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Returning to live music, July 2020

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At Jazz Connector on 16th July 2020, members of Ireland’s jazz and improvised music scene gathered to discuss the live music experience, reflecting on when we may be back in venues with an audience, and how we can work together to get there.

The conversation followed on from Jazz Connector meetings on the 2nd of Julyand 26th February. Guest speakers included Dave Allen, the Booker/Promoter for Whelan’s; Tom Doyle, Event Liaison and Project Manager with Dublin City Council, and Vinny Casey, musician and Venue Manager for The Workman’s Club in Dublin.

Guest Speakers were expressing their own personal opinions, and not speaking on behalf of their organisations or employers.

Some news items and articles relevant to the discussion can be found HERE.

Below is an outline of some of the points which emerged over the course of the discussion.

Dave Allen's observations on likely plans for Whelan’s

  • Whelan’s now scheduling events from August/September, increasing towards the end of 2020, with lots in the calendar for 2021.
  • Events to be in the main venue, capacity of 88 (down from 450), all seated, table service.
  • New AC system allows for good air circulation, new toilets allow for cleaning and distancing.
  • Stage extimated to allow for max 3/4 piece band with distancing, new backstage is spacious enough to allow distancing in these numbers.
  • Masks are not likely to be an option with food/drink.
  • Venues consider concerts to be safer than bars - people are there to see something and more likely to sit in their seats.
  • Ticketing will be online in advance (very low walk-up in recent years anyway), contact details collected for the lead member of each party, tickets can be scanned contactless.
  • Ticket sales have dropped considerably for 2020, but people are buying for shows in 2021.
  • Streaming. Whelan’s are looking at including a permanent streaming set-up in the main venue, as added value, archival, not as a main revenue stream. However, they are also open to streaming collaborations with other venues, ticketed on-demand streaming etc.

Tom Doyle on local-authority funded events

  • Dublin City Council Events Section consults with HSE on safety of events.
  • Push back to Phase 4 was a setback for some planned events.
  • They were expecting to have events with up to 500 people outdoors from 20th July, but will change with push back, may affect events incl. Liffey Swim, Opera in the Open.
  • It’s difficult for them to sign off on events in advance because it is so unclear what the situation will be like at the date of event
    • Concerned about clusters being linked to an event
  • For outdoor events, they need plans in place to deal with crowds gathering.
    • To apply to DCC for funding for an event, the budget would include security and production along with creative fees. They would prefer security to be handled by companies with professional experience.
    • An official event would need to include seats, a perimeter and event management plans.
  • DCC are happy to consider all possibilities for events, e.g. Wood Quay Summer Sessions & Hotter than July were not planned as online events, but were changed successfully and they were happy to have them.

Vinny Casey on The Workman’s Club

  • Venue is working from August, with capacity limited to 60 and table service.
  • Bigger shows are being booked from October to the end of 2020, but it’s still uncertain as to whether these will happen. People are booking tours for 2021.
  • The push back of Phase 4 was a blow, and a lack of audience confidence will be an issue.
  • Events will not be likely to make money for a while, but emphasis will be on getting people to come out to shows again.

National reflections

  • Jenny Bernard of Westport Jazz gave from her perspective some insight into possibilities for concert series outside of Dublin.
    • Westport Jazz are hoping to live-stream from their usual hotel venue for Culture Night.
    • Other upcoming possibilities incl. concert in the Town Hall for October bank holiday as part of Westival, possible capacity of 50 with 2m distancing, or 100 with 1m distancing. This may also be livestreamed.
    • Their focus is on maintaining/building audiences and keeping interest.
    • With local authority funding, they are in a similar position to before, box office never covered the cost of concerts.
    • Everyone is feeling constant low-level anxiety.
  • IMC will consult with Moving on Music in Belfast for a sense of how things are progressing in Northern Ireland.

Programming/maintaining audience interests.

  • Programmers should still be able to programme. One booking could be a starting point for an artist to develop a tour.
    • Where international touring is not likely to be an option for a while, national touring could become more major.
  • Organisations/programmers are worried about putting finance into something that may need to be cancelled.

IMC Audience insights

  • IMC have recently conducted a survey of our audience regarding returning to live concerts, and shared some initial insights:
  • Approx 1/3rd comfortable attending concerts in September, approx 1/3rd not until 2021 or a vaccine, remaining 1/3rd mixed towards the end of the year.
  • 34% comfortable with outdoor concerts, 22% large concert halls, approx 25% comfortable with pub venues.
  • Approx 40% would pay a reduced ticket price for online concerts. Approx half are not interested in online concerts.

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