Keith Urban performed a secret show at a Tennessee drive-in theater for health care workers. Source: PFA

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

In the age of lockdowns and social distancing, balconies and driveways have become open-air venues and living rooms are the new concert hall. In March, live-streaming platform Twitch saw a 524% increase in viewers in the Music and Performance Arts Category. Warsaw’s open-air Chopin concerts will be aired online to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Keith Urban played a tribute concert for frontline workers at a drive-thru near Nashville on Thursday. Urban followed that show with a performance at the empty Grand Ole Opry, marking the 10th live broadcast hosted by the renowned venue.

Meanwhile, venues across the country have taken a financial hit due to social distancing. Legendary Los Angeles venue the Troubadour launched a GoFundMe campaign to support its employees during the shutdown, although managers fear the venue may not reopen. The Hollywood Bowl cancelled all of its concerts for the 2020 summer season for the first time in its 98-year history.

Independent musicians are doing their best to continue creating during lockdowns, despite distanced collaboration. Artists are making their own music videos and songs while in quarantine. Pop artist Charlie XCX released a new album on Friday, made entirely in quarantine. XCX shared every step with fans on social media, from lyric-writing and video making to emotional breakdowns and stalls in the process. In April, Luke Combs released a single, the coronavirus-themed “Six Feet Apart.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she sees the city returning to “some form of normal” sometime this summer, including reopening concert venues and outdoor performance areas. But when states reopen venues, will artists be quick to return? Graham Nash told CBS Sunday Morning he doesn’t plan to play any lives shows this year.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

First ‘socially distanced’ concert a test for live music industry – Financial Times – 5/17/2020
“Our clients do not necessarily want to be playing to quarter-filled houses,” said Bill Zysblat, manager to bands such as The Rolling Stones and U2. “When the audience can’t jump up and down and scream, it’s not enjoyable for anyone.” […] The live music business, which made $28bn in sales globally last year according to PwC, has been brought to a virtual standstill. The carnage has hit the largest groups, such as Live Nation, as well as local clubs and concert halls, and interrupted the incomes of musicians globally.

How Independent Artists Are Using Virtual Touring Platforms To Connect With Fans – Forbes – 5/15/2020
“One evening,” McGann states, “I decided to do a live stream online. We found in that one hour slot of being live that I had more interaction and more engagement. Actually, more merch sold online than I had in the tour bus. At that moment, I thought, ‘okay, there is definitely something to this whole live-streaming thing.’ I pursued it from there… It’s been a saving grace for me in that I’m reaching a worldwide audience doing things differently on my own terms.”

Don’t stand so close: how live music has changed its tune in lockdown – The Guardian – 5/16/2020
The scene is doing its best to connect, given the circumstances. But with an industry on its knees, where 80% of UK music venues are now under serious risk of permanent closure and £900m has been wiped from the £1.1bn live sector this year, the need for nimble innovation is urgent. But what exactly will live music look like after lockdown? Gigs can be reconfigured to meet social distancing guidelines – the crucial question is whether they will work.

Is There a Safe Way to Throw Socially Distanced Shows? – Pitchfork – 5/17/2020
Adherence to New York City’s pandemic guidelines was mixed: While the crowd observed in relative safety, only half the drummers wore masks, and none were six feet apart. Even outdoors with plenty of space to spread out, a casual jam session was rife with risk. So how are we to imagine formalized indoor shows with hundreds of people anytime soon?

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Roger Waters on Twitter, 5/17/2020: Social distancing is a necessary evil in Covid world. Watching “Mother” reminds me just how irreplaceable the joy of being in a band is.

George Varga on Twitter, 5/17/2020: Spill your drinks on me! Step on my feet! Talk loudly throughout concerts! Take endless selfies and videos! I implore you! (That’s how much the #CoronavirusPandemic coronavirus has me longing for the return of concerts. How about you?)

Yousef on Twitter, 5/17/2020: Im Absolutely determined to come out of lockdown with the strongest music I’ve ever made. Probably got 2-3 career defining tunes out of 10 strong cuts made. I keep going! 🔥♥️✌🏽

ZOLITA on Twitter, 5/17/2020: 4 days, 4 desolate locations, a camera & my quarantine fam @AudreysParty @SavvyFlicks & I ❤️ can’t believe what we were able to accomplish as a crew of 3 (yes we ran into 1mil problems) but we finished shooting a music video and it’s so special. New music and visuals coming 🔜

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