Pilot Events: proving live music is safe

[last update: 07 June 2021]

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, live music events all around Europe have been put at a stop or with logistical and sanitary conditions never seen before. In order to investigate how to manage live music events of all formats and settings in a pandemic context, many mass gathering pilot events are organised. These are often the result of innovative collaborations between the events sector, governments and researchers. Their objectives are to test the efficacy of current mitigation measures (masks, physical distancing, hand-cleaning and sanitizing…), to explore the cost, logistics and effectiveness of testing audiences in mass, and to prove with science that live music events can be held safely.

This research work complements the advocacy calls to government to urge them to better manage their approach to the re-opening of live events. For instance, seven representative organisations from the European events sector released in April 2021 a Joint Letter to the European Commission, notably to call on reducing the need for duplication of similar test event types in each country across Europe if there is alignment to accept the results as valid.

Some challenges linked to the implementation of testing audiences for live music events are still pending:

  • Who will pay for the tests?
  • Is it relevant, considering the huge financial and logistical overload, to test people before going to cultural events? Could this money be used for other actions more favourable to an equalitarian access to cultural events? Or to help live music venues and clubs transition towards the infrastructural changes needed to put up safe concerts (eg a new and optimized ventilation)?
  • Who will do the tests? Will live music professionals be trained to do the procedure? Will health professionals be requisitioned?
  • Is this relevant to small live music events? (less than 400 capacity)
  • Will there be differentiated protocols per country? How will this be managed regarding the reception of touring artists?
  • Are corona apps accessible by all live music audiences? Will there be a European harmonization for international events?
  • Will the ticketing conditions be adapted to such new measures? What about the tickets sold before 2020 for postponed events?

Until the safety of live music events does not have to be investigated and proven anymore, we will update this article with a summary of the results of each pilot event made in Europe.

Overview chart of test events in Europe


Click on the links to find more information about the various pilot events!

BELGIUM

When: 7 May 2021
Where: Spa Theatre
Who organized: Go For Culture, a project by Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, DNAlytics and representatives of the cultural sector.
For whom: 440 participants, of which only 220 were inside the venue. The other 220 will serve as test-group.
Safety measures: participants will be tested both before and after the event. Entry will depend on a negative result. Participants were seated and with masks and physical distancing.
Results:
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future. The idea is to test different protocols for different type of events and capacities in order to have tailor-made protocols for pandemic contexts.
Source: https://www.goforculture.be/

When: 12 June 2021
Where: La Ferme, venue in Louvain
Who organized: Go For Culture, a project by Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, DNAlytics and representatives of the cultural sector.
For whom: 600 participants, of which only 300 will be inside the venue. The other 300 will serve as test-group.
Safety measures: participants will be tested both before and after the event. Entry will depend on a negative result. Standing concert with mask-wearing. No physical distanciation.
Results: No results yet.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future. The idea is to test different protocols for different type of events and capacities in order to have tailor-made protocols for pandemic contexts.
Source: https://www.goforculture.be/

DENMARK

When: Information unknown
Where: at a football match, a concert/conference, and a festival
Who organized: Dansk Live and the Divisional Football Association, Aarhus  and the Danish government
For whom: 30 000 participants
Safety measures: participants will be tested with both an antigen test (rapid test) and a PCR test (laboratory test). Entry will depend on a negative result. A PCR test is followed up six days after the match day to determine the efficacy of rapid testing and the minimised distance.
Organisers say the concert/conference model will take place indoors but will otherwise be identical to the football model while the festival model will focus on ‘simulating situations with participants who are moving among each other’. Steps two and three will await the results of step one and more details on each will be revealed at a later date.
Results: Results not published yet.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future.
Source: https://www.iq-mag.net/2021/01/danish-live-industry-to-hold-series-of-test-events/

FRANCE

When: December 2020
Where: Philharmonie de Paris, Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall (2400 seated usual capacity)
Who organized: Dassault Systèmes and Philharmonie de Paris
For whom:  3D model reconstitution
Context of experiment: The Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall at the Philharmonie de Paris is equipped with a truly unique ventilation system: each seat has its own individual system, which allows not only excellent distribution of new airflow throughout the hall, but also remarkably quiet ventilation. The teams at Dassault Systèmes reconstructed a highly accurate 3D model of the hall, assuming it is full at maximum capacity. They were able to base this modelling on high-precision data provided by the building’s technical personnel.
The aim of this study is to understand how air moves within the hall, using simulation, in order to assess the effectiveness of the public health measures implemented by the Philharmonie de Paris and, if necessary, to propose other measures.
Results: In terms of preventing transmission, the Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall has clear advantages thanks to its unique ventilation system allowing for well-oriented, low-speed airflows. By combining personal protection measures, such as wearing a fitted mask, along with reduced ventilation, risks of airborne transmission (by aerosols) to the audience and orchestra appear to be greatly reduced.
What this means for the live music sector: This study highlights the links between architecture, ventilation systems and live music venues.
Source: https://philharmoniedeparis.fr/en/practical-info/pierre-boulez-symphonic-hall-grande-salle-study-air-circulation

When: June 2021
Where: Saint-Jean-de-Vedas, Secret Place venue (usual capacity of 287)
Who organized: Montpellier Hospital and Secret Place
For whom:  215 people will attend the concert live, 400 will follow a live stream of the concert from their home
Safety measures: negative test, masks, bar only outside the venue, other measures unknown
Results: No results yet
What this means for the live music sector: The results will fuel the governmental recommendation for the reopening of venues and standing concerts in France this summer.
Source: https://www.francetvinfo.fr/sante/maladie/coronavirus/deconfinement/concerts-tests-a-montpellier-il-faut-que-les-gens-jouent-le-jeu-de-l-etude-sinon-elle-sera-caduque-explique-un-organisateur_4622461.html

When: end of May 2021
Where: indoors at the Accor Hotels Arena (Paris)
Who organized: Hospitals of Paris, Prodiss (national union of promoters)
For whom: 5000 participants to the concert (venue capacity of 20 000) and 2500 people staying at home; aged between 18 and 45 years old; without any COVID symptoms and with no contact with COVID bearers for 2 weeks prior to the event; with no comorbidities and not living in the same household as fragile populations. They need to live in the Ile De France region and they need to have a negative result to an antigen test made 72h before the event.
Safety measures: standing concert; mask-wearing; alcohol gel; optimized ventilation
Results: Results not published yet.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for standing concerts in the month to come.
Source: https://www.aphp.fr/contenu/finalisation-du-projet-de-recherche-spring-sur-la-transmission-du-sars-cov-2-lors-dun

When: end of May 2021
Where: indoors at the Dôme Arena (Marseille)
Who organized: ANRS-CONCERT-SAFE, which is composed of INSERM scientific group on infectious diseases, event sector representatives and the city of Marseille and the University of Aix-Marseille.
For whom: 1125 participants (arena capacity of 8500), between 20 and 35 years old. No negative COVID test will be asked prior to the event to see if a contamination occurs naturally when potential COVID spreaders are inside the venue.
Safety measures: seated; FFP2 masks; no dancing; ventilation; alcohol gel
Results: Results not published yet.
What this means for the live music sector: We don’t know yet. The fact that the test will be done with potential COVID-positive participants is really interesting and differs from other tests done in Europe.
Source: https://presse.inserm.fr/en/point-detape-sur-le-projet-de-concert-test-a-marseille/42822/

GERMANY

When: 22 August 2020
Where:
Indoor at Leipzig Arena
Who organized:
 University Medecine Halle (Saale)
For whom:
1212 participants with negative results for covid tests conducted 48h prior to the event;
Safety measures:
negative COVID test of 48h hours prior to the event; audience was seated; N95 mask-wearing was mandatory. Three scenarios were investigated: 1) no restrictions (pre-pandemic setting); 2) moderate restrictions (checkerboard pattern seating, twice as many entrances as in scenario 1); 3) strong restrictions (pairwise seating with 1,5m interspace to the next pair, four times as many entrances). Contacts between people were investigated. The number of persons exposed to aerosols were also investigated and different ventilation systems were tested.
Results:
Results confirm the conventional wisdom that during mass gathering events (MGEs), even without precautions, not every attendant has contact with all others. The experiment also shows that in scenarios with physical distancing, the resulting contact numbers are rather low and the effective risk depends primarily on the adequacy of the ventilation. Thus, under hygiene protocols and good ventilation, even a substantial number of indoor MGEs has only minimal effects on the overall number of infections in the population. However, poor ventilation systems can lead to a considerably higher rate of aerosol expositions and can thereby result in a high number of infections. MGEs under precautions contribute only a small fraction of new cases and this fraction would be maintained even if overall epidemic grows with R above 1. Ventilation and mask-wearing is key in lowering the virus spread. With respect to contacts, particularly the “entry”, “half time” and “exit” phases are important. Around 90 percent of the study participants are not put off by the idea of wearing a mask and are willing to continue to do so in order to be able to experience such events again. (Survey conducted following the concert experiment.)
What this means for the live music sector:
When hygiene concepts are applied and conditions of good ventilation are met, mass gathering events appear to contribute little to epidemic spread of COVID-19.
Source: https://restart19.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/20201029_Results_RESTART19_English-1.pdf / https://restart19.de/en/

When: 2, 3 and 20 November 2020
Where: Konzerthaus Dortmund (usual capacity of 1500)
Who organized: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute of Goslar and particle measurement company Parte Q, with the backing of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency
For whom: Oleg, a high-tech dummy which simulates human breathing
Context of the experiment: measurement of aerosol transmission across the venue, including in the auditorium and foyer
Results: provided that venues have a sufficient fresh-air supply and all attendees are wearing face masks – the risk of someone infecting healthy concertgoers with Covid-19 through aerosol transmission can be almost ruled out. The large size of the room already ensures a strong dilution of contaminated aerosols, and the air conditioning effectively removes all aerosols, never allowing them to accumulate. A full concert hall does not interfere with the passage of air upwards, but rather promotes it through additional thermal effects. Measuring CO2 during an event can help to better assess the spread of airborne particles in the hall.
What this means for the live music sector: Provided the wearing of masks and a good ventilation system, concerts in medium-sized venues can happen safely. This study is also the first to show that the termal effect of large gatherings indoors helps the air to flow upwards.
Source:  https://operawire.com/concert-halls-theatres-are-not-places-of-infection-suggests-study-by-fraunhofer-heinrich-institute-konzerthaus-dortmund/

When: 20 March 2021
Where: Berlin Philarmonics (usual capacity of 1180)
Who organized: German Senate Department for Culture and Europe in association with various cultural institutions and visitBerlin
For whom: 1000 people with a negative COVID test
Safety measures: half of the audience was tested in decentralised test centres coordinated by the Senate, while the other half used a test centre set up especially for the event in the Philarmonics; audience was seated
Results: it costs €23,000 to test 680 people, plus 200 staff. According to the Tagesspiegel, this would add around €20 to the cost of tickets at venues of a similar size. Other findings include that it took an average of 12 minutes between testing and producing the result (all negative in the case of 20 March concert), and that the no-show rate, at 43, was also much lower when compared to a normal concert.
What this means for the live music sector: Dr Florian Kainzinger: “The project at the Philharmonie Berlin has shown that it is both possible and safe to hold events under strict hygiene rules with a preceding SARS-CoV-2 antigen test. Our time calculations worked out, and the testing procedure was perfectly feasible from both a medical and logistical point of view. We could have even tested the entire audience on site in the same period. It is important to add that this project is not a scientific study, but a practical test of complex logistical processes – with the participation of various experts on site. […] A very good learning experience for us was that the number of tests to be done on site is easily scalable up or down, so there is real transferability to other venues.”
Source: https://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en/titelgeschichten/20202021/pilot-project-perspektive-kultur/

LUXEMBOURG

When: 10 to 14 February 2021
Where: Venue La Rockhale – series of five pilot concerts. The event were in the smallest hall of the venue, the“Club” (usual capacity of 1100 standing)
Who organized: The Rockhale, Luxembourg Ministry of Culture and Luxembourg Health Authorities
For whom: 100 people by concert with negative COVID test
Safety measures: no physical distancing; no mask-wearing; participants underwent an antigenic COVID test right before the concerts and one PCR 7 days after; metal detectors (like in airports) for a contactless entrance control of the audience; 360° central stage to change traditional spatiality between artists and audience; obligation to keep seated, in groups of 4 people max; markings on the floor; bar, lockers and smoking area were closed. Rockhale also tested different music genres with this setting, including electronic music and metal.
Results: Results not published yet. Listen to key note speech of Luxembourg Minister of Culture on the experiment at 15:50 of this video (taken from European Arenas Association A Game of Two Halves conference).
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for standing concerts in the month to come.
Source: https://www.rockhal.lu/news/news/detail/because-music-matters/

THE NETHERLANDS

When: February 2021
Where: Football stadiums. Research conducted at these matches looked at visitor dynamics when using different types of measures, such as whether to wear masks or not, freedom of movement or catering during the game, fixed seating or free seating,etc.
Who organized: Fieldlab Evenementen, a collaboration project between Dutch event sector representatives and the Dutch government. The Back to Live series, which has so far included concerts, festivals and other live events, will continue with the 3FM Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2021. Alongside the Fieldlab events, the Netherlands will also host more than 80 concerts across nine days as part of an extensive pilot programme of cultural activities, announced by the Dutch government.
For whom: one event of 1500 and one of 5000. This experiment was made for Type III Events, that is active outdoor event where the public is seated.
Safety measures: participants were seated; with 50% to 75% capacity without 1.5m rule; participants had a negative antigen test; use of group separation options; use of face mask when moving at 50% occupancy / use of face mask even seated at 75% occupancy; active communication with the visitors before, during and after the event, in order to share relevant information and to draw attention to compliance with the measures
Results: The Filedlab experiments have given birth to a set of recommendations that can be found here.
What this means for the live music sector: Whilst adhering to strict conditions, it is possible to allow active outdoor events to continue with 50-75% of the normal visitor capacity.
Source:https://fieldlabevenementen.nl/fieldlab-english/

When: 16 May 2021
Where: Rotterdam Ahoy Arena
Who organized: Fieldlab Evenementen and Eurovision.
For whom: 3500 audience attendees.
Safety measures: participants were seated; mask wearing when moving; limited capacity; negative test before the event and one week after.
Results: No results yet.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future.
Source: https://eurovision.tv/story/eurovision-song-contest-fieldlab

When: 6 March 2021
Where: Ziggo Dome
Who organized: Fieldlab Evenementen
For whom: 1200 audience attendees.
Safety measures: negative tests before and after event, mask wearing; limited capacity.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future, especially regarding audience behaviour.
Source: https://fieldlabevenementen.nl/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Pilot-Evenement-Type-II-Dance-Event.pdf

NORWAY

When: June 2021
Where: Several indoor concerts in Oslo
Who organized: Norwegian Institute of Public Health, NKA
For whom: a total of 30 000 people will be involved, of which 5000 will be unmasked. Among the 30 000 participants, 15 000 will stay at home for comparisons.
Safety measures: All participants will be tested before and after the event;
Results: Results not published yet.
What this means for the live music sector: The results of this experiment will fuel protocols for mass gathering events in the future.
Source: https://www.iq-mag.net/2021/05/norway-test-events-15k-staying-home/#.YJqENKE6-Mo

SPAIN

When: 12 December 2020
Where: Indoor at Sala Apolo (Barcelona) – 4 artistic performances (2 DJ sets and 2 live music concerts with bands) during 5 hours overall. Capacity of the room where the test event took place: 900.
Who organized: Primavera Sound, the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation and the University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Badalona (Barcelona)
For whom: 1047 participants (only 500 people able to attend the concert, the others were part of a test group); with a negative antigen test result which was performed on the day of the event, between 18 and 59 years old, with no comorbidities, not living with old household contacts, with no COVID diagnosis in the 14 days prior to the event. All participants had signed an informed consent to take part in the test. All 1047 participants screened before the concert had a negative antigen result. Subjects were randomly assigned 1:1 to go inside the concert (active arm) or not (control group). All of them  had to come back after 8 days to repeat a second SARS-CoV-2 rt-PCR in nasopharyngeal swabs to identify possible SARS-CoV-2 infections. 500 subjects was the maximum number allowed by healthcare authorities to be inside the venue. Of them, 463 entered into the concert and 496 remained in the control group with no access to the concert venue, and completed the follow-up visit.
Safety measures: Certified N95 mask delivered to all participants at the entrance; negative antigen test result of the day of the event; mask wearing was mandatory, except when drinking and smoking; no physical distancing was required in the concert room; delimited outdoor place for smoking within the venue with strict control of the number of people in the area; bar zone with a capacity of 1600 attendees was located in a separate room and drinks were only served in that zone; alcoholic beverages allowed; air flows and ventilation were optimized and air exchange was monitored throughout the event; flow of participants inside the venue was defined and marks in advance and observed by security staff during the event; measures were implemented to avoid queues in the toilets and in the concert entrance and the way out.
Results: In the final intention-to-treat analysis (ITT-exposed), none of the 463 participants in the experimental group was infected with SARS-CoV-2 (incidence 0%; 95% credibility intervals: 0% -0.7%) whilst in the control branch (without access to the concert) 2 of 496 participants were infected (incidence 0.4%; credibility intervals 95%: 0.1% -0.8%). The two infected people from the control branch were detected by rt-PCR and by antigen test. Both suffered from a mild clinical illness, which was reported to the health system and underwent an epidemiological questionnaire and contact study.
What this means for the live music sector: Attending a live music concert staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections. The list of conditions included in the present experiment are easily reproducible and could be escalated to other events.
Source: https://www.primaverasound.com/en/news/resultados-estudio-prima-cov

When : 27 March 2021
Where :
Indoor at Palau St Jordi (Barcelona) – 1 concert of a band
Who organized :
A consortium of Barcelona-based festivals and promoters under the banner ‘Festivals per la cultura segura’ with researchers from AIDS charity FLS and the autonomous Catalan Department of Health to conduct same day testing
For whom:
5000 participants (venue capacity of 17 000), between 18 and 69 years old, who had a negative antigen test result from the day of the event, with an iOS or Android device (for the validation of identity of the person and their antigen test results via a dedicated app), with a purchased ticket for the event
Safety measures:
Mandatory FFP2 mask-wearing; access to the venue exclusively with a negative antigen test result carried out by medical team the afternoon before the event; body temperature control at the entrance; hydro-alcohol available throughout the premises; access to premises, bar service and toilets differentiated by sector in groups of 1800 people
Results:
Of the 5000 attendees, a total of 6 tested positive in the 2 weeks following the event. 4 of these were able to trace their infection to a source outside the event, leaving 2 possible contagions at the event, a rate far below that of the general population.
What this means for the live music sector:
A safe event without social distancing is possible.
Source: https://festivalsperlaculturasegura.com/en/   / https://weare-europe.eu/road-to-somewhere-towards-a-return-to-live-music-across-the-continent/

THE UK

When: 30 April and 1 May 2021
Where: Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock (indoors)
Who organized: British government’s Event Research Programme
For whom: 6000 participants, only those living in the Liverpool City Region and showing no sign of Covid symptoms were eligible to apply for tickets.
Safety measures: no physical distancing; no mask-wearing; participants needed a negative COVID test result 24h prior to the event to enter the event; use of carbon dioxide monitors to detect “pockets of stale air” in the venue; scientists used cameras to monitor people’s movements; participants will do another COVID test 5 days after the event.
Results: Only 12 people were infected in the two Liverpool Pilot events, although only half of attendees returned a PCR test one week after the events.
What this means for the live music sector: Scientists are using this event to look at whether crowds mixing and dancing indoors increases transmission of the virus.
Source:
https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-56943652

When: 2 May 2021
Where: Sefton Park in Liverpool (open air)
Who organized: British government’s Event Research Programme
For whom: 5000 festival goers, with a negative COVID test
Safety measures: no physical distancing; no mask-wearing; participants underwent a supervised lateral-flow test (LFT) at a local tennis centre up to 32 hours before the event. Each test was registered directly with the National Health Service (NHS), and results communicated via text and email within 30 minutes, with a negative test result activating each ticket;  additional testing site positioned directly outside Sefton Park. Alongside the lateral flow test, attendees were also encouraged to carry out a government PCR test, mailed by post, with a second test completed up to five days after the show. To motivate fans to complete the post-show test, Festival Republic offered a range of festival ticket prizes as an incentive.
Results: Only 12 people were infected in the two Liverpool Pilot events, although only half of attendees returned a PCR test one week after the events.
What this means for the live music sector: Scientists are using this weekend’s event to look at whether crowds mixing outdoors increases transmission of the virus.
Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-57249289