What does the ‘post Covid-19’ Drum&Bass scene look like?

I first spotted the developing Chinese Coronavirus (CV) situation in late January and began actively monitoring it from then. Why? Because as an Events & Bookings manager for a music venue in Manchester forecasting is an essential part of the job. I’m also part of the DnB outfit ‘Data 3’ and I help to run Kodiak Productions – a DnB event promotions company. So I have a lot of vested interest in this subject to say the least. 

On January 24th I put a joke status on FaceBook  warning people to start stock-piling food and water – at that point it was mainly a joke, I needed to do the weekly shop anyway and so threw a few cans of smart price beans in my trolley and took a picture to get a few FB Likes. I then watched as in just a matter of days as the virus started to take hold in places such as Italy & Iran, in China, Wuhan went into shutdown. It was at this point I started to realise that this was going to hit us and hit us hard. I put a status on FB warning everyone that we would go into lockdown within six weeks. At this point I was still slightly joking but I did know it was a real possibility. However, I figured – three weeks in Lockdown, little holiday, I’ll finally get round to painting those kitchen cupboards. lovely stuff…

We’re now well into week 6/7 of lockdown and fatigue is starting to hit. I know lots of mates that are now starting to bend the rules – meet up for a beer or a chat (It starts off with a jokey 2m social distancing feel but by the 3rd tinny it’s all out the window) and the roads are certainly busier. Many of us in the scene have lost our income, our passion and our way of life. With Bojo looking to give us some clarity on the lockdown easing on Sunday – I thought I would throw my two pence in on what I think the future looks like for the DnB world. 

The ‘New Normal’ 

You’ve probably heard it in the news or seen it on social media but what does it mean for us? With social distancing set to stay for the foreseeable future (Either until the country/world gains herd immunity or we develop a vaccine – we’re not even 100% sure if either of those things are possible at this stage) we will see an obvious detrimental effect on the events industry which is literally about people congregating in a small space and sweating all over each other and saving random strangers 2’s on a fag in the smoking area. That means that large scale events will be one of the last lockdown eases but we should know more about actual figures once Boris has published the Gov’s exit strategy. 

In Spain there are rumors of ‘open-air’ events of 800+ being allowed from the end of June and some people in the UK are predicting that events might be capped at 1000. So everything should be pretty much back to normal for the smaller events soon right? Wrong, I’m afraid. Whilst we may be given an official max capacity to go off, the Government has also repeatedly told us that the ‘new normal’ will include loosening & tightening of restrictions depending on infection rates. If they go up – we will go back into lockdown – if they go down, the bars will open again. That means for most promoters (including myself) laying down a couple of grand on a lineup like we used to is just too risky when the Government could ban events with more than 50 people the night before.

Local clubs, Residencies & Crews – we’re going back in time

To minimise risk on promoters and therefore DJs – expect it to go back to having your local club on Fridays and Saturday nights. This will allow crews and residents to build lineups in short amounts of time depending on what the current gov guidelines at the time are. So you can expect your bigger DJs to start claiming certain nights at certain clubs where they can offset their usually bigger one-off fees to smaller but more secure weekly fees (if it’s their local club and can walk and stay at home, they can operate on smaller margins just like the promoters and venues). This will mean that you’ll basically get the same lineups on certain nights in each club and so to see different DJs you will rotate what venue you visit etc. It also means you’ll get a lot more local DJs on your lineups as the chance to offset travel fees with ticket sales will be much harder. You can also expect huge waves of underground artists starting to make it big on a national level as the overseas DJ tours come to a halt, maybe now we will see what New Zealand really has to offer? 

Wave good-bye to all the free live streams, say hello to raving from you living room on a weekly

Right now, as i’m writing this, i’m also preparing to go down to the club and start setting up our cameras for better live streaming capabilities. Facebook recently announced that they will start offering the chance of charging people to login and watch livestreams, if you are wanting to see proper put-together lineups, then you can expect to see promoters offsetting their risk by selling online-only tickets at a discounted rate. £15 to go to the limited capacity club, £5 to join in from home. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY promoters, DJs and agents will be able to put on bigger lineups whilst protecting themselves from (for example) the Government announcing 48 hours before a complete lockdown as a 2nd wave is taking hold. It also prevents people from using public transport to and from the venue. For many people with underlying health conditions this will be really important and for people with accessibility issues this should stay on as an option long after Covid-19 is “sent-packing” and is just one of the many positives that could come to the scene as a result of the Pandemic. 

Face masks inna dance

Hearing the sentence “Foreheads and ID’s please” as you’re walking up to the main entrance may become a normality as temperature taking, mask wearing and mandatory hand washing become standard practice when visiting a venue. Arrival times and socially distanced smoking areas and monitoring stewards may also be a thing.  In terms of dancing, there really isn’t much that can be done, but I imagine by cutting capacities the Gov will be hoping they can reduce the ‘R’ rate in venues and nightclubs. One thing that will probably never come back will be cash. Everything’s contactless from here on out baby, whether you like it or not. 

The unknown

That is where the real problem lies – no one knows truly how long this will go on for and for how long social distancing will have to stay. For now all we can do is wait for the Government to give some more guidance and start planning for every eventuality but I personally don’t expect events to go back to how they were for a long time yet. A mixture of smaller more personal events of 50-100 capacity and bigger events where 75% + of tickets are online only is my vision for what the new normal will be. DJs and MCs will make a living from a variety of holding down residencies in clubs and performing on live streams. Festivals may come back in 2021 if a vaccine is found – if not – then I think festivals as we used to remember them won’t be back for a number of years as reaching herd immunity within current safe healthcare capacities around the world will take 3-5 years depending on which sources you read/believe. 

Whatever the case, don’t despair. The DnB community is full of creative, imaginative and hardworking people. The venues, producers, promoters, DJs and agents will all adapt – after all this is our way of life and we will do everything we can to protect it. 

Words: Alex Kostyakov