Promising Results From Primavera Sound’s Experiment With Live Music and No Social Distancing

Some positive news for fans of live music

A view of the main stage of the NOS Primavera Sound Festival
A view of the main stage of the NOS Primavera Sound Festival in Porto.
Diogo Baptista/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

What will live music look like after the threat of COVID-19 has subsided? That remains a concern for many people invested in shows of all sizes, from venue operators to concertgoers. A recent study from Germany suggests that the answer to that might be “not all that different than before the pandemic, except with masks.” And a new report from Spain offers further evidence of that.

At Consequence of Sound, Ben Kaye has details on how Primavera Sound — the long-running music festival — worked in conjunction with a medical organization and a Barcelona hospital to get a valuable sense of what is and isn’t safe when it comes to live music. “The goal,” Kaye writes, “was to see if a live music event held at an indoor venue with proper precautions but no social distancing guidelines could be safe from coronavirus transmission.”

What did this mean in practice? Over 1,000 attendees were invited to take part; all were given a rapid COVID-19 test for which they tested negative. 463 people from the initial group went into the venue, Sala Apolo in Barcelona — with a bar area capable of holding 1,600 people and a performance space that holds 900. (Airflow and ventilation were optimized in both.) The remainder served as a control group. Concert attendees received an N95 mask and had to be masked at all times, except when drinking. They were not required to socially distance.

All of the participants in both groups were tested 8 days later. The only positive tests that came back were from 2 people in the control group; none of the concert attendees tested positive. It’s encouraging news for anyone who can’t wait to see live music again.

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