😷 Putting major concerts back on with the backing of science
A mathematical model that shows which measures should be implemented at major events to minimize the risk of infection with Covid-19
Back in August scientists from the Medical University Halle in Germany held an experiment in the Arena Leipzig to model how Covid-19 would spread in various situations at a major event - a concert. The experiment ran under the name: Project RESTART-19. Today, the results have been made public, but haven’t been peer-reviewed yet.
The pandemic has brought with it many unknowns. The scientists involved asked ‘what can we do?’ And what they can do is to provide a scientific basis for event organisers and politicians and to provide recommendations based on their findings. They do this because they want people to be able to make decisions based on facts and with transparency: do what you know, not what you believe. Knowledge of the risks allows people to adapt and focus on the opportunities.
The researchers focused on three scenarios:
pre-pandemic full concert with 8000 attendees in the arena;
various measures in place such as 50% attendees, seating in quadrants (chess-board seating);
more measures in place with people only allowed to sit in pairs and observing a 1.5m distance (5ft).
All attendees wore a contact tracer that clocked 3 different types of contact: 1) 3 seconds; 2) 5mins; 3) 15mins.
The results show that the seating plan heavily impacts the number of contact moments, especially those that have a longer duration. What’s more, in scenario 3 the only person that attendees had a 15min contact with was the one they were sitting next to. Outside of the seating, contact moments - obviously - increased during entrance, intermission, and while leaving the arena.
Besides the movement of people and subsequent contact moments, the researchers also focused on the spread of aerosols. The importance of good systems to bring fresh air into the arena cannot be overstated. Using computer modelling the researchers have shown how with a good air purification system the risk of the spread can be reduced by sucking the aerosols up towards the ceiling and out of the arena. However, with a poor ventilation system the risk of contact with aerosols from infectious persons grew to a third of the audience. The researchers assumed 24 infected persons with the 4000 capacity scenario 2.
After the concert, the attendees were given a questionnaire and most were fine with wearing a mask with only 12% expressing displeasure. This followed the next statistic where 70% of attendees said they would wear a mask.
When looking at the risk impact of a large scale event on the wider society the researchers used an incidence rate of 10, 50, and 100 per 100,000. In all cases the impact of wearing a mask was strong, although much bigger in situations with poor ventilation and in the higher incidence rate situations. At the lowest incidence rate, with good ventilation and with mask-wearing the wider implication of scenario 1 and 2 appear negligible in society at large.
No full capacity concerts as any hygiene concept has to reduce the number of attendees.
No standing concerts, only seated concerts as this provides fixed distance and contacts.
More entry points and staggered entry to reduce contact moments.
Mask-wearing should be mandatory in all public places. Potentially allow people to remove masks when seated, especially in scenario 3.
Only allow people to consume drinks (and food) while seated.
Adequate ventilation systems are needed. First, a standard must be provided to all venues and promoters. Second, there must be an investment programme from government bodies to help implement appropriate ventilation systems.
With an incidence rate lower than 50 per 100,000 per week, the researchers recommend scenario 2, allowing 250 people to enter per entry point per hour.
With an incidence rate higher than 50 per 100,000 per week, the researchers recommend scenario 3, allowing 250 people per entry point only.
Final point, enlist the help of hygiene stewards to help people understand what they need to do when.
Now we have a scientific basis to organise concerts, the next step is to bring governments on board to support these findings. Similarly, we’ll need to develop concepts that will work within the suggested scenarios. We’ll need to get creative, because so far, all evidence has pointed to events running at 50% capacity or less to not be financially viable for anyone involved. It would also be great if we can take this research and apply it to smaller scale events. Hygiene concepts can be set up, air ventilation prioritised, and mask-wearing can be made mandatory.
New to MUSIC x CORONA? Get updates like these in your inbox, for free, twice a week.
Switzerland is putting in place new restrictions that mean nightclubs are closed.
With lockdowns come the aid packages: Northern Ireland announces a GBP13m fund for the arts and heritage.
The Union of Musicians has launched a ‘Justice at Spotify’ campaign. They ask for higher streaming payouts, but Spotify doesn’t pay artists directly, it pays the labels. More interestingly, they urge Spotify to be ‘transparent with their finances, their platform, and their relationships with artists.’ And ‘to give due credit to all engineers, musicians and laborers on all recordings.’ That, we can all get behind.
A critique of the critique of plague raves in the First Floor newsletter.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about insurance policies for artists on tour. Over on The Music Network we can read how ‘insurers do cover terrorist attacks for festivals … [while] cover for communicable diseases is different story.’
Nico Muhly will premiere Throughline with the San Francisco Symphony online and on TV on 14 November. I feel this could become a defining piece of music for the pandemic. Nico wrote it especially for this moment and the recording also captures what we’re going through with artists performing their piece in various places across the globe. Finally, Nico doesn’t conduct per se, but layers the various recordings. In his own words: “what I’m doing is a very stylized form of traffic control.”
To prove again that the decrease in streaming for recorded music at the start of the pandemic was a blip, Sony has had its biggest quarter ever for recorded music.
But it’s not all good on the recorded music side, as CISAC reports that while they saw growth coming from the global collecting societies in 2019, they expect a drop of 35% in 2020. Moreover, they feel this impact will be felt all through to 2022. CMU has an excellent breakdown of the numbers.
Music Ally has just released a report showing that just in the Dutch dance scene cancelled events account for a loss of €50m in performing rights fees for songwriters.
Marc Geiger, cofounder of Lollapalooza, set up SaveLive. An investment fund that aims to buy 51% of equity in as many American venues as possible to help keep them alive and open post-pandemic. It sounds like a finance play, buying a distressed asset on the cheap. But Geiger and his backers claim it’s not. Only time will tell…
Let’s end on a happier note: Amsterdam Dance Event’s virtual edition was a big success reaching millions and getting great feedback. Another strong sign that virtual events can remain in practice when physical live events are back.
I’ve been enjoying Sam Amidon’s new record a lot. It’s his sixth album, but the first to be self-titled. For me, this shows how he’s grown into his own with this album. It’s still quintessentially Sam Amidon with the folky songs, the banjo, etc. But the production is much more airy providing more space for him and the song.
Next week: special US election edition
Keep your eyes peeled for a special edition next Tuesday, as we’ll look at this newsletter’s topic in the context of the US elections. It will also be the first time Bas and I actually co-write a newsletter edition - we normally just take turns.
Since it will be a bit more work editorially, Bas will be able to give people on the MUSIC x Patreon a preview ahead of time.