Back in July, Digital Music News was first to report that German scientists were planning a 4,200-person experimental concert to gain a better understanding of COVID-19’s transmission risk. Now, these researchers have determined that music concerts are safe with masks and proper ventilation.
University Medical Center Halle (Saale) professionals recruited “healthy volunteers” between the ages of 18 and 50 for the music concerts study – dubbed Restart-19 – and the 10-hour-long trial took place in Leipzig, Germany, on August 22nd.
In summary, organizers welcomed these volunteers (who ultimately numbered about 1,500 despite the initial attendance goal of 4,200) to the 12,200-person capacity Arena Leipzig for three distinct concert simulations, each delivered by Berlin-born singer Tim Bendzko. Subjects were also given COVID-19 tests ahead of time.
Receiving FFP2 respirator masks, contact tracers, and ample hand sanitizer from those overseeing the happening, participants first experienced Bendzko’s music without social distancing, in essentially the same manner as they would have pre-pandemic. The second phase centered on audience members’ socially distancing throughout the performance. The last component encompassed the guests’ “arriving” by tram, enjoying the concert in seats, and then “departing” via tram.
Organizers formally unveiled their findings yesterday, in an official release and at a livestreamed press conference. Having focused chiefly on ventilation (including by using a fog machine to gain a visual reference) and contact between attendees, researchers described adequate airflow as a “crucial factor” and determined that it “can reduce the risk of infection significantly.”
Similarly, Restart-19 found (with the contact-tracer information) that the majority of person-to-person interactions and potential COVID-19 transmissions occurred around the entrance and during breaks between concerts. The areas “must be the focus of planning” for promoters and venues, the experiment’s results breakdown indicates. And in conjunction with other preventative measures, precautions can contribute to safe gigs amid the pandemic, according to the medical experts.
Lastly, a post-concert survey revealed that 90 percent of participants “don’t think it’s bad to wear a mask” and are willing to do so again in order to expedite the return of large-audience performances. As a whole, Restart-19’s conclusions appear generally encouraging in the context of concerts’ and festivals’ eventual full-scale return, which most industry execs believe will arrive sometime next year.
Building upon the point, many sold-out events – including EDC Las Vegas and the Day Trip Festival, which Insomniac debuted following EDC’s strong ticket sales – are set to take place outdoors, with optimal ventilation. More immediately, however, a substantial number of grassroots music venues are struggling to stay afloat, owing to COVID-19 health concerns and associated lockdown measures.