“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander around in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does” Blaise Pascal
Rolling Stone published the following news release on March 4:
“Who is it that’s going to take the chance to go back on tour?”
The question, voiced by a prominent music booking agent in the U.S., captures the sentiment of roiling uncertainty across the music industry right now. When the President said this week that America will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for everyone by the end of May, , it signaled that the pandemic’s end could finally be in sight, and for major players like concert and ticketing giant Live Nation Entertainment — which expects to host outdoor amphitheater shows by mid-summer, CEO Michael Rapino said on an earning call last week — the news jumpstarted bullish talks about a quick return to full-scale indoor and outdoor shows.
“All signs point to 2021 getting back to the summer concert season” Bob Ruox, Live Nation’s president of U.S. concerts, told Rolling Stone in a statement Thursday. “With vaccines being available to everyone in May, we’re confident events can return to regular capacity soon after.”
Live Nation says 83% of fans have opted to hold onto tickets rather than ask for refunds, reflecting widespread fan demand for the return of shows. Last week, following the U.K.’s announcement that shows could come back there in June, Live Nation also sold 170,000 tickets in three days for its Reading and Leeds and Creamfield festivals. But despite the enthusiasm from concert-promotion giants, major shows in summer 2021 still aren’t a lock.
For most other players involved in booking and coordinating shows in the live music business — which has been fighting a global year-long concert shutdown, massive revenue loss, and mounting debt since March 2020 — Biden’s words aren’t considerably changing their plans. That’s because live music, with its high-density indoor audiences and complicated group logistics, cannot be profitable unless the whole system whirls up at once. Many music insiders say a full-scale return to concerts and tours is not feasible until the fall or even early 2022.
Live Nation and its competitor AEG have said they are both unwilling to resume indoor concerts unless they can operate at close to full capacity. And despite the news of a May vaccine timeline, Taylor Swift still canceled her postponed tour, citing uncertainty.
Sources say even the biggest artists are unlikely to embark on full national or global tours until they can guarantee it is safe to perform from most of the markets they’d play in a usual touring cycle — which means the U.S. doesn’t just have to have vaccines available, but widely administered. “There’s going to be one-offs, last-minute bookings, there will be some limited capacity shows, there’s going to be things we book in the fall, and small events in the summer. It’s all going to be regional,” the agent says. “I’m confirming dates for the fall and summer right now.”
Another high-ranking live industry executive says Biden’s vaccination timeline “increases optimism that there can be shows, and it feels like there’s a path.” But because summer and fall shows are not guaranteed, the executive is holding backup plans for his roster for 2022 — and wary of announcing any 2021 tours too soon.
For the most part, I see the Rolling Stone press release as being fairly accurate, but at best, it is just an educated guess, there are too many variables to call it right now. Until the trigger is pulled, this is a big lesson in patience for all of us who make our living in this business, which has really never been a very stable career, even before the pandemic 😊
There is some speculation that Kanye will be the first tour to go out when there is a clearing. He has proven that he has the guts to follow his own convictions and not operate under the shadow of modern-day soothsayers. My money is on artists like him.