Having said last week that we’re going to try not to stoke your anxiety over the novel-coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with long, scary stories, this morning we can’t ignore the latest developments and their implications for our industry.
You may have already seen the reports that Universal Music Group boss Sir Lucian Grainge has been hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19: Variety reported it and Billboard has since confirmed the story with multiple sources. UMG has since closed its Santa Monica offices, sending staff to work from home. Our thoughts are with Grainge and his UMG colleagues, as they are with all members of the music community who have been diagnosed or exposed to the virus.
Meanwhile, it’s far from scaremongering to note that in growing numbers of cities, the live music industry is having to shut down almost entirely. Since Friday alone, New York’s mayor has ordered the closure of all concert venues, nightclubs and bars; US body the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against holding any gathering of more than 50 people; France has tightened its restrictions to cover gatherings of more than 100 people; and Australia has set a limit of 500 people for public events.
It’s a testament to the seriousness of the current situation that there are no complaints about these policies: promoters, venue owners and artists alike are extremely worried about the likely implications for their livelihoods, but understand the necessity for the social-distancing measures. It’s a mark of how swiftly this situation has evolved: in a matter of days we’ve gone from wondering whether certain festivals would or wouldn’t have to be postponed, to a growing shutdown of the live music industry itself, with no firm idea of when it’ll be able to start up again in earnest.
In other news, Apple’s big WWDC developer event (new-stuff keynote included) will be online-only this year); Record Store Day has been postponed to 20 June; and more artists are starting to explore ways to fill their sudden touring gaps with online shows – Yungblud; Alejandro Sanz and Juanes; Italian star Gianna Nannini; Code Orange; Dropkick Murphys and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are just a few of the announcements we spotted this morning.
To end on a brighter, related note, music industry journalist Cherie Hu has been compiling a big ‘Virtual Music Events Directory’ Google Doc, including a list of tools that artists and conference speakers can use to host virtual shows, panels and meetups, and a calendar of upcoming music-related virtual events and livestreams. A great idea, and something that we hope is widely shared in the days ahead.