In most parts of the world, the coronavirus has all but ground touring to a halt. In New Zealand, however, the country's proactive and swift actions to stop COVID's spread has meant that artists are playing shows almost like normal.
The Washington Post published a feature last week on NZ's concert industry and the country's successful COVID plan, which closed the country's borders to international travel and put everyone on mandatory quarantine for lockdown back in March. New Zealand, which has a population of around 5 million, has only registered 2000 COVID cases and 25 deaths. By mid-June, New Zealand was back to allowing concerts again, limited to 100 people per venue and seated shows, but regular shows returned by July, including stadium concerts.
Also in July, the New Zealand government launched the NZ Music Venue Infrastructure Fund where venues were eligible for relief up to $50,000 NZD (approximately $33,000) for the time that they were closed.
There was a spike in COVID cases in August and New Zealand went back on lockdown, but as of now (late October) the country is back to concerts as usual. “There’s a new appreciation, a sense of gratitude,” Liz Stokes, leader of NZ's The Beths, who just wrapped up a tour of their country, tells Washington Post. “We know how lucky we are to go out, hang out with friends, and watch live music." Liz adds that playing live again is "nerve-racking...but it feels great. It feels amazing. I’m jinxing it. Anything can happen. Anything can happen! But it feels . . . pretty great.”
As NZ heads into summer, festivals are also happening, though some -- like the Laneway festival -- are taking 2020 off as international acts still can't perform in the country. “We are hermetically sealed within New Zealand," says Campbell Smith, who co-manages New Zealand pop star Benee, to the Post. “We have great, great local talent. But do we have enough of it to last until the borders open? It’s also fairly clear that if another cluster is discovered, we’ll go back into lockdown, which doesn’t help with long-term planning or the confidence of the market. And still: We are doing a heck of a lot better than anywhere else in the world."
In the U.S., the "Save Our Stages" bill -- promoted by the National Independent Venue Association -- passed the House of Representatives as part of a larger stimulus package, but Senate negotiations are currently stalled and Election Day a week away.
The Beths, meanwhile, will be filming an upcoming hometown show at Auckland Town Hall for a delayed broadcast stream via Bandcamp happening November 15 at 5 PM ET. Tickets are on sale. The band also just released a video for "Mars, The God Of War" from this year's Jump Rope Gazers. Watch that below.
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Surprise No.2 for the today! If you can’t catch our show at the Auckland Town Hall on Nov 6th in-person then you can re-live it with us a week later! We’ll be there a little early to hang out and answer questions, and we’ll be present in the chat throughout to provide uhh live commentary. OR you can watch it later at your leisure, we’ll leave it up for a while. 😊 You can buy a ticket from the link in the bio! We know how special it is to be able to play a big show like this, so @teamsportsteam and us are working really hard to make the most of it and make it really good. Thanks again @xtotl for the wonderful poster 📺