Beyond COVID-19: When will concerts resume?

Nothing beats the thrill of seeing your favorite music acts in person, whether it’s in large venues like arenas and stadiums or something more intimate like a theater or club. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our way of life, it will no doubt affect the concert business in the weeks, months, and maybe even years ahead. 

What to do about canceled concerts?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread shutdowns across the United States, the economy was roaring on all cylinders. There was plenty of disposable income to fuel the concert business throughout the spring and summer. Now, virtually all of those shows have either been canceled or postponed. The difference between those two words makes all the difference in the world. 

For example, Bon Jovi canceled a summer arena tour outright, which means every ticket sold qualified for an immediate refund. The band said the decision was made knowing people could use that money back right now. However, a summer stadium tour by Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Poison remains scheduled with the first show set for June. Although there is zero chance of those acts taking the stage anytime soon, an announcement on the status of the tour has yet to be made. If it’s officially postponed, the bands and promoters can keep the ticket money while inviting fans to attend rescheduled dates — perhaps this fall or even next summer. 

Of course, nobody wants to be in limbo. The Electric Daisy Carnival played it both ways. The electronic dance music festival rescheduled its Las Vegas dates from spring to fall before later relenting and giving its ticketholders the option for a refund. If you have tickets for a show and aren’t sure what to do, Billboard published a detailed guide on the rights fans have in seeking concert refunds. 

What happens when concerts resume? 

Parts of the United States are reopening their economies in phases of varying degrees. When it comes to concerts, some states will have stricter restrictions than others, and tours will need to make adjustments accordingly. 

An upcoming Arkansas show by country act Travis McCready offers a glimpse into what could be the concert experience of the future. The venue, TempeLive in Fort Smith, is reducing capacity from 1,000 to 229 people with tickets sold in “fanpods” — small clusters of 2-6 people that must be purchased together. The “fanpods” will be staggered throughout the venue to preserve social distancing guidelines. Everyone will have their temperature taken prior to being allowed inside. Masks are required, which can be purchased at the event. 

It doesn’t sound like a fun experience, but it could be the new normal for concert goers — if shows happen at all. Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced concerts can resume in the state with social distancing measures in place, but was vague on details and is facing pushback from local leaders in cities like St. Louis and Kansas City. On the other hand, California Governor Gavin Newsom says his state won’t allow any concerts until a vaccine or another effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed. The policy also applies to conventions and sports events.

Will big stars wait until next year?

If concerts are widely permitted at some point in 2020, is scheduling a tour even worth it? Major stars like Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber have written off any plans to perform in 2020. For acts at that level, a tour is a major investment that requires months of planning and hundreds of people on staff. With the economy on its way into a recession and unemployment well into double digits, fewer people will be able to afford the ticket prices to justify such an undertaking. With so many question marks, expect big stars to wait it out, see what happens and look ahead to 2021 for a fresh start. There are just too many variables at the moment.

Pollstar estimates the industry will miss out on $5 billion in ticket sales this summer, not counting additional revenue from advertising, merchandise or food and beverage sales. Of course, the situation is fluid and can change based on the success of flattening the curve and winning the battle against COVID-19. Experism will continue to post updates on the state of the concert industry as new information becomes available.