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Major Concert Promoters Outline the Future of Live Shows

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Hand sanitizer everywhere you look. Patrons wearing masks. Temperature checks. Social distancing “fan pods.” Venues sold at a fraction of their capacity, with big artists playing smaller rooms.

Those are some of the things we can expect at concerts as they gradually begin to return, according to concert promoters interviewed for a recent feature in the Wall Street Journal.

Quietly, executives at some of the nation’s biggest concert promotion companies are saying they don’t expect major events to return until next summer at the earliest. “The hope is that we will have a big summer season in 2021,” says Live Nation president Joe Berchtold.

Performers with minimal stage setups — country artists, rappers, comedians — could return to performing first, unencumbered by the overhead of bringing elaborate production on the road and crew to operate it. That will allow them to still be able to turn a profit while only performing to a small portion of their usual audience. Some of these acts might also look to perform multiple times in the same city — a residency, of sorts — or even multiple times a day, as differing regulations between states and cities will make stringing together a cohesive tour difficult.

Fans won’t be expected to pay top dollar for stripped down shows. AEG Presents North America president Rick Mueller recounts how average ticket price went down 5% to 8% for three years straight after the 2008 market crash, surmising a similar adjustment could be in store for the post-pandemic world.

Larger arena and stadium shows, meanwhile, will be extremely hard pressed to host concerts in this environment, since those venues rely on the sales of beer, food and parking to turn a profit. Many speculate that these bigger shows won’t return until there is a coronavirus vaccine.

The smallest venues are particularly at risk, with their cozy confines not suited for social distancing and turning a profit at lowered attendance levels not realistic. The National Independent Venue Association, an organization we’ve covered here that is lobbying for over 450 independently-owned venues threatened by the pandemic, estimates that 90% of its members may not survive if the shutdown lasts six months.

Dave Brown, chief operating officer of American Airlines Center, a 20,000-capacity arena in Dallas, says that security and sanitization at concerts will be forever altered, similar to how the experience of flying changed after 9/11. ““You’ll be tripping over them,” he says of hand sanitizing stations, while warning that staff will frequently clean hand-railings and other surfaces, and temperature checks will be common.

Meet and greets will no longer be feasible for obvious reasons, a big blow to artists who derive a substantial portion of their income from these exclusive experiences. Artists will need to get used to earning less overall regardless, as they’ll be asked to split the risk of an uncertain outcome with promoters instead of earning fixed, guaranteed payments, at least for the time being.

You can read the full article at the Wall Street Journal.

[via Metal Injection]

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