Music industry ‘floats’ COVID bubble idea following two years of cancellations

As the music industry faces its second year of event cancellations, talks of an NRL-style COVID bubble are emerging.

Several festivals have already been cancelled twice in a row, including Gympie Music Muster and Groovin the Moo.

Byron Bay’s Bluesfest is also set for cancellation, having prepared ticket holders via social media for the inevitable conclusion following Sydney’s recent outbreak.

covid bubble
Image: Victorian Women’s Trust

Meanwhile, Splendour in the Grass has been pushed back to November.

Live performing, especially through music festivals, has often been an essential career move for upcoming artists. We spoke about this at length here.

There has now been a growing discussion to emulate the NRL’s covid bubble idea to manage the continuation of music festivals from here on.

However, it would be a much bigger task than you’d expect.

Accommodating all staff in quarantine rooms, ensuring they are all vaccinated, and ensuring security 24/7 is a relatively demanding question for the industry compared to football.

QMusic chief Kris Stewart elaborates:

“A team of 30 people can be in a hotel for a few months and actually that solves most of the NRL’s problems. But it’s not like we can fix the live music industry by putting 30 musicians into a fantastic resort on the Sunshine Coast”.

He’s got a point. Although the NRL brings in large crowds, it’s nothing compared to peaks that music festivals can reach, with Glastonbury – arguably the biggest festival in the industry – attracting some 200,000 people every year.

In addition, we are looking at international exports on a bigger scale, from more countries than the mere two required for a sports match.

Also, the behaviour of crowds at music festivals is arguably very different between the industries. Although close contact appears in both settings – not to mention alcohol – the added element of dancing and moving about freely in large crowds creates a different level of interaction that may make the spread of the coronavirus more difficult to manage.

Then there is the consideration for multi-day festivals, sleeping in tents… the list is too long for us to even write about here!

All in all, it’s a nice idea, but it may be a while before we come up with a solution that can effectively match the NRL.