The 2021 Tour Cancelations Have Already Begun… Buckle In.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread like wildfire in early March and tours started to be canceled, the music industry looked on in both bewilderment and naiveté. What began as a denial of reality as some bands pressed on with their tours quickly morphed acceptance as many of us entered what would become weeks- or a months-long lockdowns, but it was tinged with optimism: surely this would all soon pass and we’d get back to rocking before long. Tours were re-booked — some as early as for mid-summer — while other bands and their teams decided to take the long view, venturing that by the time 2021 rolled around this virus would surely be under control.
Six months later, summer has come and gone and the world still feels like nothing resembling normal. Most of us still work from home, sports stadiums have zero or very few spectators, our nation’s children go to school in masks part time (if they’re lucky) or not at all, and concerts are but a memory. 2021 doesn’t seem so far away anymore. Three and a half months ago was early June, and things don’t feel very much different now than they did then; how different could they be three and a half months from now? Barring Trump’s miracle vaccine, of course, which, even if it exists and receives all the requisite approvals for safety and efficacy, will still face the gargantuan task of being distributed to hundreds of millions of people, a process likely to take several months with the very neediest getting their doses first.
And so, it has begun: 2021 tours are being canceled.
The first one that I’ve seen is the January/February 2021 U.S. tour by Monster Magnet, which was already rescheduled once: Dave Wyndorf and co. were one of the bands who took the aforementioned long view, punting into next year after their March/April tour bit the dust. Rather than reschedule again, the band announced yesterday they would just call the whole thing off, putting that ticket money back into fans’ pockets where it belongs:
“Unfortunately, due to ongoing covid concerns and continued restrictions we are canceling our January/February 2021 USA tour. Holding your money and moving the tour for a second time hoping to be open where we move it to does not seem logical or fair at this point. We would prefer you all had the money back in your pockets and we hope to rebook this at a more appropriate time for all. Please get refunds at point of purchase.”
There might be other 2021 runs that have canceled proactively. I haven’t seen any in the metal world. But you can bet with 100% certainty there will be more.
Monster Magnet, to their credit, aren’t deluding themselves that concerts will be possible in January. Even if shows are miraculously allowed to take place by then — amidst what is expected to be a winter resurgence of Covid-19 on top of the fact that the disease never went away in many places to begin with — what would those shows even look like? High-level tours can’t make a profit without big-money “anchor dates” in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles subsidizing small-dollar-earning or loss-bearing shows in less populated markets, and those places won’t be hosting shows any time soon. What’s more, bands and venues alike can’t make the dollars work if they’re limited to 25% or even 50% capacity. And all that assumes fans will be willing to venture out to enclosed, poorly-ventilated venues to begin with.
At this point, in the middle of September, it’s easy to see that at least one but more likely both of the above problems will still be factors three months into the future. Hence the decision to cancel now rather than string fans along and waste more of everyone’s already-strained mental capacities thinking about it any further.
All that begs the question: what’s next? Will tours scheduled for March and April get the axe soon? It seems crazy to think about next spring when fall has only just begun, but from where I sit it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where those tours don’t get canceled too.
And what of the big European festivals scheduled for next summer, many of which triumphantly announced that all or most of their 2020 lineups were re-booked for 2021? Europe has been hailed as having a better grasp on the pandemic than the U.S. — which is true by pretty much any measure — but the pandemic is now in the midst of a rising second wave there, with current cases exceeding those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March. I’m not ready to say that next summer’s festivals won’t go on as planned, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t. It seems so far away, true, and yet living through the past six months has showed us that we really can’t plan our lives right now with any degree of certainty beyond tomorrow or maybe the next day. None of us have ever witnessed anything like this in our lifetimes; all bets are off.
So: I’m sorry to say it, but those early 2021 tours you’ve been looking forward to probably will not happen. It’s likely the spring 2021 tours won’t either. Beyond that is anyone’s guess, but don’t be surprised if you’re not back inside a live music venue until fall 2021, like the experts initially predicted, or even later. Who’s looking forward to 2022?