Music Matters: Live music is still in lockdown

T he immediate future of live performance remains finely balanced, with the return to indoor performances delayed until mid-August at least. Show producers and artists continue to explore safe ways to bring audiences together, but the shadow of Covid-19 is a constant threat and most venues will find it difficult to open before Autumn at the earliest. 
Beverley KnightBeverley Knight
Beverley Knight

Last month Andrew Lloyd Webber presented Beverley Knight at the London Palladium. She performed to an audience of 640 ticket holders (all wearing facemasks) strategically scattered around the 2000 -plus capacity auditorium. The concert was part of a series of official experiments exploring issues around staging socially-distanced shows.

Unsurprisingly, despite a wonderful performance from Ms Knight and her musicians and suitable appreciation from the audience, the experience lacked that special magic live work usually brings. 

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Of course, not all shows are usually sell-outs. Indeed, some shows are often better for a sense of calm, allowing the rapt appreciation from a select audience. The rise in popularity of acoustic sets was already happening before March 2020. Not all shows require 100 per cent capacity to succeed financially either. Part of discovering the “new normal” we’ ve been advised to expect will be about compromise.

Finding the right balance between customer safety and confidence versus profit and the experiential value of a show will be key to unlocking live performance. The scale of productions and reviewing auditorium capacities will need greater consideration if social-distancing cannot be avoided. Will audiences be prepared to pay more to make productions financially viable? 

The announcement of £1.57bn of emergency government funding for arts organisations (including £2.25m for 150 small music venues in England), is most welcome. Ultimately, though, getting audiences back to venues and events will be the only sustainable way of keeping the sector alive.

This column regularly asks readers to support live work and our future efforts as audience members and patrons will be more crucial than ever. If capacities are smaller, they will need to be reached more often.

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l Continuing support for the region’s young musicians is vital too. Starting on September 12, 2020, the Peterborough Centre for Young Musicians (PCYM) – supported by Peterborough Music Hub – will recommence their weekly sessions. Plans are being made for online delivery, with group sessions whenever possible.  PCYM is open to all young musicians from ages seven-18. Free instrument loan is available, and the centre’s tutors are highly accomplished specialists in their fields. To find out more and book a free introductory session visit:

l Finally, this month, a piece of musical research has identified the resurgence of music we can dance to –highlighting more releases “that celebrate joy” and a return to the feel-good hits of the 80s. 

Music is getting faster too, with the average tempo of 2020’s top 20 best-selling songs at 122 beats per minute. The highest, apparently, since 2009. 

So, despite our present difficulties, let’s enjoy the sunshine when we can this month, let’s dance as fast as we did in the 80s and may music continue to bring you joy this summer.