The Impact of Covid-19 on Concerts in England: Update

In this article from the end of 2020 – The Impact of Covid-19 on Concerts in England – I used data from concert-diary to investigate the impact of Covid restrictions on classical concerts in England. Many had been cancelled or postponed, and the market then shifted mainly online, with total activity being substantially down on the previous year. One year on, here is the updated analysis, using concert-diary data to the end of 2021.

The following chart shows the two year period 2020-21, with the 2019 figures (which were almost entirely uncancelled “live” concerts) shown as a dotted line for comparison…

And here is the same data, separately for cancelled (top) and online (middle) events as a proportion of the total, and the total number of events (bottom) as a proportion of the same figure in 2019…

By the end of 2020, apart from a brief period in early December when a few live concerts were able to take place, activity had shifted almost entirely online, and at a much lower level (around 20%) compared to a “normal” year. The number of cancellations had fallen substantially after the middle of the year, as concert promoters adapted to the new environment.

This pattern continued into the first part of 2021, with lots of online concerts, few cancellations, and far fewer events in total compared to 2019. From May 2021, everything changed. Covid case rates and deaths had fallen substantially, and many restrictions were lifted. “Live” concerts became possible once again. It is perhaps surprising how rapidly activity recovered, rising close to normal levels by the middle of the year, with the proportion of online concerts dropping to 20% or so. In fact, online concerts continued at a similar level to the first part of 2021 – the live concerts were in addition to the online events.

Towards the end of 2021, despite increasing Covid cases, the proportion of online concerts fell off to below 10%, perhaps reflecting reduced interest from audiences in this format now that live concerts had resumed. After an initial flurry of live concerts – exceeding 2019 levels during July and August (which is normally a relatively quiet period in any case) – the number of live concerts has remained at around 75% of pre-Covid levels.

December saw the arrival of the new Omicron variant of Covid. Despite concern about its greater rate of transmission, this did not seem to result in a significant number of concert cancellations. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that many concerts during the pre-Christmas period saw a proportion of audiences not turning up, despite having bought tickets.

So we are not back to normal, but, at least on the face of it, seem to be getting there. This data only looks at the number of concerts, and there are other factors that would be worth closer investigation – such as the types of concert (has the number of players reduced, for example), and how well tickets have been selling. The fact that we are still a little off normal levels of activity perhaps reflects some continued caution among both audiences and promoters / performers.

Cite this article as: Gustar, A.J. 'The Impact of Covid-19 on Concerts in England: Update' in Statistics in Historical Musicology, 13th January 2022,

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