Drive In Gigs: A valid alternative to consume live music during the Covid-19 pandemic?

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Mads Langer playing a drive-in-gig (© Mads Langer)

Earlier this month Danish singer-songwriter Mads Langer played a sold-out drive-in gig in Denmark, and is now on tour using the successful platform. Touted as a potential solution to the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on the live music industry, drive-in gigs provide an alternative way for us to consume live music whilst restrictions on large gatherings are in place but can they satisfy our needs to enjoy music together.

Certainly this provides a potential income stream for many who have seen a whole summer season of work wiped out. From stage builders to sound technicians the individuals who work in live music are hurting right now and if they can complete the work following government guidelines it can only be a plus!

Drive-in-gigs don’t help our Venues

However it doesn’t help our venues of which 556 are at imminent risk of closing permanently in the UK. These venues are vital to building the careers of those like Langer, The 1975, Oasis, Foals, Arctic Monkeys and other music heroes. To put it bluntly if there are no grass-roots venues we cannot grow musical talent.

Due to the cost of staging a drive-in Gig, the opportunity to perform will only be open to those who draw the revenue from ticket sales. Up and coming artists are likely to be stuck doing un-atmospheric InstaGram live streams from their living rooms.

Langer hosted 500 cars in what appears to be a rather soul-less open air space. Instead of a round of applause he was greeted with the honking horns of approval at the end of each song. On this basis it sounds terrible, however through the use of Zoom conferencing Langer was actually able to hold conversations with individuals in each car. Speaking to ABC News Langer mused:

It actually ended up being a really intimate setting even thought it was a big venue.

The prospect of conversing with your favourite artist is really cool, which is why so many of us are guilty of commenting feverishly on a livestream in the hope that they might take notice of us. Yet whilst Instagram treats us all as equal, drive-in gigs will only be open to the privileged.

Drive-In Gigs are a band-aid at best

I don’t own a car, I can’t afford to run a car when I’m surrounded by excellent public transport links. I do not have a low income and thankfully unlike many my income hasn’t been impacted too heavily by Covid-19 but I would not be privileged enough to attend a drive-in gig.

I think fundamentally that’s the problem, live music should be open to all. From open mic nights at pubs, stadium tours and moshing at your local venue; whether you see an artist once a year or go every month. Music belongs to us all and Covid-19 has stolen that away from us.

Drive-In Gigs are a band-aid at best, and that’s okay. Like livestreams and YouTube videos they can’t replace the real thing but they can provide assistance to those in the music industry who need our help right now.

A Map of Venues that need your Help

Emily Stewart

Emily Stewart is a freelance music journalist for Indie Is Not A Genre.

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