What does the future for concerts look like …?

21st April 2020 | Concerts, Daily Life, Musings | 6 comments

A music-loving friend and I were discussing the prospect of concerts resuming after lockdown. It might be months away, but most musicians are eagerly, indeed desperately looking forward to this point.

‘Trouble is’, said my friend, ‘I might not feel all that confident about going back into a concert hall after this.’ I asked why. ‘Well, I don’t fancy mingling with loads of people in the corridors, the bar, the loos and so on’, she said. ‘Also, I really don’t fancy squeezing my way along the row, past lots of people’s knees, to find my seat in the hall.’ That was a point I hadn’t thought about.

‘Another thing that worries me’, she said, ‘is coughing. You know how people always cough at concerts?’ (Editor’s note: Don’t I just!) ‘Well, they’re not suddenly going to stop coughing at concerts just because of this’, she went on. ‘Every time someone coughs near us in a concert hall, we’re all going to freak out’. I could see it was true.

‘What if everyone was wearing face masks?’ I said. ‘Who’s everyone?’ my friend replied. ‘Do you mean just the audience, or the performers too? What about singers, using all that powerful breath control to expel droplets over the front rows of the stalls? They can’t wear masks. What about wind players? They can’t either. Anyway’, she said, ‘I’m not sure if I’ve got the heart to go to a concert where the musicians are wearing face masks. It would be too weird.’

We thought about the idea of physical distancing within a concert hall. Perhaps people would feel better if they weren’t sitting cheek by jowl. Could the seating plan be re-configured? If seats are fixed to the floor, that’s difficult. Only certain seats could be sold – seats dotted here and there throughout the hall. If the seats can be removed, chairs could be set out at appropriate distances on the floor.

In both cases, however, there would be immediate knock-on effects – on box office income, on the price of tickets, on the money available to pay performers. How could concerts remain viable? How could the profession of musician …?

Most musicians, and I hope most music-lovers, agree that the future of music has to be ‘live’. But how to achieve it, post-lockdown? I think musicians and concert planners should start putting their heads together about this.


  1. Tessa Gaisman

    This has been on my mind too! Can’t wait to get back to concerts and the theatre. Back in “the old days” if you had measles or chickenpox you quarantined because there was no vaccination. If you were ill (even with a cold) you stayed away from work or school and would certainly not go to concerts, theatres or cinemas in case you infected others. Perhaps we should learn from the current situation that after lock-down is ended we should take responsibility for ourselves and stay away from others if there is a risk of infecting them? What are the chances?

    • Susan Tomes

      Hi Tessa, I agree with you – although I suppose the problem is that in the case of this virus, people can be asymptomatic carriers without knowing it. So they might in all innocence go to a concert without realising they might infect others.
      There are lots of problems associated with resuming concerts – and music courses too, alas. We’ll all have to come up with some good ideas which reflect the adjustments we’re being advised to make.

  2. Lissa Smith

    Booked tickets for SCO concerts for their next season yesterday – priority booking by May 1st and opening concert September 24th. But do wonder if over 70s will be allowed out by then and indeed if any concerts will actually take place . It is very worrying as it seems to me that the majority of concert goers are over 70 or at least 60. It has been a worrying trend anyway and this Covid19 could be disastrous for all those involved in playing and organising etc. Quite apart from much disappointment after all their hard work.

    • Susan Tomes

      After hearing Professor Chris Whitty on the news last night, warning us that social distancing measures will have to be in place for the rest of this year at least, I do wonder how concerts can take place in September as advertised. Musicians will be longing to play them, but there will need to be some creative thinking about how to present them (or whether). I think you are right, Lissa, that chamber music will be particularly impacted as chamber music audiences tend to be more senior.

  3. WA

    I don’t know if I believe that things will be so different once this virus is under control. People are social animals, there will be a desire within people to go to big public events; and we take calculated risks every day. We cross the road even though we know people get hit by cars all the time, etc. I think there is a danger of blowing this out of proportion in the here and now, but I guess articles have to be written about something, and no one wants to read that everything will be the same and boring again!

  4. Susan Tomes

    WA, you may well be right! Amongst my friends, there seem to be two camps – those who are desperate for things to go back to how they were before, and those who think that society will be changed by what it has been through. I guess we haven’t been through it yet, so we can only guess.


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