It’s all about the data, stupid…

Mark Davyd

The following MBW op/ed comes from Mark Davyd, CEO of the UK’s Music Venue Trust, who urges the live music industry to rely on data in terms of its re-opening plans later this year, rather than listening to the pessimism of some individuals. His comments come after the UK government this week announced a staggered strategy that, as things stand, would see the re-opening of nightclubs and the return of larger music events in the UK, with no audience limit, on June 21.


Now that the British government has given us in the UK what it calls a “roadmap” back to some sort of normality, it is worth pausing and considering on what basis these projections are being made.

We at Music Venue Trust have always advocated a data-driven approach to navigating our way out this crisis and took proactive steps to back this up by creating our own vaccination progress calculator in early February.

Based on data published by the NHS and the government on a daily basis, this calculator provides details on the number of vaccinations delivered, the type, who has received them and where. It also provides details on rapid testing, infections, hospitalisations and deaths per day.


We have crunched all of this data to build a timeline of when vaccination of various sections of the UK population would achieve a range of levels of immunity, exhibiting reduced mortality, sickness, and hospitalisation.

By analysing this data in this way, we have been able to create predictive dates on which it would be possible to imagine different levels of society returning to normality under safe conditions.

“The dates our vaccination calculator have extrapolated closely mirror the dates announced by the government this week as the roadmap to reopening.”

For the purpose of this exercise, ‘safe’ has the specific meaning of no additional risk of death, hospitalisation or serious illness beyond that which society already accepts as being part of normal life. We based that standard of risk against that which society chooses to live with due to annual influenza, SARs, or the so called “avian flu.”

The dates our vaccination calculator have extrapolated closely mirror the dates announced by the government this week as the roadmap to reopening.


All of this, the data and the dates, ties into the Swiss cheese model of risk mitigation – that you don’t just use one simple risk mitigation process to manage a risk like COVID-19. Instead, you layer up different opportunities, vaccinations, rapid tests, air ventilation and cleaning, deep cleaning and anti-viral coatings to create safe events.

This is nothing new in our sector: whether we knew it or not we have been operating Swiss cheese models of risk management for decades, on issues like entry criteria, crowd safety and noise management.

Layering up these layers of risk mitigation requires us to look at the data. From the data you can learn what risk mitigation works, what is the current state of play and then accurately predict how this is resolved and when that might happen.

Our vaccine calculator enables us to do that and to input negative factors such as a drop in vaccination rates, slow take up, vaccination resistance etc.


This is all about data.

There has been a disappointing level of negativity from some within the music industry over the prospects of the live business in 2021, based on speculation, wild guessing, and their personal experience of the crisis so far. What they haven’t done is to read the data.

This is still happening.

Negative reactions to the timetable announced by the UK government this week are based on previous failures of lockdowns or risk mitigation measures. Basically, some people haven’t factored in that we now have highly effective vaccines and are immediately imagining that we will repeat previous mistakes.

We can learn from this crisis if we examine the data.


The British experience of this crisis is an example of what every music industry across the world needs to do to get certainty into their own sectors.

Don’t read the papers, don’t listen to the speeches, don’t join in with the endless doom-scrolling and speculation.

Get the data, analyse the data, consider the results. The put forward a reasoned, data driven, public position.

Again, this is not unique to the UK – every country in the world can use the data specific to their population to get their live music industry moving again.

“As an industry that prides itself on being experts in using data for decision making, it is frankly bizarre that our approach to this virus has been so driven by speculation.”

We know more about this virus than we did in March 2020. We know how it is transmitted, we know the risk factors, we know the opportunities to manage these things. And we have effective vaccines that reduce these risks to the point where they can be managed. We need to use the data to lay out those challenges and opportunities and set our own roadmap.

As an industry that prides itself on being experts in using data for decision making, it is frankly bizarre that our approach to this virus has been so driven by speculation.

Harnessing data we can now figure out where artists should tour, we know how to maximise playlists and we understand how to engage our audiences on social media .

We should be using these skills to create a roadmap of how we Revive Live and Reopen Every Venue Safely.Music Business Worldwide