Sonic boom: How new acts are coping without live shows in 2020

Sonic boom: How new acts are coping without live shows in 2020

Back in January, the year 2020 stretched out in front of emerging artists across Europe with plenty of promise on the horizon. 

As usual, Eurosonic Noorderslag’s line-up gathered the most essential and exciting new acts from around the continent, as the music industry descended on Groningen for the festival’s latest new music feast. But this year, things would be different. Stories of the coronavirus pandemic were already breaking when the festival came to town in January, and within a matter of weeks, Covid-19 was spreading internationally.

As national lockdowns took hold around the world, artists’ carefully laid plans went up in smoke, with many releases delayed and live dates postponed or, worse still, cancelled. Live exposure is vital for new artists, so how would they cope without the usual gig circuit and festival season? Music Week looks at five stars from Eurosonic’s 2020 line-up to see how they’ve fared since.

Arlo Parks

Signed to Transgressive Records, Arlo Parks has enjoyed her biggest year yet, cementing the first part of her breakthrough despite the pandemic. The Londoner starred on the cover of Music Weekalongside Arlo Parks for our independent music special back in the summer, and was named BBC Music Introducing Artist Of The Year last month. Parks has announced her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams for January and dates for next year’s tour of the UK sold out in a matter of hours.

Black Country, New Road

Black Country, New Road’s expansive sound and enigmatic nature doesn’t exactly lend itself to relentless online livestreaming, but the London-based seven-piece are another act who have gone from strength to strength this year. Having landed a record deal with respected indie label Ninja Tune, the band recently dropped a new single and spent lockdown finessing their debut album. They also have a raft of tour dates across Europe coming in 2021.


Having starred on the cover of our new music special in January, Celeste was primed to go stratospheric this year. Polydor took the decision to postpone her debut album, one of 2020’s most anticipated records. The BRIT Awards Rising Star is biding her time until she can hit the road again, but her music continues to cut through, with Stop This Flame being chosen to soundtrack Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage for the new football season. Celeste should enjoy a good Christmas, too, having just become the first artist to compose an original song for the John Lewis/Waitrose festive ad campaign.

Alex Gough

Drummer, producer and rapper Alex Gough, from Waterford, Ireland, has missed out on The Great Escape among other bookings, but that hasn’t stopped his rise. Gough recently released his Forever Classic project, eight tracks that prove that new, independent music can still resonate without the added boost of live. And Gough is still in the studio, cooking up even more new songs.

Joy Crookes

As ways of dealing with missing out on months of live performances go, recording a song for a landmark O2 Mobile ad campaign has to be up there with the best. And Joy Crookes’ version of The Wannadies’ You And Me, released in September, has kept the Insanity-signed singer at the forefront of the industry’s mind. Coupled with a drip feed of promising new singles including You & Me Song, the campaign has boosted her profile even further. Expect much more to come.

Find out which bands will be the rising stars in 2021. ESNS 2021 will take place from January 13-16
More information and delegate passes are available here.

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