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How audiences see the future of live music in the North East

Posted on 26 August 2021

Sage Gateshead

We’re delighted to share some findings from our conversations with audiences, which have been taking place over the past nine months.

With live music on pause throughout the pandemic, we wanted to campaign for its return when safe, and have conversations with people about what that return should involve. First base was finding a way to secure the return to live music, because the threat to it was huge. Secondly, it seemed to us that it would not be just a question of returning to what was. We’ve been talking and listening to a whole range of people about what the future should look like.

Between autumn 2020 and summer 2021, nearly 2,000 people took part in our consultation – people who know Sage Gateshead and people who don’t. We wanted to find out how people feel about live music, how the pandemic has affected music habits, what people’s hopes and dreams are for live music in the North East, and what people want from Sage Gateshead. We heard from people who come to Sage Gateshead regularly for concerts, gigs or classes, those who come every now and again, and people who’ve never been before.

We heard that:

  • It won’t be a surprise – music is very important to individuals’ health and wellbeing: “Music is fundamental to everyone as it is vital for our wellbeing and enjoyment as a human being.”

  • In the past 18 months or so, digital music has seen us through, but live music has a special buzz – lots of people have missed live music, and nothing else has been able to fill the gap.
  • Audiences love the range of artists and music at Sage Gateshead – from emerging bands to established artists playing music across all genres: “The future of live music in the North East is all kinds of music, for all kinds of people.”

  • Bringing world-class – particularly international – musicians to the North East is vital and Sage Gateshead is in a unique position to do this.
  • Linking up with friends, coming with family, meeting new people at gigs or classes – Sage Gateshead helps to create social moments and fond memories.
  • Identity and opportunities for all are very important – people want the North East to be a region where there is equality of opportunity, where people can start out and progress, where creativity is part of our DNA, and where our distinctive musical identity can continue to develop.
  • Commitment to young people of all backgrounds is critical – in their education and in nurturing the next generation of musicians: “Bringing live music into schools and around the North East as much as possible. Children and teenagers in particular need to experience the thrill of hearing an orchestra at full blast playing something dramatic and memorable.”

  • Sage Gateshead is an organisation and a building to be proud of – one of the North East’s landmark symbols. But it isn’t just a building – it serves the whole region through activity across the region and online.

Alongside these audience conversations, we also spoke with a range of professional musicians – local and national, emerging and established – and young people. These conversations are just the beginning – we plan to keep them going in coming weeks and months.

These conversations will feed into our future plans and already they have been influencing our autumn programme:

  • The People’s Requiem will see us create a uniquely regional version of the classical masterpiece that is Verdi’s Requiem, in memory of those who have lost their lives to Covid-19. Amateur orchestral players and choral singers from across the region, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia will work together over several months to create a performance which the North East can be proud of.
  • Our Make Music programme of classes and workshops returns in September, and already includes a blend of live and digital classes. From January, we will expand this – so people all over the region can get involved with learning an instrument, developing their skills, or singing as a way to have fun and support health and wellbeing.
  • We’ve made some changes to our 2021-22 Young Musician’s Programme, so we can support young musicians at each stage of their musical journey. Young people will have more opportunities to showcase their work on our main stage and connect with our Artist Development work.
  • Alongside Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Classics series, we will soon release more details of new plans for autumn. There will be innovative and dynamic ways for everybody – from those new to RNS or longstanding fans – to discover stories told through music. We’re also working on new ways for children, young people and families to get to know RNS. More soon!

We’re very excited to bring people together again, support everybody’s health and wellbeing, and nurture the great talent in our region. We want to be part of the region’s recovery, in a way which helps as many people as possible. We are here for the North East.