The sad news broke yesterday that Live Nation, promoters of the drive-in concert series scheduled to take place around the UK this summer, had cancelled all upcoming dates with immediate effect. The shows had been set to feature a number of artists - including Dizzee Rascal, The Streets, Skindred and even a full-scale production of the immensely popular musical Six.
So what went wrong? In this short post I’ll endeavour to uncover why this promising series of events failed to come to fruition, and what may take it’s place instead.
1) The Covid situation remains too unclear to proceed.
The official reason for the cancellation of the Drive-In gigs is that the current situation is too unpredictable to hold any events. The official explanation is as follows: “The latest developments regarding localised lockdowns mean it has become impossible for us to continue with the series with any confidence. Despite the Government announcing stage three of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s road map permitting performances outdoors with an audience, the planned tour was due to visit 12 cities, several of which have since been identified as emerging Covid infection hot spots.”
Whilst cases on the whole are down across the country, there certainly have been localised outbreaks that have ended up with local lockdowns being implemented. Leicester remains a good example of this. With that said however, there remains a feeling in the industry that poor ticket sales were also a huge factor in Live Nation cancelling said tours. The cost was as high, if not higher than a regular show for a viewing experience that leaves you quite some distance from the action. Which leads on to my next point…
2) Big Name Acts haven’t really got behind the idea.
Whilst they tried their best, Live Nation were not able to secure the level of act typically required to headline a festival or arena-level performance. Admittedly, acts such as Kaiser Chiefs and Sigala do have a certain level of pull, but some of the other artists do not really hold enough weight to pull in big crowds at a higher price tag. Dizzee Rascal’s popularity lays firmly in the 2010-2014 era, The Streets in the mid noughties, and whilst Tom Grennan had a certain amount of success on Radio 1 and other youth-orientated stations in 2018, his career has struggled to hit the heights of compatriots such as Sam Smith.
In order to make an event like this work, you need a big artist to really get people off their seats (and, of course, back into them for the gig!).
3) Drive-In Gigs are not the same as Drive-In Cinemas.
Drive-In Cinemas were hugely popular in the 90s. But there’s a critical difference between live music and enjoying a cinematic masterpiece. Films are meant to be enjoyed sitting down. People want to take their loved ones, cuddle up, eat some popcorn and enjoy their film of choice with a certain level of tranquility. Live Music is very much the opposite to this. At a gig - you want to be dancing, singing, drinking (which you can’t do if you’re driving), and most importantly, close to the action. At a drive-in gig, you could be hundreds of feet from the action, barely able to see the acts whilst being stuck in your vehicle.
Having said all this, I still commend Live Nation for making an attempt to bring some joy to people’s lives in these heavily testing times. But it does appear that this idea was doomed to fail from the start. So what’s next? Germany and Japan have relaxed restrictions, meaning live music performances can now take place with up to 1000 guests present. Critically however, venues will only be allowed to fill half of their usual capacity in an order to limit the spread. Box systems are in place across the venues, with a one-way walking system set up around the venue and modified toilet facilities. Ticket prices have increased to accomodate the lower footfall. I think this method is the one we’ll have to look to adopt in the UK as cases continue to fall.
If you’re interested in reading more about our thoughts on the music, film and theatre industries, you can read more at Grand Technical.