Of all the industries affected by the coronavirus, the concert industry suffers uniquely. Not only are musicians and their teams extremely limited in the ways they can earn a living during the pandemic, but their largest source of income—concert tours—will be one of the last to return.
“The live concert industry might be in the most difficult position of any industry in America,” music festival organizer Gregg Perloff said. “You never hear people talk about it. They talk about airlines. They talk about the auto industry. But the reality is they’ll be back in business way before the concert industry is back.”
In the past couple of weeks, music fans have been confronted with the cancellations of concert tours and music festivals through July. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber have broken it to fans that they won’t be seeing them in concert this year. And though music festivals scheduled for later this summer and fall have yet to cancel completely, they are already looking to postpone into 2021.
Outside Lands, the famed San Francisco music festival scheduled to take place in August, is one of the many premier events to be rescheduled as late as next year. “The odds of it happening in August go down with each passing day,” Perloff said. “We have to have a situation where the public feels safe, we feel safe and the bands feel safe.”
Concerts returning in 2020 may only be possible in smaller venues or for limited audiences.
Though concerts usually require the circumstances which happen to be optimal for the coronavirus to spread (large audiences in close proximity), smaller, limited capacity venues have the potential of opening first. Does this mean that artists who usually perform in stadiums and arenas will instead play in more intimate venues? We think it’s possible, if not likely, that we see a cannon of musicians rise to the occasion of performing to the smaller masses.
It is also easy to imagine a scenario where fans can purchase tickets to a large-scale, arena show but with the requirement of social distancing while at the concert. Though this may result in fewer concert tickets, these temporary measures would allow the entertainment industry to return, and to provide for its workers, safely.
Though several advancements in our pandemic knowledge could change this, large-scale gatherings such as sport events and live concerts are not predicted to return this year. According to Zeke Emanuel, director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, live music and sports fans are looking at “fall 2021 at the earliest.” Emanuel argues that the country cannot reopen everything at once, and that the necessary phasing will take time.
Andrew Morgan, a booking agent with Ground Control Touring, brought up a similar point to Bloomberg. “It’s not like we’ll have no shows, and then all of a sudden we’ll have a festival with 80,000 people,” Morgan said. One of his clients, Angel Olsen, is scheduled to perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival still set for July; Morgan has little confidence the event is going to take place.
Bracing for a year without concerts, musicians innovate ways to connect with and perform to audiences at home.
Providing entertainment, comfort, catharsis, artists and musicians around the globe continue to perform. Miley Cyrus feels more connected with her fans than ever, since Hannah Montana years, with her daily Instagram talkshow, Bright Minded (airing Monday through Friday at 11:30 AM PST). Death Cab for Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard is hosting concerts from home on Youtube and Facebook, taking several live song requests and promising digital guests. He even released a new track, “Life in Quarantine,” at the end of March.
Not to mention the methods of performance artists have created during this quarantine, setting molds other artists can follow in periods where they may not be able to travel to their fans. Erykah Badu has enacted a quarantine series with Apocalypse One and Apocalypse Two, concerts which sprung quite a fascinating set of blueprints.
Taking fans through a labyrinth of sound and rhythm, Badu performed songs such as “Gone Baby, Don’t be Long,” “Fall In Love (Your Funeral),” “Incense,” and “You Loving Me” throughout several rooms of her home with a small team of accomplished soul and funk musicians. Using fan interaction, Badu and her band cultivated an intimate concert experience using live audience suggestion and curiosity—all while being, like us, confined to the rooms of her own home.
Another recently innovated live stream event is the Instagram Live rap battle series from Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.
Verzuz, created by producer Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, brings hip-hop icons together for a virtual rap battle on Instagram Live. So far, Verzuz guests have included The Dream, Ne-Yo, T-Pain, Lil Jon, Babyface, and more. This upcoming Thursday (May 9th) Verzuz is bringing their first pair of female guests, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, to the Instagram stage. You can tune in to watch these beloved hip-hop voices at 7 PM EST.
Living room talk shows hosted by pop stars. Bedroom sets and outfit changes dictated by live audience voting. Virtual rap battles unearthing hip-hop titans who haven’t spoken word in years. Though the coronavirus pandemic continues to strip away our prior notions of comfort and entertainment, it has enforced the need for creativity and innovation as well. Now, after adapting as humans most often do, artists and musicians have discovered new methods of performance, reimagining live events in such a way that could change how we experience music, forever.
There is a way forward, and the industry needs your help.
The fiscal reality for many musicians is increasingly uncertain as their main source of income, touring, has been indefinitely postponed. Tickets websites such as Stubhub have been forced to furlough large percentages of their workforce. Shares of Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s largest concert promoter, have plunged 40% since mid-March—erasing billions from its market value.
Charities such as Sweet Relief and MusiCares are historically supportive to musicians during hard times such as these and have both created their own COVID-19 relief funds. Resources such as The National Endowment for the Arts, She Shreds, Common Field, and COVID-19 & Freelance Artists are all doing their part in aiding artists right now.
When it comes to supporting the companies you trust to buy tickets from, such as ours, invest in credit opportunities for when your artists are back on the road. If you have the expendable income now, set it aside for future high-value concert tours—which may require smaller crowds, and fewer tickets. Concerts may not happen in 2020, but they will come back. And when they do, you don’t want to be left without a ticket.
Tickpick credit is forthcoming, so look out for that development soon. Because when concerts are back, we’ll be there.