Following two years of lockdowns and widespread cancellations, live music has returned to its full and glorious form. In 2022, festival season took place uninhibited, with over 200,000 festival goers heading to Worthy Farm in Somerset for the first Glastonbury since 2019, where they witnessed Paul McCartney deliver one of the Pyramid Stage’s greatest-ever headline sets. Coachella, Lollapalooza and Primavera had triumphant returns, too, without vibe-sapping restrictions in place.
Massive names like The Rolling Stones, Adele and Liam Gallagher were able to get back on the road and reunite with their adoring fans, while new and emerging acts were able to experience their rapid success first-hand, flying through statement-making slots at prestigious festivals and sold-out gigs to further capitalise on their growing momentum.
As with any restart, though, it hasn’t all been plain sailing: just ask Taylor Swift fans in the US. As tickets for the artist’s first domestic stadium tour in five years went on pre-sale in November 2022, Ticketmaster’s sales system struggled to cope with the phenomenal demand (14 million requests for 1.5 million tickets, if you’re wondering). The subsequent cancellation of the general sale prompted further fan anguish, plenty of complaints and apologies from the ticket seller, who have promised that a second sale will take place for those who cruelly missed out.
While a number of tours and festivals are attracting sell-out crowds, live audience figures on the whole are still yet to reach their pre-pandemic levels. CM.com’s recent report posited that “consumer behaviour within live music is shifting rapidly”, while its accompanying survey found that one in three music fans in the UK are planning to go to fewer live music events in 2023 – with the current cost of living crisis cited as a key reason.
Spiralling costs are also affecting artists, crew members and venues. Independent artists are being hit particularly hard, with Mercury Prize winner Little Simz being forced to cancel her 2022 US tour as such an endeavour “would leave me in a huge deficit”. The implications of Brexit on international touring – namely the lack of visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for UK musicians and their crew – is also an area that needs to be resolved promptly.
These are all issues that need to be addressed before live music can truly take flight again. But its unrestricted return should still be celebrated and supported: being back on the road, when it’s affordable and sustainable for all parties, ultimately benefits artists, fans, venues, crew members and the local economy. There’ve been some hiccups along the way, but live music is back for the masses, and thank goodness for that.
Stay tuned to NME.com/C23 for the latest on the return of the iconic mixtape