Rich Howells

Live Nation still expects concerts to return by ‘midsummer’ of 2021

Live Nation still expects concerts to return by ‘midsummer’ of 2021
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Last year, Live Nation predicted that big live concerts could return by the summer of 2021, and in its latest financial results, the company reiterated this optimistic belief.

On Feb. 25, Live Nation Entertainment reported a 92 percent loss of revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020 and an overall 84 percent loss for the year, bringing in just $1.86 billion all year. While it did host drive-in shows at places like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, most of its venues, like The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, remained closed since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country last March.

“Every day we seem to have a new state or country talking about when they’ll open up, so we’re feeling more optimistic than we were a month ago,” Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino said during the earnings call that day.

“Lots of artists are calling, looking at how we start up in July, August, September. So for right now, we still believe we’ll have enough open in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and the U.S. to keep what we have on the books in amphitheaters booked for now. We might have certain states that might not be ready, but we have enough states and enough artists willing to play the open slots if we get to that level in the right markets.

“So as long as these states open up to the right capacities,” he continued, “we can start in midsummer, and in the southern U.S., we can go all the way into November.”

After speaking with governors across the country, Rapino said that “a clear outline to a 75 percent to 100 percent capacity for outdoor U.S. events in 2021 was looking likely to be green-lit.”

“Vaccine distribution is accelerating, and declines in COVID cases throughout most of the world gives us even more confidence that a safe and meaningful return to shows will soon be possible. For both the U.S. and U.K., projections indicate that everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be able to do so by May or June, with Europe and most other markets following a few months later. Given the massive social and economic toll that the lockdown has had on the public, we believe there will be strong momentum to reopen society swiftly as soon as vaccines are readily available. And we believe outdoor activities will be the first to happen,” he stated in a press release.

“So while the timing of our return to live will continue to vary across global markets, every sign points to it beginning safely in many countries sometime this summer and scaling further from there.”

In the downtime, Live Nation and its ticket distributor Ticketmaster have been working on technology like SmartEvent and SafeTix to make the processes of ticket buying and verification, seating, and venue management easier and safer while implementing new standards and sanitation procedures to help put concertgoers at ease, such as social distanced seating and contactless entry. Live Nation has also invested more into virtual events, acquiring the streaming platform Veeps in January.

Ticketmaster has considered asking ticketholders to verify that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 or have been vaccinated prior to an event via their smart phones, but the company later clarified that there will be “absolutely no requirement” for mandated vaccines or testing, adding, “We are not forcing anyone to do anything, just exploring the ability to enhance our existing digital ticket capabilities to offer solutions for event organizers that could include testing and vaccine information with third party health providers. Just a tool in the box for those that may want to use” it.

In an open letter to President Joe Biden in January, Live Nation joined AEG, Bandit Lites, Broadway League, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Association of Venue Managers, the National Association of Music Merchants, the National Independent Talent Organization, the National Independent Venue Association (whose members include many Northeastern Pennsylvania venues and festivals), Oak View Group, and We Make Events to offer their “venues, staff, and expertise to the COVID-19 vaccination effort.”

“We are here to help. In fact, many venues are already working on the state and local level to implement vaccine programs. Our industry has thousands of venues throughout America that are under mandated closures and sitting empty. Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites: they are located in most urban, suburban, and rural communities, often near transit lines and with easy access to parking. Our interiors are clear span with bright work lights and empty standard refrigeration systems. Due to the nature of our business, our buildings and workforce are accustomed to patron queuing and crowd management,” the letter stated.

“Live events is one of the best prepared, best equipped, most experienced industries in America to manage and control large crowds n a rapid, organized fashion. Moving people in, out, and around a public gathering space swiftly and safely is the foundation of our industry. Additionally, our familiarity using ticketing systems for advanced notification, timed entry, and crowd management can greatly improve patient experience before and during vaccination as well as on-site management. There are several thousand companies in the live event industry which own the equipment and infrastructure required to build vaccination sites. An estimated 95 percent of live events industry businesses and workers have lost nearly 100 percent of their revenue and are ready and willing to get to work immediately. These organizations can design, deliver, and manage the infrastructure as well as the people needed to staff them.”

While Rapino is hopeful about 2021, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are currently focused on selling tickets for 2022 events, including The Weeknd’s After Hours World Tour. Boosted by his Super Bowl halftime performance, the 104-date tour sold nearly one million tickets worldwide within days. In Pennsylvania, he is scheduled to stop at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Jan. 29, 2022 and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on April 3.

“All our data continues to show that there is substantial pent-up demand for concerts on the consumer demand side. The $2.4 trillion projected surplus in savings in the U.S. alone by June is a key indicator of consumer spending potential. At the same time, surveys demonstrate the high demand for concerts globally, with 95 percent of fans likely to attend a show when restrictions are lifted. This is proving out in fan behavior as well, with 83 percent of fans continuing to hold onto their tickets for rescheduled shows,” Rapino said on Feb. 25.

“On the artist side, there is a broad desire to get back on stage – to connect with their fans and to provide economic support to their bands, crew, and the hundreds of others employed each night putting on the show. Given the limited touring activity in 2020 and 2021, the pipeline for 2022 is much stronger than usual, with almost twice as many major touring artists on cycle in 2022 than a typical year – about 45 artists versus the usual 25. And there remains plenty of scheduling availability at arenas, amphitheaters, and stadiums to accommodate these additional tours, with over two-thirds of these venues’ nights unused by sporting events or major concerts in a typical year.”

Photo of The Pavilion at Montage Mountain by Scott Kucharski Photography/NEPA Scene