Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull have signed an open letter to the U.K. government outlining the realities of the Covid-19 crisis for musicians and suggesting possible solutions for how to bring back live music.
In the preface to his letter, Anderson notes that he had privately sent it to U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on July 1st, and again to Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage on August 12th, but had never received a response from either of them. “Hard to make any progress with this muddled, uninformed and lackluster U.K. government,” he writes. “I am so sad for all of us in this now extremely precarious industry of arts and entertainment and sad for our audiences too.”
Anderson then explains the scientifically proven safety concerns with performing music live in either outdoor or indoor venues, noting that the spread of the novel coronavirus through aerosol droplets has been found to be more likely than surface contamination, which can be avoided through proper cleaning procedures. The main challenge facing indoor venues, Anderson notes, is that they are typically cooled, dry spaces thanks to A/C units blowing air throughout the space — a perfect home for viruses.
With that said, he believes that outdoor concerts are largely safe for the moment as long as all attendees wear masks — “at least a 50p 3-layer surgical mask, not a flimsy single layer homemade cosmetic face covering” — and keep a suitable social distance apart through seating or otherwise. He even demonstrates how outdoor spaces or even very large indoor venues can retain 70% capacity, as opposed to only 35%, by keeping seats spaced one meter apart and allowing household groups to sit closer together, as Anderson did at his recent U.K. cathedral show.
Anderson admits that creating a safe protocol for indoor performances will be much more difficult and that a one-size-fits-all scenario would be ineffective. He writes: “I suggest that environmental health assessments are carried out for theatres and concert halls and they can be granted (or not granted) an interim COVID license to operate with restricted seating and all the other obvious sanitary and entry/exit/toilet protocols in place. That will take many weeks to carry out but I really think that we have, realistically, until next spring to do this when, hopefully, infection rates are down to a safer level.”
Indoor performances have returned to certain parts of Europe, such as Germany, where scientists have tentatively begun experimenting with different concert scenarios to see how Covid-19 might be spread in a live music setting. Much is still unknown about the dangers of Covid-19 in different types of mass gatherings, but scientific evidence has backed Anderson’s claim that the virus is transmitted primarily through aerosols.