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Record Store Day and Radio 1’s Big Weekend among the latest events to be affected by the COVID-19 crisis

By | Published on Monday 16 March 2020

Lucian Grainge

This year’s edition of Record Store Day and Radio 1’s Big Weekend will both be postponed as the list of events affected by the COVID-19 crisis grows. Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge has been hospitalised in Los Angeles after testing positive for the coronavirus.

As more and more countries put in place increasingly severe measures to restrict and delay the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, many more venues have closed their doors, while upcoming shows, festivals and conferences cancel or postpone.

The UK government is yet to ban mass gatherings, but such measures could be incoming. Meanwhile, some British events are voluntarily choosing to cancel or postpone, particularly larger-scale events, with Live Nation, AEG and the major booking agencies last week coming together to suggest that all high capacity shows taking place this month should be called off.

The 2020 edition of Record Store Day – which takes place in multiple countries – was due to take place on 18 Apr but has now been postponed until 20 Jun. Noting that “hundreds of independent shops and labels have been working hard towards this year’s celebrations”, organisers said that the decision to postpone “comes at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and the health and safety of the general public must come first”.

They added: “We’re working with all of our partners and our stores to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone: customers, record stores, artists, labels and more. Record Store Day is everywhere and we want to hold our party when everyone can gather around safely to celebrate life, art, music and the culture of the indie record store”.

“Given the challenges now facing the independent record store community”, the statement concluded, “we urge music fans to continue to support their local record shop in whichever way they can to see us through what is about to become a very challenging time”.

Speculation is now rife as to what impact COVID-19 will have on the UK festival season this summer. The BBC has confirmed that its Big Weekend event, due to take place in Dundee this year on 22 May, will be postponed. While the UK government is yet to ban any events, the Scottish government has said gatherings of more than 500 people should not go ahead in order to relieve the strain on emergency services.

A statement from BBC Radio 1 read: “This decision has been made in conjunction with our event partners, in line with the advice from the Scottish Government, and while we know fans looking forward to purchasing tickets will be disappointed, it is important that we prioritise the health and safety of all those involved”.

As an increasing number of events get cancelled, the spotlight is increasingly falling on the impact this will have on people and companies in the music industry, and especially artists, freelancers and smaller independent businesses.

Parents And Carers In Performing Arts have also urged both employers and government to consider in particular the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on those caring for young children or disabled or elderly relatives. Particularly if the schools are closed and/or older people are urged to self-isolate en masse. Again this will hit freelancers the hardest, who may have to turn down work when their childcare or other obligations increase.

PiPA said in a statement: “There is a very real risk of parents and carers seeing their income cut in the short and medium term, either due to cancelled contracts, self-isolation or increased child and eldercare requirements. This has the likelihood to have a devastating knock on effect to those who are already vulnerable, such as single parents, sole carers and those on low income, who due to their employment status are not eligible for parental leave or sick pay”.

It went on: “PiPA urges all performing arts organisations to think in the medium term and facilitate flexible and remote working, as well as support freelancers during cancellation and deploy further resources. PiPA is encouraged that the recent budget stated the government will consider how to provide appropriate support to self-employed parents, but in light of coronavirus, this need is heightened and urgent”.

As the virus spreads around the world, the number of people in the music community to contract COVID-19 will obviously increase significantly. Last night it emerged that one the higher profile people to have tested positive for the coronavirus is Lucian Grainge, the boss of Universal Music and one of the most powerful executives in the music industry.

According to sources who spoke to both Variety and Bloomberg, Grainge has been hospitalised after testing positive for the virus, and is now receiving treatment at LA’s UCLA Medical Center. The major told staff on Friday that its LA HQ would temporarily close, seemingly after Grainge’s diagnosis.

According to Variety, an internal memo read: “Previously, we have committed that if there were to be a confirmed case of coronavirus infection in any of our offices, we would immediately close that location. We have just been informed that there is a confirmed case of infection in an employee based in our 2220 Colorado Avenue offices”.

“Accordingly and out of an abundance of caution”, the memo continued, “we are immediately closing all of our Santa Monica offices, and all Santa Monica staff are required to work from home until further notice”.

It’s thought that – as with most of the big music companies – many employees were already working from home, and the LA offices would likely have been closed this week anyway. Universal is yet to comment on the reports of Grainge’s hospitalisation.

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