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Gigs In A Ghost Town

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

13 months ago Manchester was a buzzing hive of musicians, now they are nowhere to be seen.

As one of the biggest cities in the UK, Manchester is a hub for musicians of all sizes with over 20 venues hosting Bands almost every night, it is the place to be for anyone wanting to know who the latest up and coming acts are.

That has all changed.

Take a walk through the Northern Quarter on a Saturday night and you are greeted by 100’s of closed venues and bars, It is a sad sight for the eyes of a music enthusiast.

What has happened to the Musicians who once graced these venues and what are they doing now?

For the musicians who relied on gigs to make a living, going into lockdown has been tough. Some musicians have turned to live streaming as a way to carry on doing what they love and potentially create a stream of income. Jake Fletcher, A musician from Oldham has been doing weekly online gigs through Facebook in replacement of his pub residencies and small gigs however it just isn't the same level of intimacy as being in your local boozer.

"Being a musician during lockdown has been a strange time but one that I feel an almost unique one. Possibly the only time we'll ever have time to take a step back and assess things. Also a case of adapt or stagnate. I've taken to streaming to try and compensate for not gigging. It's ended up being a real eye opener and really made me come to the conclusion that streaming may become another avenue for artists in the long run as another form of revenue. For me personally it's come as a welcome change to my usual routine and I'd quite like to keep streaming as an almost side project to my normal gigging life." - Jake Fletcher.

Other bands have chosen to use lockdown to focus on their sound and record new work, the rules around rehearsal studios have been hazy with the majority in Manchester remaining open for use.

Some bands have however completely gone on Hiatus waiting in anticipation until we can pick up from where we left off.

"Although we’ve lost a year of momentum - which can be detrimental to a band - in a bizarre way, it’s been a really bittersweet experience.

Obviously there’s negatives. We’ve not been in a room together in over a year, our rehearsal space no longer exists, and the ‘how are you keeping?’ messages are starting to grind on us all a bit now. However, there are positives to take from this experience:

Lockdown gave us time. Time we certainly wouldn’t of had before, and we’ve used it wisely. A lot of new material has been written, which we’re excited to begin properly working on once we’re able to.

Of course we miss live performances, but we’re not the only ones in this position. And I think because we’ve been forced to a standstill, it’s allowed us to take a step back to critically assess our progress. We’ve identified areas for improvement, where in the past we’d neglected, or not even considered, which can only be a good thing moving forward.

In short, I think this strange old pandemic has opened our eyes to the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve with Little Strange, and we can’t wait to be back.."

- Jamie Thompson , Little Strange.

For the venues, it has been disappointment followed by more disappointment with the cancellation and rescheduling of gigs and album release parties causing a loss in revenue with the constant changing of lockdown rules it is hard to keep up on when they can be open or closed not to mention capacity sizes, social distancing and policing the punters. It is hurting the economy with every passing day, for some, it is proving too much to handle.

What can we expect for the future of gigs?

With restrictions on venues due to be lifted at the earliest in May, there is still a long wait for gigs to be back

If venues are running at a smaller than typical capacity how will that affect the atmosphere of the performance?

Is there going to be an increase in ticket prices due to the limit on how many can be sold?

Is there any point in booking your band at a venue until we can be certain that the night will go ahead?

It appears we will have to sit tight and wait to find out, I know I will be in front of the queue for a gig and a Guinness as soon as it is allowed

- Frankie Taylor

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