Dreaming of King Tut’s: considering the uncertain future of live music

The expression ‘uncertain times’ is everywhere at the moment, from emails to TV adverts and political speeches. So when American pop punk band Waterparks announced a tour with no set dates, vaguely named the See You In The Future Tour, the infuriating uncertainty
perfectly summed up the live music industry’s precarious future.

Coming out of a summer indoors, small venues began to cautiously open to the public once again, relieved to have survived the drought when so many grassroot venues were not as lucky. But as a second spike looms ominously, the industry has battened down the hatches once again.

What can we expect for the future of live music? Talking to Musicradar earlier in the year, company founder of TourLife Harry Parslow let on that he sees live streaming remaining the go-to outlet for the time being. Streaming platforms on social media proved a firm favourite for artists over lockdown, who found it useful for connecting with fans when they could not do so in person. However this is no replacement for live shows. Is the comradery of standing shoulder to
shoulder with strangers, united by a love for the music, a thing of the

Many solutions have been put forward in saving live music including drive-ins and socially distanced outdoor gigs like the one Sam Fender headlined in August. Although this is better than nothing, images of these events looked eerily sterile. Both have lost the charm that small
venues bring by nature. We dream of ramshackle stages and walls
vandalized with autographs and slander. Of crudely lettered band names slung against the back wall by industrial clothes pegs and
enamoured blethers with the support acts in the bar and around the merch stand after the show. Even when we do return to some sort of normality, who’s to say live music won’t get left in the dust? Not only are many small venues closing for good as it is but let’s face it, sweaty mosh pits are not the most hygiene-friendly environments. And in a post-Covid world, where everyone will likely be hyper-aware of cleanliness, virus or not, are we really going to be able to look at crowds like that in the same way again? Are fond memories all that are left of venues like King Tut’s?

It is interesting to imagine what would it be like if live music were lost to the mists of time. Would it return half a century later cloaked in nostalgia and vintage mystery? God forbid we watch our offspring get dressed up to attend “The King Tut Experience”. They would return bedraggled after a mosh pit scrum, clutching the guitar pick they finessed off the bass player. Eyes filled with longing, they would tell tales of the elusive setlist snatched from their grasp at the final second. Just like grandma used to do. This is dramatic, I know. In reality the future of live music is far from hopeless. Parslow attempts to put our minds at ease saying, “I do firmly believe that you still can’t beat a live performance, so I think we are safe knowing that they will return.” (Musicradar August 2020) Our outlook on the future of live events must remain sunny; our moshing days are far from over.

It’s safe to say that for now any attempt to recreate the small gig experience is going to fall short in some way and it is best to wait until Covid is safely behind us before we reunite. For the time being, if your need for live music becomes too much to bear, make the most of what is currently available. Seek out outdoor events or livestreams like the ones listed in the What’s On section of this pullout. Even live your 1950s Grease Lightnin’ fantasy with a drive-in show. As we all make sacrifices this year, let this satisfy your craving for now and keep your sights firmly set on a Covid-free future.

Image: Nick Bramhall via Flickr

By Ella Cockerill

Music Editor