There goes the first domino of the summer festival season and it's a doozy: Organizers of June's GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL have pulled the plug because of the pandemic for the second year in a row, unleashing a tidal wave of doubt and anxiety across a continent's worth of promoters still trying to figure out if festivals can happen anywhere this summer. "It's sent a very bad signal," a spokesman for France's HELLFEST, scheduled for the same month, told the New York Times.
Glastonbury may or may not prove to be a bellwether, though. Its size—200,000-plus fans on 900 acres of farmland—works against it. The site requires months of planning and EMILY EAVIS, who runs the fest with her father, MICHAEL, says they lost millions of pounds when they had to cancel in March a year ago. (KENDRICK LAMAR, TAYLOR SWIFT and PAUL MCCARTNEY would have headlined that version; this year's headliners were never announced.) Insurance companies aren't offering Covid policies, and calls to the UK government to set up a Covid insurance program of its own have fallen on deaf ears.
Parliament is busy with music crises this winter. Its Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee held a hearing two weeks ago on the live event crisis, and promoters' biggest ask was for that insurance program. Members of parliament also heard complaints that day about the UK's failure to get an agreement for visa-free touring for British musicians in Europe (and vice versa) during Brexit negotiations. This week, the same committee continued an ongoing inquiry into the economics of music streaming, an unrelated issue with related consequences: The musicians struggling to make a living from streaming royalties are the same musicians whose other chief source of income, touring, is in danger for a second year in a row. The fact that the price of playing in France, Spain and other countries just went up will serve as one last insult whenever touring anywhere becomes possible again.
In the meantime, festival season in Britain, Europe and the US is one big tentative question mark. American promoters seem to have set their hopes on a fall festival season in 2021: BONNAROO has been moved to September and the NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FEST to October. COACHELLA is still officially scheduled for April but no acts have been announced and, with Covid still spreading uncontrollably in California, no one expects it to happen. The rumor mill and local government officials are both pointing to fall. But can anyone bank on October at this point? Will the vaccine rollout speed up? Is a third wave of Covid in our future? Are bands, venues, promoters and everyone else ready to roll the dice on fall 2021? Do any of them have any better options?
Other European fests are still sounding optimistic. Kendrick Lamar, one of the headliners who never saw Glastonbury last year, is now a headliner at ROSKILDE, scheduled for June in Denmark. The official word there: "Cautiously optimistic."
A funny/not-funny detail from that live-event hearing in the UK. The Guardian's LAURA SNAPES reported that PAUL REED, chief exec of the Association of Independent Festivals, worried that a lack of insurance options would force festivals to cancel "early and en masse." And then if the Covid situation improved and music fans were hungry to venture out, the result, per Snapes, would be "demand without supply." Now where else have we heard of that problem lately?
Are Royalties Electric?
Speaking of the streaming music economy: Here in his car, GARY NUMAN is complaining that a million plays of a single song netted him £37... ASHLEY MCBRYDE's album NEVER WILL and MICKEY GUYTON's single "BLACK LIKE ME" were the winners of Nashville Scene's 21st Annual Country Music Critics' Poll, the gold standard of country critical consensus... The first of three parts of a BROAD MUSEUM video series on the music that inspired JEAN MICHEL-BASQUIAT finds TERRACE MARTIN tracing the influence of bebop in general and CHARLIE PARKER and DIZZY GILLESPIE in particular. A fantastic 10-minute watch... OMG the lead story in the mix below, MOSI REEVES' longread for Pitchfork on "sample snitching." A head-spinning read. But talk about blaming the messenger.
And that means new music from reggaetón stars ANUEL AA & OZUNA (their first album together is both a creative and business collaboration) and Northern Irish techno duo BICEP, as well as RHYE, LIL SKIES, TH1RT3EN (PHAROAHE MONCH with guitarist MARCUS MACHADO and drummer DARU JONES), CAROLINE SHAW, ARCA (EP with OLIVER COATES collaboration), LOGIC1000, YU SU, TOMORROW X TOGETHER (K-pop group's first Japanese-language album), BRS KASH, PALBERTA, SPEED STICK, KIWI JR., LANDE HEKT, STILL CORNERS, STEVE AOKI, MAGGIE LINDEMANN, JEREMIAH FRAITES (LUMINEERS songwriter/drummer's first solo album), TRZTN, JAMES YORKSTON & THE SECOND HAND ORCHESTRA, CARM (YMUSIC trumpeter CJ CAMERIERI with assists from JUSTIN VERNON, MOUSE ON MARS and YO LA TENGO), THEE CONDUCTOR, FINN ASKEW, GUCCIHIGHWATERS, CAMP TRASH, CUB SCOUT BOWLING PINS (ROBERT POLLARD side project, but then again what indie-rock group isn't?), ASPHYX, NERVOSA, THERION, WARDRUNA and JASON BIELER & THE BARON VON BIELSKI ORCHESTRA.
Rest in Peace