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Tallinn Music Week and Coachella push back dates over coronavirus concerns

By | Published on Wednesday 11 March 2020


Estonian showcase festival and music conference Tallinn Music Week yesterday announced it was pushing back its 2020 edition to August as efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 continue to gain pace. Meanwhile in the US, AEG’s Goldenvoice confirmed that it was postponing this year’s Coachella and Stagecoach festivals to October.

Organisers of Tallinn Music Week – due to take place from 25-29 Mar – had last week said that they were confident their event could go ahead as planned, because “Estonia is not a risk area” and therefore “there is no need for restrictions on events and gatherings”. But the festival’s director, Helen Sildna, explained yesterday that “while a week ago we believed that by following the recommendations of the Estonian Health Board we could still continue with the festival, the circumstances have now changed”.

The event’s official statement added: “Although the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading locally in Estonia is not high, organising an international event like TMW entails several risk factors. In addition to considerations concerning the health of artists, festival employees and the public, the decision was also informed by the fact that travel restrictions imposed by states and airline carriers can arise at very short notice, meaning that artists and guests may find it impossible to travel to Tallinn”.

The new dates for the event are 26-30 Aug. Organisers say that all of the event’s partners and venues are supportive of the shift in dates, while all artists who had been booked to play later this month have been invited to join the festival in August. Where artists are unable to accept that invitation, acts of “similar profile” will be booked in their place.

The number of shows, festivals and conferences being postponed or cancelled worldwide continues to rise as cases of COVID-19 increase and more countries start to be affected. In some places events are being called off at the insistence of national or local government as part of efforts to limit or delay the spread of the virus. In other scenarios event organisers are choosing to postpone.

Back in the US, where the industry is still dealing with the cancellation of this month’s South By Southwest in Austin and the Ultra Music Festival/Winder Music Conference in Miami, AEG’s Goldenvoice has confirmed rumours that it is pushing its California-based Coachella and Stagecoach festivals, due to take place in April, back to October.

The promoter said yesterday: “At the direction of the County Of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials”.

Goldenvoice’s statement added that “purchasers will be notified by Friday on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend”, confirming that ticket-buyers will be able to cancel their tickets if the October dates don’t work for them. However, it’s emerged that people with tickets to the cancelled South By Southwest or Ultra festivals won’t be able to get refunds, but will be able to transfer their tickets to a future edition.

It seemed likely that that might be the approach taken by the flagship Miami edition of the Ultra Music Festival given that – in its official announcement confirming that this month’s event would not go ahead – organisers insisted that the 2020 festival was not being cancelled but postponed, albeit my twelve months.

Given the circumstances of the cancellations, many ticket-buyers may be happy to accept a transfer rather than a refund, and both Ultra and SXSW are allowing people to transfer their tickets to 2022 if they won’t be available in March 2021. But there is likely to be some backlash to that policy, and it remains to be seen how far that goes.

Back in the UK, the government’s official position remains that events are not obliged to cancel, with the priority currently being that anyone with even mild symptoms that could be linked to coronavirus voluntary self-isolate. But the next week could be key, in that some expect a significant rise in the spread of the virus which could require more severe measures. Needless to say, the live industry continues to monitor the situation closely.