How is the Coronavirus Pandemic Changing the Landscape of the Local Live Music Scene?

Are Livestreamed gigs here to stay?

How the Coronavirus Pandemic is changing the Landscape of the Local Live Music Scene.

The comforting hum of a sound system you can feel from your head to your tapping toes. The spilt drink apologies and sticky floors. The stomping, singing, and shouting in a darkened room filled with perspired emotion. The faded memory of the drunken embrace with strangers you only just met, knowing they’re here for the same reason you are – music. These beloved memories of intimacy from the local live music scene came to a sudden halt in March of last year when crowds dispersed, voices lowered, and venues emptied.

This phenomenon now known as ‘Lockdown’ that was once was felt to be unknown and alien, could now be considered the mundane, as we head towards the third week of national lockdown number three and the anniversary of the first. From these barren dancefloors and artists suddenly without an audience, the concept of a livestreamed gig, a virtual performance streamed via the internet to audiences at home, grew in an effort to thaw the frozen state that the local music scene suddenly found itself in. The question is, have Livestreamed gigs rooted themselves deep enough to remain a part of the live music scene in a future beyond Covid-19 restrictions?

Lockdowns, tier systems and other forms of restrictions have impacted the North East music scene in a multitude of ways. Much loved independent music venues across the region have had to adapt continuously to the ongoing tidal waves of change they have encountered over the last year. For example, Ouseburn favourite, The Cluny, underwent mass rescheduling and cancelling of a series of arranged socially distanced in-person gigs featuring an array of local talent ,in light of the November lockdown which was announced on the 31st of October.

Fellow grassroot music venue, Little Buildings, had partnered with Tyne Bank Brewery, in an effort to expand their capacity for social distancing, to host a similar series of shows which despite some going ahead encountered a fate alike to that of The Cluny’s. Discussing this series of shows on a personal Facebook live stream on the 8th of January, Little Buildings owner, Allan Scorer stated: “It was about getting people back to work, hearing the amazing things people had been creating whilst they had been told to stay indoors”. Allan continued to discuss where the venue stood currently in terms of gig arrangements saying, “we can’t gage anything, rebook or reschedule, so we’re just going to have to wait till we hear something solid”, referring here to government announcements regarding a change of restrictions.

Although not serving primarily as a music venue, Tyne Bar, a place typically renowned for its free live music has shown no sign of resuming this tradition since there has been no live music here from as far back as the first national lockdown in March 2020.

The closed Stage and seating area for live music at Tyne Bar. Photos by Josephine Canham

Whilst some venues such as the aforementioned have chosen the socially distanced in-person gig approach to getting live music back on its feet, others such as, The Globe, Sunderland’s Independent, and Motorhouse Studios  have endeavoured down the path of live streamed gigs and events. Evidence suggests that this may not just be a local occurrence as according to data from Google Trends, search and interest rates in the UK for the terms ‘online concert’ and ‘livestream concert’ have soared in comparison to the last five years since the beginning of 2020, with peaks in the months where the country had just entered national lockdowns.

See below for graphs taken from google trends highlighting the data mentioned above.

Motorhouse studios has been a key player at the forefront of the North East’s Livestreamed gigs, providing a package of promotion, venue, sound engineering and camera crew for all performances that they arrange. When discussing how and why this came to be, Jack Wade co-owner of the studio with Jordan Miller, stated that, “When march hit, we knew we’d have to adapt the business, we invested in new equipment to change our main studio room into a multi-functional live video/streaming production studio.” When asked further about the future place for the livestreamed event, Wade continued with, “We have had an amazing response so far from both artists and audiences, we think that livestreams are here to stay, especially with the new Brexit laws making it harder for smaller artists to travel to Europe, there’s a demand now that we don’t think is going to change anytime soon.”

One of the bands that have been a part of the shows put on by Motorhouse Studios is Sunderland based four-piece, Plastic Glass. When discussing the bands experience with livestream gigs since the beginning of the pandemic, Ben Richardson (above/left), member of Plastic Glass stated: “We’d never thought about it before, we saw it being done by others so when Jack and Jordan at Motorhouse asked us to get involved, the quality was so good we couldn’t say no.”

When asked about how the new format of performance, livestreams, compares to the pre-pandemic in-person performances, Richardson responded stated that: “I honestly don’t think they compare, livestreams have been good through the pandemic and they certainly have a place in the future, perhaps for fans that have missed out on tickets, but for us (Plastic Glass) and I’m sure for most people, all we want is real life live gigs back.”

By Josephine Canham

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Published by Josephine canham

I'm a journalist studying at Newcastle University, based in the cities cultural hub of Ouseburn, with a passion for all things music.

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