The modern world has never faced a pandemic like coronavirus before. The music industry has never faced such a crisis either and has had to take fast action to stop the spread of COVID-19. For singers who are just launching themselves as artists, cancelling a show is an especially daunting prospect.
Festivals have had to be cancelled due to coronavirus, and best-selling artists have no choice but to postpone or scrap their tours. In such uncertain times, unsigned singers and artists without agents are left panicking about how and when to cancel their gigs.
The situation is changing daily during the pandemic. More social distancing rules are being enforced, and more big music events are being reviewed by the week. Cancelling a gig amid a virus outbreak is a first for many musicians, not least for aspiring singers. If you aren’t sure about the gig cancellation process, this article will help you handle the situation.
Major music events cancelled
On the date of publication, these are the music events that have officially been cancelled due to coronavirus:
- BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend
- SXSW US Festival
- Snowbombing 2020
- Country to Country festival
- Record Store Day 2020
When is it okay to cancel a show?
Cancelling a show is every singer’s worst nightmare. The fallout of stopping a gig can be stressful – you might receive negative feedback from venues or fans, be charged cancellation fees, and suffer a knock to your rep. You should put careful consideration into organising your shows and only cancel as a last resort.
Sometimes, there’s a genuine reason for cancelling a show. If you’re too unwell to perform or have an injury, it’s wiser to cancel your performance than risk impairing your health further. Singers have been forced to cancel gigs in the past due to travel complications and family illness. Don’t worry about cancelling your show due to genuine extenuating circumstances as people will sympathise.
Singers are sometimes advised to cancel their shows when it’s in the best interest of the audience. This is the case with coronavirus, where music events have been cancelled to safeguard the audience and limit contamination. Extreme weather conditions and problems with the venue are other external factors that can also stop an event from going ahead.
What to Do if You Have to Cancel Your Show
Check your contract
Before you cancel a show, the first thing you should do is check any paperwork you signed. If a contract was drawn up, it’ll explain what should happen in the event of cancellation and if you’ll have to pay any charges for venue costs and promotion.
Contact your agent
If you have an agent who manages your shows, notify them asap that you have to cancel. They will usually handle the process and communications from there
Let people know
Once you’ve let your venue know, start spreading the message so no-one is misled. Reach out to your fans and tell any media representatives or photographers involved that the show isn’t happening.
Look to the future
When you’ve finalised the cancellation of your gig, it’s time to get yourself back on stage as soon as possible. Keep talking to your fans, step up your promotion campaign, and get your next gig lined up.
Music acts who have cancelled gigs
With the government locking down on big social events, dozens of gigs have been cancelled to stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the biggest stars in the industry have had to abandon their tours, in some cases indefinitely.
No singer wants to disappoint their fans, but the safety and welfare of their audience comes first. The artists who’ve cancelled shows so far include:
#1 Billie Elish
The Grammy-award winning star has had to postpone the North American leg of her “Where Do We Go Tour.” She cancelled all of her gigs across American scheduled for March but hasn’t commented whether her shows in Mexico in May will go ahead.
At this moment in time, Billie Elish’s UK gigs – starting in Manchester on the 21st July – are still scheduled to continue as planned.
Following last week’s announcement and in light of the ongoing CDC restrictions and guidelines, all of Billie's remaining ‘WHERE DO WE GO’ North American tour dates are actively being rescheduled & will be announced soon. All tickets will be honored for the new tour dates. (1/5)
— billie eilish (@billieeilish) March 16, 2020
As part of his Heavy is the Head tour, Stormzy was due to tour Asia in March. The British grime artist was forced to cancel his shows in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia over coronavirus fears.
#3 Sam Fender
Back in 2019, Sam Fender had to cancel the remainder of his UK tour due to laryngitis. The Hypersonic Missiles vocalist has now had to cancel his show in Switzerland this year too after the Swiss government advised for safety reasons during the pandemic.
The English rock band were forced to cancel their tour dates in Japan in early March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The band apologised to their fans in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo in a public statement, saying, “We will be back to honour these engagements, so will just be seeing you a little later than expected.”
This were among many artists and groups to release a PSA video:
#5 Green Day
Fans expected the American rock band to kickstart their Hella Mega Tour in Japan on the 25th March. With mounting concerns about coronavirus, Green Day had to postpone the entire Asia leg of the tour. They are still to announce whether the UK part of their tour in June can go ahead as planned.
We have unfortunately made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming shows in Asia due to the health + travel concerns with coronavirus. We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we’ll be announcing the new dates very soon.
— Green Day (@GreenDay) February 28, 2020
How to cancel a show and not damage your rep
With bars, clubs and other music venues closed to the public, nobody is performing anywhere except online right now. But if you have to cancel a gig in the future, here are some tips for cancelling a show in the upcoming months:
- Find an act to replace your slot at the venue (but notify the venue beforehand)
- Call the venue or promoter to let them know directly, rather than via text or email
- Reschedule your show to a different date if possible, to soften the blow
- Reach out to fans and keep them posted on the situation. Tell them how they can get refunds or if their tickets are still valid, and if the show will be rescheduled
- Be apologetic and sincere
- Give as much notice as possible
- Offer fans an alternative to the show, like a livestream performance
Coronavirus: should I cancel my gig?
It’s hard to predict the spread of COVID-19 and what the situation will be in the upcoming months. As a general rule, organisers seem to be cancelling or postponing any shows due to take place in March or April, so it would be wise to do the same with your gigs.
Beyond that, many festivals and gigs remain scheduled. The situation is being closely monitored and if it changes, they are subject to cancellation.
You don’t have to cancel any gigs you have post-April straight away, just keep an eye on the situation and follow public advice issued closer to the time. If the coronavirus outbreak subdues by the summer, your shows may still be able to go ahead.
What to do when you cancel a gig
If you’re a singer who’s just starting out, you might be worried about cancelling your upcoming gig. You might be afraid of tarnishing your reputation with venues, promoters, and your fanbase. But if extenuating circumstances have led to your cancellation, people will be understanding if you’re honest, clear and direct.
Cancelling a gig is always the last resort for musicians. Singers sometimes find alternative ways for their show to go ahead, including rescheduling their show or using live streams to still get a performance out to their fanbase if they can.
Finding a consolation prize to offer your fans when you have to cancel a gig will help keep their continued support.
Rescheduling a gig is a great idea if you have no choice but to cancel the original show. These bestselling artists have demonstrated how musicians can overcome adversity and support their fanbase even when a gig is cancelled:
#1 Dermot Kennedy
Fans who were originally hoping to see the Irish singer-songwriter in March/April this year were told the shows have been rescheduled to September.
Ticket holders were reassured that their original tickets are still valid, softening the blow of the cancelled event. Keeping fans well-informed will help keep their support and guarantee their presence at your next show.
#2 Louis Tomlinson
Taking to Twitter, the former 1D singer announced his gig in Milan on March 11th was cancelled. He later released a statement on the 12th March stating that the remainder of his mainland Europe tour will be postponed until August.
Social media is a great way tool to get in touch with your fans when your gig is cancelled. They may not be able to see you in person on stage, but you can still keep them posted with updates and teasers online.
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) March 16, 2020
When the 22-year-old vocalist was first advised to cancel the Asia leg of his tour due to coronavirus, he released a video message saying: “At first I was going to say, ‘F**k it’ and come, but we have been advised again to seriously not.”
Despite Yungblud’s best efforts, his gigs in Asia had to be cancelled. To make it up to his fans, he announced he’d do a livestream performance to replace his concerts on the 16th March.
Yungblud isn’t the only star to take to the internet to continue his tour. Amid coronavirus, singers have started doing streamed gigs and performing for their fans online.
BBC Music Introducing and the British Music Embassy have gathered the bands due to perform at the cancelled SXSW festival and run closed-door studio sessions with them in London. The artists could record the songs they would’ve performed live to the audience, and the sets will then be played on the radio instead.
Streaming your gig is a great alternative if you ever have to cancel a show. It won’t be the same as performing live, but it’ll show fans you care about them and your music.
Check out the hashtag #TogetherAtHome to see all your favourite artists’ livestreams on YouTube and use it yourself.
How to live stream your gig
This is something you can do anytime, not just when you’ve had to cancel a live show. It’s a brilliant way to build up an online following and cultivate an interest in your music. If you’ve never done a live stream before, these are some of the best sites and apps out there:
- YouNow- this site has loads of music content streamed on it daily, making it the go-to place for fans looking for a new favourite artist. YouNow also offer social media integration and the option to accept video calls from guests, giving your fans the chance to interact with you.
- YouTube – to do a live stream using your webcam, click the upload icon in the top right corner of your Youtube page. Press “Go Live” and select the webcam option. You can also live stream from your phone using Youtube.
- Instagram – you can keep everything in one place and use your existing social media account to live stream your gig. It’s easy to get started – just open your Instagram account and tap the camera icon at the top left of your screen. At the bottom of the next screen, press “Live video” and you’re ready to start.
- Tick Tock – this video-sharing network has really hit it off during the coronavirus pandemic. Users can stream lip-sync, dance and talent videos to the social network. It’s available as an app for both android and IOS devices and is trending right now.
Can I get gig cancellation insurance as a singer?
Cancelling a gig can sometimes be costly if venues or promoters decide to charge you a fee. Singers can get gig cancellation insurance that will help protect them from these costs and cover them when they can’t perform due to illness, travel problems or other unforeseen events.
Gigmit is an example of a company who offers singers cancellation insurance. For their premium members, their insurance policy covers event costs of up to $1000.
What festivals are still set to go ahead?
At the time of publication, these festivals are due to go ahead later this year as planned:
- IOW Festival
- Parklife Festival
- Reading Festival
- Leeds Festival
- BST Hyde Park
All events are being monitored closely, and the situation may change closer to the time.
How to back out of a gig
Whether you have to cancel your gig due to coronavirus or any other extenuating circumstances, the situation can easily be resolved. Just remain calm and contact those involved directly, not forgetting your fanbase.
You should only cancel a gig as a last resort, but the COVID-19 pandemic this year has shown that unforeseen events can easily happen. But the music industry can just as easily adapt and bounce back, as can you.
Have you had to cancel your upcoming gigs? Check out our article on how singers can make money from their music, without leaving the house.