The live event industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic. As a passionate gig-goer, I must admit I’m really missing the excitement and atmosphere of seeing my favourite bands live. And let’s not mention all the gigs and festivals we had booked that have now been cancelled or rearranged until next year (I’m already sad about it).
I recently touched on the potential issues at outdoor events post lockdown and why drive-in events need to be more accessible. But what about live music?
Even though restrictions are easing here in the UK, it still isn’t clear if gigs and festivals will happen this year or not. Even if they do, as someone who has been shielding since early March due to falling into the ‘high risk’ group, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be going to an indoor event anytime soon.
Could the answer be virtual online gigs?
Virtual gigs ease live music lockdown blues
Musicians very quickly began hosting online live performances to keep themselves and their fans entertained throughout lockdown. It was great to see how easily they adapted to enable people to still enjoy live music from the comfort and safety of their homes.
At the same time, I can’t help but feel frustrated by this sudden change. Disabled people have faced barriers to live music for years, preventing them from enjoying live music like everyone else, from inaccessible venues to poor staff awareness.
But it was only when live music was taken away from everyone, that it suddenly became more accessible.
Many of the accessibility barriers that disabled people have been requesting and campaigning for change for years have been made accessible as a result of COVID-19. This has proved that lots of things can and should be a priority.
Homeworking is a prime example of this and something many disabled employees would benefit from but until the pandemic hit, the request was usually rejected by most employers. Homeworking was suddenly possible when non-disabled people couldn’t get to work.
Live-streaming reaches unlimited numbers
Obviously you can’t get the full experience of attending a live show, but live streaming is almost as good as the real thing. Put it on a large screen TV, turn the volume up, switch the lights off and enjoy. All in the comfort of your own home (and PJ’s).
I enjoyed my first virtual gig last week when Dermot Kennedy performed a special live performance at the Natural History Museum in London. Access to the live-streaming was ticketed with a link to the show emailed just before the performance.
Just like this one, virtual gigs have the ability to reach an unlimited number of people all over the world. At one point I noticed Dermot Kennedy had over 18,000 people streaming the gig. Incredible!
Can virtual gigs make live music accessible to all?
Music venues don’t’ have the ability to hold such high numbers. Many people end up missing out on getting a ticket for sold-out shows. This happens all the time when trying to purchase accessible tickets for high-demand shows.
And don’t get me started on having to phone an accessible ticket line and being held in a queue for hours.
There are also disabled people who are unable to attend music venues due to their disability, health or venue accessibility.
Although virtual gigs may solve the problem for many disabled people, it won’t solve them all.
Deaf or hearing impaired music fans won’t be able to enjoy these gigs unless it’s captioned or the organiser has provided a sign language interpreter.
It’s understandable that providing an accessible live stream will cost the event organiser/venue money, but accessibility for all should be a priority.
Selling additional online tickets will generate more revenue compared to only selling standard venue tickets, which means more money to improve accessibility.
Opening up live music and making it accessible to everyone will allow musicians, crew, staff and fans that are disabled feel included once gigs start happening again.
We can not be left behind while non-disabled people move on and return to normal.
Dermot Kennedy live virtual gig – “Some Summer Night at the Natural History Museum”
I couldn’t end this post without saying more about Dermot Kennedy’s virtual gig and what a gig it was.
Dermot couldn’t have picked a better space for his live-streamed gig than the spectacular landmark Natural History Museum in London.
He performed a collection of his songs with full stage production, full band plus a special guest appearance by Normal People star, Paul Mescal.
Like all of Dermot’s shows, this one was no different and featured beautiful lighting to accompany each track, which helped add to the stunning, but eerie atmosphere.
I guess it’s not every day Dermot and his band can say they performed under the skeleton of a blue whale. It was brilliant.
Dermot is a passionate poetic genius in my opinion and that’s where Paul Mescal came in. Between Dermot’s performance were interludes where Paul would recite beautiful monologues as he walked through the empty museum hallways.
He then joined Dermot for a performance of the upbeat track, ‘Giants’. I didn’t realise Paul could sing. I was really impressed and it was great to see them perform together.
Dermot Kennedy: Some Summer Night at the Natural History Museum was haunting, beautiful, stunning, powerful and showed Dermot as the incredible musician that he is.
What are your thoughts on virtual gigs? Do you think they can make live music accessible to all?