The First Socially Distanced Indoor Concert in the UK Was 'Strange' and Not Sustainable

Frank Turner performed in front of a crowd of 200 at a 1,250 person venue

July 31, 2020

The first socially distanced indoor concert was held in the UK this past Tuesday presenting newfound challenges that have left organizers skeptical about the ability to hold similar shows in the future.

Frank Turner performed at London’s Clapham Grand as part of a government-backed pilot program with 200 people in attendance at the 1,250 person capacity venue.

Prior to entry, staff and attendees had their temperatures checked. Once inside the venue, fans followed numerous safety guidelines including abiding by one-way path routes and watching the show from distanced seats.

Although some might cheer the return of indoor concerts, venue manager Ally Wolf told the BBC the show wasn’t successful. "It can't be the future for live music, it can't be the future for venues," he said noting the show didn’t make enough money to cover the venue’s operating costs. This is before even the performer’s fee was taken into account.

Wolf said the pilot was "not a financial model that the industry can remotely rely upon to be sustainable" and could be damaging for smaller venues.

This echoes concerns of venue owners and operators in America who say the economics of reduced capacity concerts won’t work.

“The only thing worse than being completely shuttered is trying to open at 25% because you’re going to lose money,” Audrey Fix Schaefer told RADIO.COM in an interview.

“Band’s aren’t going to be able to get on the road at 25% pay because it’s expensive to tour. You also can’t charge people who walk through the door for ten times as much just so you can cover everything.”

The UK government recently pledged £1.57 billion ($1.96 billion USD) to the arts and gave an August 1st date for venues to hold indoor performances.

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