Earlier this week, singer-songwriter Frank Turner performed a test concert sponsored by the U.K. government, marking one of the first ticketed concerts in England since the global outbreak of COVID-19 brought the live event industry to a halt. While the performance was heralded by attendees and The Clapham Grand followed all sanitary precautions, the venue’s manager warned that it was “not a success” financially.
The concert at the London venue saw the implementation of the U.K.’s new regulations for indoor concerts, including heavily reduced capacity, staggered entrance, temperature testing at the door, seated audiences, and one-way paths of travel. It also came just days before indoor concerts are set to return to England on August 1st, and two weeks after outdoor shows were deemed able to return.
While many saw this concert as the light at the end of the tunnel, Clapham Grand manager Ally Wolf said in a statement that the revenue from the evening wasn’t enough to cover the venue’s operating costs, and that doesn’t even include the artist’s fee. After the show, Turner stated that he would forgo his fee, an act of charity which only bolsters the fact that concerts like this, while appealing to fans, are not at all financially sustainable for venues and musicians.
“It can’t be the future for live music, it can’t be the future for venues,” Wolf said, noting the concert was “not a financial model that the industry can remotely rely upon to get to be sustainable.”
The concert also marked Turner’s first public performance in over four months. He described the concert before a sold out crowd of 200 people out of the venue’s normal capacity of 1,250 as a “strange, emotional evening.”
“A huge part of performance is the energy exchange with the crowd and as a performer you feed off that energy that is coming back at you,” he said.
Turner also echoed Wolf’s sentiment that concerts like these, where the venue doesn’t even make back enough money to keep the lights on and the artist has to give up his fee, are not sustainable and will not be the norm going forward.
“This is not the start of a series of shows like this – that’d bankrupt everyone involved,” he said. “But it was, as I say, a gesture of cooperation, an attempt to feel out the situation with an eye to taking steps in a better direction.”
As for the U.K. government, which initiated this pilot concert, a spokesperson stated that concerts like these, no matter how financially improper they are, help the powers that be determine what the best course of action is as the country begins to reopen the live events industry.
“Pilots help us understand how the performing arts guidance can be applied in a real world setting and will ensure groups of people are managed safely when attending venues for performances,” a spokesperson for the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told the BBC. “We’ll continue working closely with the industry on ways to reopen and are providing support for venues through the £1.57 billion rescue package.”