As cases of COVID-19 increase across the country, a slew of major music tours and festivals have been canceled. The cancellations echo the woes of the closure previously encountered in 2020.
Here in Utah, with the Delta variant ushering in a wave of ever-increasing daily case numbers, music industry employees and fans alike face the same question: Can the live entertainment industry survive? another stop?
In 2020, Pollstar, a publication that covers the concert industry around the world, predicted that the live music industry would hemorrhage $ 30 billion in revenue due to the pandemic. He ended up losing more than that amount.
On a smaller scale, a loss of revenue like this is devastating for local venues – and the artists who perform them. For Will Sartain, co-owner and talent buyer for local concert promotion company S&S Presents, the topic of sustainability has a clear answer.
“It would be really difficult to continue operating with another stop. We drowned. We have to continue to operate in one form or another, ”he said.
S&S operates a number of smaller capacity venues in the Salt Lake City area, such as Kilby Court, Metro Music Hall and Urban Lounge with capacities ranging from 200 to 600 people. When the first round of COVID-19 hit, the company launched concert-bike cruises – a musical event revolving around social distancing – to support local musicians.
Once vaccines became widely available and COVID-19 “was in a strong downtrend at the start of the summer, it felt like it was over,” Sartain said. He describes the process of constant adaptation as a “roller coaster”.
“We got used to putting things into play that make sense for the current climate,” he said.
With around 300 upcoming shows booked at their various venues, their current approach is straightforward: Masks are mandatory at all shows, and touring artists may require ticket holders to present proof of vaccination or a COVID test. negative. So far, S&S has not had any outbreaks related to any of their events.
“It seems like [masks and vaccine requirements are] the future, ”Sartain said. And when it comes to outdoor concerts, like the legendary Twilight concert series, he said headliners have supported the addition of these COVID components.
Organizing concerts boils down to three main elements – the artist, the spectator and the venue – and Sartain sees COVID prevention in the same way. “When everyone can agree on safe practices, it makes things a lot easier,” he said.
Larger-scale sites like Vivint Smart Home Arena are in a similar situation. Mark Powell, Senior Vice President of Events, said, “Our whole job is to bring people together. I mean, it’s our business. And whatever we can control, we will control it in the safest way possible. “
For Vivint, that means balancing the safety procedures artists demand with national and local government advice and the arena’s own policies. “We have a policy that employees will need to be vaccinated in order to participate in events. If you are not vaccinated, you must be masked all the time. “
Vivint hasn’t had any major concert cancellations other than a summer show for Alan Jackson in August. (This gig was booked at full capacity with no social distancing or mask requirements.) And they put on a full NBA season. With almost 30 major concerts scheduled over the next 8 months with artists like Michael Buble, Justin Bieber and the Weeknd – Powell said everyone was on the same board.
“Great artists, their number one concern is the health and safety of their fans. I think the money has always been second. You could always tell they didn’t care about the money – and there were millions and millions of dollars they were losing – and their biggest concerns [are] “Hey, we don’t want to bring people together until it’s safe. “
When it comes to artists’ income, the days of making money selling copies of their latest records are long gone. Now that tours are a big part of artists’ income, it’s in everyone’s best interest to find a way to prevent performances from turning into mass-market events.
Despite very vocal anti-vax and anti-mask contingents here in Utah, when Bublé announced that his Oct. 1 show would require vaccinations or proof of a negative test within 72 hours, Powell said Vivint only issued a few refunds for the tickets.
And for those who do, another impending stop threatens to take away the little joy they’ve achieved. Salt Lake City band Dad Bod has performed a few shows at some S&S venues already, and with their upcoming album “Pastels” they’re also planning a release gig.
“When we started over you could feel how eager everyone was to play the music live again. The energy was incredible, ”they said. “There was a time when we had to wear masks on stage during our performances, which was quite difficult, but it always went beyond not playing shows. “
The group says they have also become cautious. “We do our best to keep the music scene alive as much as possible while remaining safe,” they said. “If the experts say we need to limit capacity, wear masks, get vaccinated or stop playing all together, so be it. We all need to do our part to help stop the spread. “
This time around, everyone in the industry is working to make sure we can avoid another shutdown.
“In our current circumstances, the world needs artists and creativity more than ever,” said dad Bod. “Your support is crucial to make it known. “