In a normal year at Abbey Road the job of the Events team is to, very occasionally when our busy recording diary allows, open the studios up for live music experiences and other events. So how do you go about adapting when a national pandemic brings this to a halt?We spoke to Abbey Road’s Head of Events, Jack Franklin, to discuss how the department found new ways to welcome audiences ‘in’ to the studios and give artists the chance to connect with their audiences after the lost summer of live music."It’s been quite a year to have a job in Events. Like the rest of the music industry, Abbey Road Studios has had its work cut out to reassess our operation this year and to find new ways of working. The good news for us was that after the first lockdown in the Spring, the studios were able to reopen for recording sessions. Armed with a raft of new operating procedures designed to keep everyone safe and help mitigate the chances of the virus spreading, it was great to see music back being recorded in our famous studio.
The one thing that was missing was live sessions. All across the music industry, live music was frozen in time, stuck in limbo waiting patiently and hopefully for the time when public gatherings are once again possible. For us in the Events team at Abbey Road, our normal job is to, very occasionally when our busy recording diary allows, open the studios up for live music experiences. With a return date for public gatherings still a way off, we began to look for new ways to welcome audiences ‘in’ to the studios and give artists the chance to connect with their audiences after the lost summer of live music.
Unsurprisingly, there was an outpouring of creativity amongst the musicians who so regularly make Abbey Road their home for their recording sessions we began to work on a number of projects to livestream concerts from the studio to audiences watching at home. Streams have gone out on Instagram and YouTube and full pay-per-view concerts have been broadcast from our famous studios. It’s been incredibly inspiring to see this response to challenging times and some of the content we’ve worked on, I can honestly say, has been part of what’s kept me sane in this difficult year.
Barclaycard’s Share the StageThe livestreaming began with a bang – Barclaycard’s Share the Stage project – a unique series broadcast from Abbey Road Studios showcasing some of the UK’s finest emerging artists who have missed out on performing at festivals this Summer and with the intention of bringing the festival experience into fans’ home.
Hosted by Fearne Cotton, the four-part series has since amassed more than a million views over YouTube and includes performances from the likes of Bastille, Joy Crookes, Easy Life, Mabel, Mae Muller, Kaiser Chiefs, Lewis Capaldi and Celeste. You can watch all four below.
Paul Weller Performs Village Live from Studio TwoA few weeks later into mid-July, the legend that is Paul Weller joined us to record a live version of Village, his new single taken from his most recent album On Sunset, which landed him his fifth solo number one. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Singer-Songwriter Emily Burns Releases EP I Love You, You're The WorstOur very own Emily Burns, one time Abbey Road receptionist and prodigious music talent now signed to Island Records, returned to Abbey Road Studio Three to broadcast an intimate livestreamed show to celebrate the release of her EP, I Love You, You're The Worst. All money raised from the livestream went to the AKT charity supporting young LGBTQ+ people aged 16-25. It was so great to see Emily back at Abbey Road.
JP Cooper Releases Livestream and Live EP from Studio TwoIn early August, JP Cooper was recording in Studio Two, and took time out to broadcast a live stream concert on his Instagram page. It’s a stripped-back, raw recording, which included tracks Wait and Colour Me in Gold, as well as a beautiful cover of Jealous Guy. The performance gives a real window into his talent and his recording process.
Whilst in Studio Two, the Mancunian singer-songwriter was also recording acoustic renditions from his latest EP, Too Close. Recorded alongside his band, the four-track setlist included the emotionally charged ballad In These Arms and the uplifting anthem Little Bit of Love. Take a listen.
IDLES Livestreaming from Studio Two ahead of Ultra MonoIn early September, Bristol rockers IDLES blew the roof off Studio Two with a series of live streamed concerts oozing with the energy and controlled chaos that sets the band apart.
The sets featured a host of new tracks, including singles Model Village, A Hymn and Mr. Motivator, as well as past favourites such as Colossus and Never Fight a Man with a Perm. The band managed to fit in a few covers too, including takes on The Strokes and The Ramones, finishing with a colossal rendition of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter.
GoGo Penguin Livestream and EP from Studio TwoWe then saw Jazz trio GoGo Penguin livestream a full concert from Studio Two in late October. It was a warm and beautiful concert, which includes live renditions of tracks from the band’s most recent album. The band went on to then release four tracks from the session on Spotify. Take a look below.
Biffy Clyro and Nothing But Thieves’ Orchestral PerformancesBiffy Clyro came back to Abbey Road, having recorded here many times over the years, including for their most recent album, and filmed a specially arranged, orchestral version of their song Space. And just a few days later, Nothing But Thieves joined us in Studio Two to record a specially arranged, orchestral version of their song Impossible. It’s a beautiful mix of the band's high-energy performance fused with a beautiful orchestral arrangement which takes the song to a whole new level.
Both released on YouTube, in partnership with Amazon Music, the tracks have gone on to break over a million views, and in my opinion, is one of the finest things to have been shot at the studio for a long time.
Sam Smith Releases Album with Livestream from Abbey RoadMore recently, Sam Smith, one of the biggest global names in music visited Abbey Road for their only live performance of the year. Sam headed to Studio Two to perform a one-off intimate show celebrating the release of their brand new album Love Goes which is out now.
Sam revisited the classics including Stay With Me, Too Good At Goodbyes and Lay Me Down, as well as premiering new music including the collaboration with Labrinth, Love Goes. Released at the end of 2020 on YouTube, it has since picked up over two million views and includes some of the best lighting I’ve seen used in the Studio.
Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be hard at work on more projects - shot and broadcast from the studio. We hope the shows continue to give artists and audiences a chance to connect in the only way possible during the pandemic. While we work hard to keep these sessions going, we’ll have one eye on the future, looking forward to the day when live music can return in full and audiences can once again return to watching music in the way we all love best. LIVE."