New guidelines discourage "singing along or cheering" at indoor gigs

24 August 2020, 17:39 | Updated: 24 August 2020, 17:53

Rock fans at a live gig
Rock fans at a live gig. Picture: Getty Images

The latest social-distancing rules from the Government for staging indoor shows could impact on how you enjoy live music...

New government guidelines issued last week have suggested ways for live venues to safely manage indoor gigs - however, some of the rules suggested may have an impact on how audiences are allowed to behave.

The document, dated 13 August 2020 and titled "Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Performing Arts" suggests a number of ways to minimise transmission of COVID-19, including one way systems and reduced capacity of venues.

However, one paragraph in bold has caught the eye of music fans. It reads:

"When members of the public are attending performances, organisers should ensure that steps are taken to avoid audiences needing to unduly raise their voices to each other, such as shouting, chanting and singing along.

"This is because increased volume can increase aerosol transmission."

The document adds that this may mean lowering the volume of the music being performed, which "may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult, for example during performance intervals."

The advice continues: "Organisers can ask performers to help encourage the audience to support the overall safety of the event. You should take similar steps to prevent close contact activities - such as communal dancing in audiences."

The section concludes by restating: "This is important to mitigate the potential for increased risk of transmission - particularly from droplets and aerosol transmission.

"We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible."

Reacting to the new guidelines, Marcus Harris, who promotes shows at The Lexington in North London, told the NME that he'd rather "wait until it’s safe" than introduce such new rules and regulations. "I think that’s an unrealistic expectation for any kind of rock gig," he explained. "Who polices it? It puts any venue in an extremely difficult position.

"We’d have to hire an extra member of security, and it’s not a practical way to run a business that already runs on really fine margins as it is.

"We’re not really going to be functional for a long time; not until there’s more relaxed social distancing in place."

August 2020 saw the opening of the first socially-distanced venue in the UK: however, the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle is an outdoor venue, which means fewer restrictions on the audience compared to an indoor one.

Speaking to Radio X at the launch of the venue earlier this month, Sam Fender said: "I just think the most important thing about today and about this time is reassuring people that this is going to end. We will get back to our lives. We will be in fields, absolutely steaming, drinking lukewarm cider in the boiling sun, listening to some rock band."

But the musician admitted that grassroots venues were going to have a tough time until measures could be relaxed. "I think it’s going to be particularly bad for indie music to break through because we rely so much on live..." he said.

"My career simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for small venues. I cut my teeth on those gigs."

Frank Turner is the latest artist to announce a show at the Virgin Money Unity Arena - he will be performing at the Gosforth Park venue on 7 September.