully this will be at no extra cost for ticket holders, however the same can’t be said for event organisers.

Whilst the pandemic has left damaging scars on the live music scene, it has not pushed everyone to lose all hope. Local lass L Devine decided to continue with her tour, after coming up with the creative proposal to perform to her fans digitally. Announcing on Instagram, “A URL TOUR. I thought it would be cool to do something virtual that we can all be a part of”, the musician has paved the way for future innovative ideas to help deserving up-and-coming artists get their name and hard work out for the public to hear whilst still following government guidelines.

Music venues matter. They are one of the few places we can go to forget and purely focus ‘in the moment’. For me, to not be able to be alongside others who share the same love for music is tough. Having the option to pick and choose where I go and who I see now seems such a distant liberty. But, I think I can safely say that when we look back on the ‘first gig that
happened after the virus’, it’ll be with a smile – the first night out after being on lockdown is guaranteed to be a special one.

When this is all over, let’s make a huge effort to support the local businesses, events (like Tits Upon Tyne), and artists who have been deeply affected by the virus. When we can all meet again, let’s make it a massive celebration, dancing harder and better than before to our favourite tunes by our favourite artists. For now, look at our music reunion as something to
look forward to, to push us through these darker times.

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