Download Festival boss: "Socially distanced gigs are impossible"

Download Festival booker Andy Copping has called socially distanced gigs “virtually impossible”.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, promoters and festival organisers have been forced to consider how events can work in conjunction with social distancing measures.

Copping told Kerrang that the idea of social distancing at a gig was the opposite of what shows are about. “Socially distanced gigs, how we know it, are impossible,” he said. “Rock gigs are all about everybody getting together – the community, the closeness – and not just the closeness of the fans, but the closeness of getting right next to the stage and close to the act. Social distancing is going to be virtually impossible for rock shows.”

The booker, who is also a promoter at Live Nation, continued to say that he had been working on a series of drive-in shows that would see the audience remain in their cars while watching a concert. “It’s a wide variety of acts that are doing it, but they’re all guitar bands for the most part,” he explained.

Download Festival crowd
The crowd at Download Festival CREDIT: Katja Ogrin/Redferns

“It’ll be interesting to see how that works cos we’ve gotta do something to energise and get the business going because at the moment nobody can go to anything. There’s nothing on.

“The concern is that we might not see gigs as we know it this year, certainly in the bigger rooms. I’m hoping that some of the smaller venues will be up and operating towards the end of this year and that will hopefully energise the live business and we can get back to some kind of normality in early 2021.”

Copping added that the tours he was working on were being rescheduled for later in 2021 where possible to allow the public time to feel more confident going to shows again.

Download 2020 was due to be headlined by Kiss, Iron Maiden and System Of A Down. The 2021 edition is currently scheduled to take place on June 4-6.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd was more confident that gigs with social distancing could work when speaking to NME earlier this year, offering a range of solutions to keep gig-goers safe.

“Each venue might also wish to limit the types of gigs they can put on, or the amount of beers they can serve, or to ensure that everyone is under a certain age in the name of safety,” he said. “They may insist on tracking apps or temperature checks. The viability of all that will cost money and the cost will have to be built into the show.

“We seem to be focused on the idea of 800 people in a room going mad, but what about 40 people in a room who want to watch an acoustic gig? I think what we might see is different genres and styles of music coming back at different times, as well as artists looking at different ways of doing stuff.”